Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs has become one of the most common criminal offenses. Because law enforcement officers have placed an emphasis on ending drunk driving, thousands of motorists are arrested and charged for DUI each year. Although DUIs may be relatively common crimes, they still pose very serious penalties, especially when prosecuted as felonies.
While most DUI cases are misdemeanors, there are certain circumstances that may prompt prosecutors to pursue felony charges. Typically, DUIs will become felony offenses when certain aggravating circumstances are involved, meaning that the egregious actions warrant more severe penalties.
Some of the situations that can lead to felony DUI charges include:
- Accidents Causing Injury – Drivers who cause accident that injure others while under the influence can face felony charges. Depending on the facts of the case, including the seriousness of the accident and severity of injuries involved, California drivers may face penalties that include license suspensions and up to three years in prison. An additional year may be given for each victim injured.
- Accidents Resulting in Death – DUIs that result in death are the most serious DUI cases, as well as the most aggressively prosecuted. Drivers who cause fatal accidents while impaired may be charged with vehicular manslaughter, or Watson Murder in some cases, and can face lengthy prison terms.
- Four or More DUIs – Under California law, drivers with four or more DUIs in a 10 year period can face felony charges. This means that if you have three DUI convictions within the past 10 years and are arrested for a new DUI, it will likely be prosecuted as a felony.
- Having a Prior Felony DUI – In California, motorists who have a prior felony DUI conviction at any time in the past and for any reason can face felony charges if arrested for any type of DUI in the future. Even if a DUI is not typically a felony under any circumstances, a prior felony DUI conviction can elevate the charge.
The consequences of being convicted of a felony DUI can greatly threaten your freedom and future, which is why it is crucially important to work with experienced attorneys prepared to fight on your behalf. If you or your loved one is facing felony DUI charges for any reason, the Santa Barbara DUI lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP are prepared to help.
Contact our firm to discuss your case or complete an online case evaluation form.