There are three ways to receive a felony DUI in California under Vehicle Code 23153, the first and most common of which is by obtaining a fourth DUI.
If someone receives a fourth DUI in California, it will be charged as a felony, and they will face up to three years in prison.
The second way to get a felony DUI is by causing serious injury (scar, a broken bone, laceration, etc.) to another person during the course and scope of the DUI, which can result in a sentence of up to three years in prison.
If someone causes significant bodily injury to the other party, they could receive an additional three years in prison. The third way to get a felony DUI is by having a prior DUI.
Is a Third DUI Automatically A Felony?
A third DUI is typically not going to be a felony; it will be filed as a misdemeanor but will be accompanied by a mandatory minimum of 120 days in the county jail instead of just 96 hours.
If someone was on probation when they received the DUI, they could face an additional year in the county jail. The only way a third-time DUI could be elevated to a felony would be if the individual caused severe injury to someone else.
A conviction for felony DUI will remain on a person's record forever; even if it gets dismissed, the DMV and law enforcement will still be able to see that it existed. In most cases, a felony DUI will be used against someone regarding points on their driver's license for three years.
If someone receives a DUI and has no prior criminal record, it's unlikely that their license will be suspended for any longer than one year.
Severe DUI charges in addition to a criminal record can result in license suspension or revocation for up to five years. The lookback period for previous DUI convictions in California is ten years.
Restricted Driver's License With A Pending Felony DUI
Whether or not a restricted license will be available to someone who has received a DUI depends less upon whether the DUI was a misdemeanor or felony and more on the number of prior DUI convictions and the length of the license suspension imposed by the DMV.
On a first-time DUI, a person can typically obtain a restricted license as long as they put an ignition interlock device in their car within 30 days.
A person will lose their license for one year on a second-time DUI but might be eligible to get a restricted license after six months.
Often, the DMV makes these types of decisions on a case-by-case basis, so the best way to determine what will happen given a particular set of circumstances is to speak with the local DMV representatives.
Felony DUI Charge Reduced To A Misdemeanor
If someone has received a felony DUI charge in LA County, they may be able to argue that the charge should be a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
For example, an individual could argue that there was no severe injury associated with the DUI, and therefore it should not be charged as a felony.
People often complain of neck or back pain after an accident, but that's typically not enough to cause a felony DUI.
Ultimately, any individual who has received a DUI should have an attorney fight on their behalf and take the necessary steps to avoid a felony conviction.
In most cases, an attorney will be able to file a motion to reduce a felony case to a misdemeanor once probation has been completed.