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When does a DUI become a felony in California?

Dale Gribow May 1, 2015

In Palm Desert, most drunk driving charges are classified as misdemeanors. However, in certain situations, a DUI charge can be upgraded to a felony. Generally, felonies carry much more serious penalties than misdemeanors and can have a major impact on a person’s future. A felony DUI conviction in California can result in a lengthy prison sentence and a significant fine, in addition to driver’s license revocation.

A driver with multiple DUI offenses within a set period of time may also face a felony DUI. In California, a fourth DUI within the same ten-year period as the three prior convictions will be charged as a felony.

Another way that a DUI charge can become a felony is if the driver injured or killed another person while driving under the influence. Prosecutors may be able to decide whether the DUI should be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. In California, prosecutors are required to show that the driver facing DUI charges caused the injury in question. For example, if someone else crashes into the drunk driver and suffers injury, the charges against the drunk driver will remain at the misdemeanor level because the drunk driver did not cause the injury.

Felony DUI charges can result in major consequences and should be taken very seriously. Fortunately, like anyone charged with a crime, a person facing felony DUI charges has the right to an attorney and the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. An experienced California DUI attorney can advise the client of their options and represent them in court.