A Summary of Felony DUI
California law treats a first, second, and third driving under the influence (DUI) offense as misdemeanors. However, the District Attorney can file for felony charges in a DUI case that includes:
- An individual is arrested for a fourth time within 10 years after three previous DUI convictions;
- An injury or death is caused by the driver accused of DUI;
- The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or previous driving record mandates further charges.
If you have been arrested for your fourth DUI, or a drunk-driving accident involving a death or serious injury in Orange County, our team of attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help build you a strong defense. Our attorneys specialize in defending clients who are facing felony DUI charges and will dedicate themselves to reduce felony charge punishments and argue to reduce your charges to misdemeanor charges.
Felony and misdemeanor DUI convictions differ significantly in California. An individual convicted of felony charges can result in severe fines, and in cases involving injury or death may receive a life imprisonment sentence.
The fourth DUI charge not involving a death or injury can carry the following punishments:
- Imprisonment in a California State Prison for up to 4 years.
- Up to $1,000 fine.
- 4-year driver’s license suspension.
- Mandatory attendance of an alcohol education program for 18 months.
- Registered as a Habitual Traffic Offender by the DMV.
Our experienced attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help prevent you from a felony conviction after being arrested for your fourth DUI. Our attorneys specialize in DUI and criminal defense law, helping clients in all of Orange County communities.
Call our office today at 949-377-2280 for your FREE DUI consultation.
As previously discussed, a California DUI may be charged as a felony DUI (VC23153 (a)) in various ways. Such as if the DUI (even if it’s a first offense), involves an accident where the victim suffered great bodily injury) GBI or death. Another example is where an individual is convicted of a DUI and the individual’s previous DUI was a felony DUI, in the last 10 years the individual has 3 prior DUI convictions, making this the individual’s fourth DUI, may result in a felony DUI charge. These charges are known as VC23153 (a) and VC23153 (b). This article will provide you information on VC23153 (b), the one involving 3 prior DUIs or wet-reckless convictions during the past 10 years, making the most recent arrest a fourth DUI arrest.
Fourth DUI Charge (CA Felony DUI)
A person can be charged with a felony DUI if the individual has been convicted 3 times in California, or any other state, if the prior out-of-state DUI would classify as a DUI conviction had it happened in California. Any prior DUI related offenses also apply. An example would be a person who has had 3 prior wet reckless convictions, those 3 prior wet reckless convictions, although not DUIs, would count in regards to the fourth DUI. Wet reckless charges that occur within the last 10 years of the current DUI offense are seen as prior DUIs. Remember, other states may classify and use different language to describe the state’s plea bargains, making it important to carefully examine the out-of-state’s plea bargain and how it would translate to the California DUI system. Our experienced attorneys are able to determine if an out-of-state offense or a wet reckless will be considered a “prior” offense.
Prior Convictions Must be Demonstrated by the Prosecutor
The prosecutor must prove the following to provide enough proof that, under VC 23153 (b), you are guilty of a fourth offense felony DUI. First, you were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and that you were the one driving or operating the vehicle. Next, the prosecutor needs to prove that when you were operating the car, your BAC was .08% of higher. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that within the prior 10 years, you were convicted of 3 or more DUI-related charges. The prosecutor can introduce evidence to show your prior 3 convictions by providing court records, DMV record showing prior driver’s license suspensions as a result of a DUI conviction. The court can also show prior DUI convictions by providing any document showing completion of a court mandated alcohol education program. Usually, the prosecutor provides California files that can show any previous California DUI or wet reckless conviction. Also, the prosecutor can use DMV and if applicable, out-of-state court records to show any previous DUI or DUI-related offense convictions.
Aggressively Defending a Fourth DUI Charge
The attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm would, as we usually do, use every procedure to attempt to reduce or dismiss your fourth DUI charge. If our attorneys determine that your charge cannot be dismissed, they will then dedicate themselves to assessing your prior DUI or DUI-related convictions. By looking at your prior convictions, our attorneys can see if they can get any previous charges changed or challenge them on a procedural or evidentiary error theory. Our attorneys understand what is at stake when facing a fourth DUI felony charge. They will use every technique or option available to increase the chances that any of your subsequent or prior convictions are stricken from your record. The practice of thoroughly analyzing your prior convictions helps our attorneys’ chances of attaining the best outcome for you. Our attorneys’ goal is that the process of analyzing your prior convictions will result in reducing your punishment and/or reducing your fourth DUI felony charge to a misdemeanor DUI charge.
