Usually, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is charged as a misdemeanor in California. First, second, and third DUIs that do not include aggravating factors are usually charged as misdemeanors. However, in some cases, simple DUIs are charged as felony DUIs due to the presence of certain factors. Felonies are much more serious than misdemeanors, carrying increased penalties involving longer terms of incarceration, significant fines, and more. If you are charged with a felony DUI, you should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. San Bernardino and Riverside felony DUI lawyer Gregory H. Comings is ready to help.
You may be charged with felony DUI if you received three or more prior DUI or wet reckless convictions during the 10-year “lookback period,” if you have at least one prior felony DUI conviction, or if your drunk driving caused injuries or death to somebody else. DUIs involving prescription drugs or illegal substances can also be felony DUIs under these circumstances.
Each time that you are convicted for repeat drunk driving in Southern California, you face increased penalties. Each repeat DUI is a priorable offense, which involves a more serious sentence due to the prior offenses on your record. The lookback period is 10 years. That means that, among other things, the prosecutor and court will look at your DUIs over the past 10 years when determining whether a felony DUI is appropriate. You can be charged with felony DUI for your fourth drunk driving offense within 10 years. Wet reckless guilty pleas count as a drunk driving offense for this purpose, as do out-of-state convictions that are equivalent to drunk driving in California. A felony DUI attorney can advise Riverside and San Bernardino County residents on which convictions or pleas may apply in their situation.
You may also be charged with felony DUI if you have one prior felony DUI. It does not matter if there are no aggravating factors in connection with this particular DUI, such that you would ordinarily be charged with misdemeanor DUI. A single prior felony DUI can elevate a simple DUI in which nobody was hurt or killed to a felony DUI. For example, if you had multiple convictions in a 10-year period and on the fourth occasion were charged with felony DUI, and then 20 years later you were pulled over and arrested for drunk driving, you could be charged with felony DUI.
You can be charged with felony DUI if you drive under the influence and also violate the Vehicle Code or are otherwise negligent, and somebody is hurt or killed as a result. You can be charged with driving under the influence causing injury, vehicular manslaughter, or Watson Murder (second-degree murder), all of which are felony DUI charges.
Felony DUIs are very serious, so you should promptly consult a San Bernardino or Riverside County felony DUI attorney if you are facing charges. You may receive a minimum sentence of 16 months’ imprisonment in state prison, as well as a maximum of $5,000 in fines, a driver’s license suspension, and mandatory DUI traffic school. Moreover, if the felony DUI is based on causing an injury to someone else, you face up to 13 years’ imprisonment, as well as a maximum five-year driver’s license suspension, a mandatory drunk driving program for which you must pay, and a designation as a habitual traffic offender.
When the felony DUI arises out of causing the death of someone else, you may face manslaughter or second-degree murder charges, which can result in even greater penalties. For a felony DUI that is manslaughter involving ordinary negligence, you face a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and $10,000 in fines. When gross negligence is involved, you face a potential 16 years’ imprisonment and $10,000 in fines. A second-degree DUI murder or Watson murder conviction can result in up to 15 years to life in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
You have constitutional and procedural rights during a police stop of your car, and in some cases, you can defend against a felony DUI charge by showing that your rights were violated. If you are charged with felony DUI, you should contact The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings. Mr. Comings has over a decade of experience representing people accused of serious crimes, ranging from drug and sex offenses to domestic violence and vehicular crimes. He personally handles each client’s case. You can call us at 951-686-3457 or complete our online form to request a case evaluation. Mr. Comings can provide a Spanish translator when needed.