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Is a DUI a Misdemeanor, Felony or an Infraction?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Aug 20, 2020

This is a good question.  People don't know when their case might be filed as an infraction.  An infraction is not a crime and is more of a public offense.  A DUI is typically filed either as a misdemeanor or felony.

You're never going to see a DUI filed as an infraction.  However, you could be arrested for a DUI, and if the prosecutors don't feel there's enough evidence to support a DUI charge, they could file the case as an infraction.

Your attorney could even negotiate a deal where you end up with an infraction — like a moving violation, a speeding charge, or another crime that's not DUI-related.  That would be much better than a DUI in Los Angeles or anywhere in California.

As far as what's going to determine whether or not a DUI will be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony, that will hinge upon whether or not there were any injuries in the case or if it's your fourth time DUI. So, if you get arrested for a DUI and somebody has been seriously injured due to your conduct, the case will be filed as a felony.  You'll be looking at a minimum of 90 days in jail.

You could be looking at up to 3 years in state prison — even six years if the person is hurt bad enough to be considered a great bodily injury matter. On the other hand, if the person has soft tissue injuries or no injuries, the case is likely to be filed as a misdemeanor.

Fourth Time DUI Will Be Filed as a Felony in California

Another way a case could be filed as a felony is if it's your fourth time DUI.  That will be filed as a felony.  Or, if you have a prior felony conviction for a DUI, you pick up a new DUI; there's case law and authority that says that the recent DUI will be filed as a felony.

So, you start to feel that a DUI is not just some minor traffic violation.  It is an actual crime.  It has real consequences. Nobody wants to be convicted of a felony, especially if you have a DUI.

You hurt somebody badly, and you're being charged with significant bodily injury; you are looking at a prison in that scenario and a high bail, but you're also looking at a strike on your record.

Any crime — whether it's a DUI or any other offense — where a person admits a great bodily injury allegation in California is not only a felony but a strike under the three-strikes law in California.

Why Do I Need An Experienced DUI Attorney?

Another significant indicator of whether or not you're going to be charged with an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony — whether you're going to be convicted of those crimes — is obviously, your attorney. Your attorney is the one in a DUI in Los Angeles that stands between you and severe punishment and stands between you and what you're going to end up being charged with and convicted of.

Attorneys can only do so much, and they're going to be limited by the facts of a particular case. But a lot of times in cases that I handle in Los Angeles county — and I've taken thousands of DUIs over the last 26 years — sometimes there's a gray area. Sometimes it's unclear whether a case should be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Actual DUI Case Example in Lancaster Courthouse

I just had a matter out in Lancaster courthouse, and they were charging my client with a felony, but they were basing it on wrong information.  They thought the alleged victim had severe injuries.

However, the alleged victim was trying to make money on a personal injury claim, and their injuries were not that bad. Once we got the medical records from the person's doctor and looked at them, we challenged the prosecutors now and said, wait a minute.

You're not going to charge our client with a felony.  They should be charged with a misdemeanor. Fine, their blood alcohol level was over the legal limit, but if those injuries are not bad enough to be a felony, then a person should not be charged with a felony.

So, it would help if you had somebody who's been down the road that you're about to travel, had success, knows what they're doing, and knows how to deal with a DUI case — knows how to fight to get you the lowest common denominator.

Also, he knows the difference between cases that should be filed as an infraction, cases that should be filed as a misdemeanor, and DUI-related cases that should be filed as a felony.

It's time to fight back.  Pick up the phone.  Make the call.  We stand at the ready. Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0963.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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