There are a number of scenarios that can cause a person to be charged with a felony DUI in Los Angeles County. One of the most common is when the person who is 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 serious injury, for purposes of a felony DUI, can sometimes be a murky subject. Even when you review the jury instructions on this subject it is hard to come away with any clearly defined rules.
Certainly any broken bones will qualify a person for a serious injury DUI. Further, if there is any scarring to the injured person or permanent injury, this would qualify the defendant for the punishments that are associated with a felony DUI case. Of course, as with anything in life there are grey areas where the prosecutors are trying to jam a certain injury into the felony category and it is going to take a top level DUI defense attorney to block them from doing it. Over the course of 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 to 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 purposes of a felony DUI.
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 surely charge you with a fourth time DUI and will likely want prison time as well. It will take a major 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 very little sympathy or compassion for those who drink and drive and put other community members lives in jeopardy.
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 and find out what the underlying issue is 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 in order to be taken off the streets for a period of time to show the judge that you can remain sober and are truly no longer a threat to society and get need 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 being able to drive. They figure that since driving is a privilege and not a right, that the person who drinks alcohol and drives is someone they need to protect the public from.
Another ramification of a felony DUI is that you will have 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 not longer drink and drive.