Felony DUI in Santa Barbara, CA
Facing felony DUI allegations?
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense that can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In California, local law enforcement agencies have significantly increased their efforts to arrest, prosecute, and convict those who driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, they prosecute drivers with heightened charges and penalties when certain aggravating circumstances are involved. While DUIs are commonly charged as misdemeanor offenses, there are several situations which can lead to felony allegations. Although these charges can vary, felony allegations are the most serious and will result in harsh criminal penalties and driving license consequences.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers have handled numerous felony DUI cases and have become intimately familiar with the ways in which these enhanced charges are prosecuted. Our legal team is equipped with the experience and determination to defend clients throughout the region from felony DUI charges resulting from any of the following situations:
Multiple DUI Offense
In California, anyone who has three or more prior DUI convictions within 10 years of a new DUI charge will face felony allegations. For those facing a fourth DUI charge, courts will consider any past DUI convictions (including DUIs for alcohol or drugs), out of state DUI convictions, and wet reckless convictions as prior offenses.
Felony charges may also arise when a driver who has previously been convicted of a felony DUI at any time in the past is arrested for any type of DUI offense. Regardless of whether a new DUI is typically a misdemeanor offense, or if it occurs after the 10 year time span has elapsed, defendants with a prior felony DUI conviction for any reason will often be charged with a felony DUI.
DUI Causing Injury
California courts consider a DUI that results in an injury to another an aggravating circumstance. As such, defendants who have been charged with a DUI resulting in injury can be subjected to felony allegations under § 2513 of the California Vehicle Code. While some DUI injury cases may not always result in felony charges, defendants who are alleged to have caused injuries during a DUI accident are still susceptible to enhanced charges and penalties, regardless of their criminal history. Generally, a felony DUI causing injury is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment, fines up to $5,000, or both. Convicted offenders may also be required to pay restitution to injured victims, participate in court ordered classes for up to 30 months, and may face additional years of imprisonment if multiple people are injured or when injuries are severe.
DUI Vehicular Manslaughter
DUIs that cause death to another will result in the most serious allegations and penalties of any DUI offense. Under California Penal Code § 191.5, any person who causes the death of another while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be prosecuted with a felony offense. Charges and penalties can vary from case to case, particularly depending on the driver's prior criminal history. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is punishable by mandatory terms of imprisonment, large fines, or both. In addition to the life-altering repercussion created by having such a conviction on one's criminal record, drivers who face these allegations with a prior DUI conviction may also be subjected to additional terms of imprisonment.