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Is a DUI a Misdemeanor, Felony or an Infraction?

  • By: Ron Hedding
  • Published: August 20, 2020

This is a good question.  People don’t really know when their case might be filed as an infraction.  An infraction is really not a crime and is more of a public offense.  A DUI is typically going to be 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, 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, like a speeding charge or some other infraction that’s not DUI-related.  That would obviously be much better than a DUI in Los Angeles or anywhere in California.

Were Injuries Involved in Your California DUI Case?

DUI Causing Injuries Charges 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’s really going to 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 as a result of your conduct, the case will definitely 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 6 years in state prison if the person is hurt bad enough to be considered a great bodily injury matter.

If on the other hand, the person just has soft tissue injuries or no injuries at all, the case is likely to be filed as a misdemeanor.

Fourth Time DUI Will Be Filed as a Felony in California

Other ways a case could be filed as a felony is if it’s your fourth time DUI.  That will definitely 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 new DUI will be filed as a felony.

So, you really start to get a feel that a DUI is not just some little traffic violation.  It is a real crime.  It has real consequences.

Nobody wants to be convicted of a felony, especially for example, let’s say you have a DUI.

You hurt somebody badly and you’re being charged with great bodily injury, not only are you looking at prison in that scenario and a high bail, you’re also looking at a strike on your record.

Any crime — whether it’s a DUI or any other crime — where a person admits a great bodily injury allegation in California is not only a felony, but a strike pursuant to the three strikes law in California.

Why Do I Need An Experienced DUI Attorney?

Your Los Angeles DUI attorney is the one who stands between you and severe punishment.

Another big indicator as to whether or not you’re going to be charged with an infraction, a misdemeanor, 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 exactly going to end up being charged with and/or convicted of.

Attorneys can only do so much and they’re obviously 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 handled thousands of DUI’s 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.

Real 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 bad information.  They thought the alleged victim had severe injuries.

However, the alleged victim was trying to do was 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 we looked at them, we were able to now challenge the prosecutors and say wait a minute.

Our lawyers were able to reduce a felony DUI to a misdemeanor in Lancaster Court.

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, you need 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, obviously knows the difference between cases that should be filed as an infraction, cases that should be filed as a misdemeanor and cases that are DUI-related 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.

Ron Hedding

About the Author Named Top Los Angeles DUI Defence Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 DUI Defence attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.