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When Is A DUI A Felony In California?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jun 17, 2019

Several scenarios can cause a person to be charged with a felony DUI in Los Angeles County. One of the most common is when the person drinking alcohol and driving becomes involved in an accident, and someone in their car or another car sustains a “serious injury.”

What qualifies as a severe injury can sometimes be a murky subject for purposes of a felony DUI. Even when you review the jury instructions on this subject, it is hard to develop any clearly defined rules.

Indeed, any broken bones will qualify a person for a severe injury DUI. Further, if there is any scarring to the injured person or permanent damage, the defendant would be eligible for the punishments associated with a felony DUI case.

Of course, there are grey areas where the prosecutors are trying to jam a specific injury into the felony category as with anything in life. It will take a top-level DUI defense attorney to block them from doing it. Over the past twenty-five years of battling for my clients in these circumstances, I have had much success in stopping prosecutors from forcing my client to plead for a felony DUI in the wrong circumstance. If an alleged victim acquires a soft tissue injury during a car accident, this will usually not qualify for a felony DUI.

Multiple DUI Offenses

Another area where you can be expected to be charged with a felony DUI is when you have three prior DUI's within a ten-year time frame and pick up a fourth DUI. The prosecutors will indeed charge you with a fourth-time DUI and will likely want prison time as well.

It will take a significant effort on the part of your DUI defense attorney to avoid prison for you and the ramifications that come with a felony DUI. Your best served to get into consult with the best attorney you can find and begin the process of getting assistance for your drinking problem and moving your case in the right direction.

When I do these cases, I realize that they are not all the same, and the strategy will be dependent upon where the client is in their life and what the best course of action is moving forward.

The final area I see people charged with a felony DUI is when they have been convicted of a prior felony DUI and are then arrested again for a DUI. This gives the prosecutors another opportunity to charge you with a felony DUI, and they will likely attempt to put you in prison for as long as possible. It has been my experience that prosecutors and judges in Los Angeles show minimal sympathy or compassion for those who drink and drive and put other community members' lives in jeopardy.

Legal Penalties For a Felony DUI Conviction

As you can see from some of the descriptions above, anyone who is convicted of a felony DUI in Los Angeles is facing prison time, and it will take a herculean effort on the part of your attorney to avoid this type of punishment.

When I meet with clients, I try to find out the underlying issue and devise a plan to show the prosecutor and judge that we are prepared to effectively address this problem and make sure that this does not happen again.

Sometimes that means the client needs to spend some time in rehab to be taken off the streets to show the judge that you can remain sober and are indeed no longer a threat to society and get help for an alcohol problem.

Once we can show that you are no longer a threat, we are then in a position to resolve the case. When the judge and prosecutor feel that you are a threat to the community, they will try and take precautions to stop you from driving. They figure that since driving is a privilege and not a right, the person who drinks alcohol and drives is someone they need to protect the public from.

Another ramification of a felony DUI is having a felony on your criminal record. This means that you can not vote, hold public office or own, use or possess a gun or ammunition. Under the right circumstances, there are ways to get felony DUI convictions reduced to a misdemeanor once you show the court that you are on the right path and will no longer drink and drive.

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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