Usually, when a fourth DUI offense is involved, an attorney has to exhaust every option available in order to increase your case’s chance of success. An option our attorneys like to use is the hiring of an independent lab to test your blood and assess if your BAC percentage was correct. This can be successful where a person’s BAC is close to .08%. The attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm have worked with agencies that are highly regarded in the practice of retesting blood, sometimes known as blood splitting.
Another method that can be used in a fourth DUI offense case is the use of a private investigator (PI). A PI is able to work with your attorney and interview witnesses, arresting officers, or investigate the location where you were arrested/the accident occurred. Using these techniques can be very advantageous when working on building a felony DUI defense. An important factor in a felony DUI case is to obtain all of the facts that would benefit our case, which can lead to use them in order to assure the best possible result for you.
Another strategic tactic in a felony DUI case can be the use of a psychologist. Our law firm has included Dr. Judith Myers in our team. Dr. Myers has been a psychologist for 20 years and helps us by administering alcohol and brain evaluations. The evaluation, along with the report, can be very advantageous as when used to show that the defendant has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Your attorney will work with you to decide if this kind of beneficial would be advantageous for your case.
Penalties and Sentences of a Fourth DUI Charge
Penalties for any DUI offense in California can be severe. However the penalties for a felony DUI in California can be even harsher. If the felony DUI is a result of 3 prior DUI-related convictions within the previous 10 years, the penalties are very case specific and are reliant on the specific circumstances of the case. The following are factors a judge may look at when deciding an individual’s punishment:
- Did you place the public at imminent risk by driving with a high BAC?
- Your BAC levels in your prior DUI-related convictions.
- The amount of DUIs not within the previous 10-year period, if applicable.
- The circumstances surrounding your previous DUIs.
The sentencing standards for a fourth DUI offense include:
- A 16 month sentence in state prison, possible 2 year sentence with a 4 year maximum;
- A standard fine of $390, with an additional $1,000 for court expenses;
- 3 year placement on a Habitual Traffic Offenders; and/or
- Possible California driving privilege revocation for 4-year period.
Comparing Punishments for First, Second, and Third DUI Offense
The information stated below will show you that the differences between a felony DUI and those of a first, second, or third offense are extensive. The reason for the big difference in the degree of punishments between a misdemeanor and felony DUI offense is that misdemeanors can only be punished by a maximum sentence one year in prison. A felony DUI (fourth offense) carries a maximum of four years in state prison. The difference in the jail sentence is enough to show you why hiring an experienced attorney that can provide you with the best chance of reducing your charges is beneficial to you.
Penalties – 3rd Offense
For a third DUI conviction, the penalties may include:
- Maximum fine of $3,000;
- Possible jail sentence of 120 days to 1 year;
- Suspension of driver’s license of up to 3 years;
- Required completion of DUI alcohol program; and/or
- Up to 5-year probation period.
In some cases, an Ignition Interlock Device installation is required.
Penalties – 2nd Offense
For a second DUI conviction, the penalties may include:
- Suspension of driver’s license for maximum of 2 years;
- Possible jail sentence of 90 days to 1 year;
- Completion of mandated DUI alcohol program;
- Possibly paying up to $2,000 in fines;
- Probation period of up to 5 years.
Penalties – 1st Offense
For a first DUI conviction, the penalties may include:
- Suspension of driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days;
- Up to 2 day jail sentence;
- Completion of mandated DUI alcohol program;
- Up to $2,000 fine.
Remember, it is not important what offense you have been charged with. A DUI sentence can vary depending on the case’s specific facts and the sentence can be at the judge’s discretion. Some factors, known as aggravating factors, are considered when deciding to enhance your penalty. Aggravating factors include:
- DUI resulting in death or great bodily injury;
- Operating a vehicle recklessly, or at an excessive speed;
- DUI resulting in property damage;
- Refusal of a blood or breath test;
- .15 BAC or higher;
- DUI involving a passenger under 14 years old.
As explained above, the DUI penalties become more severe after every subsequent DUI conviction. A person may be facing imprisonment for a long period of time if they end up being convicted of a fourth DUI. Thus, if you have been charged with a DUI offense, we recommend you contact and hire an attorney as quickly as you can.
If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge, we recommend you contact the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm to schedule your FREE DUI consultation.
In California, a felony DUI resulting from prior DUI convictions will be prosecuted aggressively, putting you at need of a skilled defense attorney. The attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm have over two decades of defending criminal and DUI cases. If you or a loved one is facing a fourth offense felony DUI charge, call our office to schedule your FREE consultation.
To schedule your FREE initial consultation, contact us at 949-377-2280.