In California, most drunk driving offenses are charged as misdemeanors, but there are three distinct circumstances where the offense can be charged as a felony:
- While driving drunk, you violated a traffic law or drove in a negligent manner, and in doing so, you injured or killed another person.
- You have three DUIs on your record from within the last ten years.
- You received a felony drunk driving conviction within the last ten years.
In any of these situations, the offense may still be charged as a misdemeanor at the discretion of the prosecutor. With the help of a skilled Vista DUI lawyer, you may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that will allow for you to be charged with a less serious misdemeanor accusation.
If you have three prior drunk driving convictions in the last ten years, the case will likely be charged as a felony. In these cases, it is important to realize that even a related offense such as a wet reckless or a drunk driving conviction from another state can still be considered a prior offense that will be counted against you.
When it comes to an injury or death related to a drunk driving incident, the prosecution must be able to prove that you were intoxicated above the legal drinking limit, that you either drove recklessly or broke a traffic law, and that another person was injured or killed as a result. If they cannot prove any one of these factors, they must charge the offense as a misdemeanor. Occasionally when this occurs, your Vista drunk driving lawyer may be able to have the charges dropped completely.
Even if you this is your first DUI charge, you only exceeded the speed limit by a few miles an hour and the victim of the accident was barely injured, you can still be charged with felony drunk driving. On the other hand, if the injury is serious, you could be sentenced to an additional three years in prison for causing great bodily injury (GBI). A felony DUI that includes GBI is also a strike.
Felony DUI charges are very serious and can result in up to three years in a California penitentiary, massive fines and the loss of your drivers license for up to four years, although you may be able to get a restricted license after a year. Even misdemeanor DUI charges that result in injury can still result in a one year suspension. If you are facing a felony drunk driving accusation, please call The Law Offices of Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 and schedule your free initial consultation with a top Vista DUI attorney.
Creative Commons Image by OfficerGreg