Most DUI arrests result in misdemeanor charges. A first, second, or third DUI is usually a misdemeanor. A felony may be charged, however, if the DUI results in an injury or death. A felony will also be charged if a driver has three prior DUI convictions, or one prior felony DUI conviction, within the past ten years.
Misdemeanor versus felony arrests in California since 2008 break down as follows:
|Year||Misdemeanor Arrests||Felony Arrests|
Juvenile DUI arrests are not counted as felonies or misdemeanors and are not reflected in the statistics tabulated above.
Almost a quarter of all California DUI arrests in 2013 took place in Los Angeles County. Each of four counties (Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and San Bernardino) had more than 10,000 DUI arrests that year, accounting for more than 45% of all DUI arrests in the state. Arrest statistics for counties that surround Orange County during 2013 are as follows:
“Total arrests” in the table above includes juvenile arrests that are not counted as either misdemeanors or felonies.
The median age of a driver arrested for a California DUI in 2013 was 30. Almost three-quarters of arrested drivers were 40 or younger. Only 0.4% were under the age of 18 while 6.5% were under the age of 21.
More than three-quarters of the drivers arrested for a California DUI in 2013 were male. The percentage of females arrested for DUI has increased, however, from 10.6% in 1989 to 23.4% in 2013.
Hispanic males and African-Americans are overrepresented in California DUI arrest statistics. Hispanics make up 35.4% of California’s population while accounting for 44.6% of the state’s DUI arrests. Hispanic females, however, are arrested in approximate proportion to their percentage of the population. African-Americans make up 5.9% of the state’s population but account for 8.5% of California’s DUI arrests. The suspicion that drivers in those ethnic categories are pulled over for “driving while black” or “driving while Hispanic” may account for those statistics.
It is important to keep in mind that all the drivers arrested for DUI in the statistics presented above were presumed innocent. The California DMV has changed its statistical analysis and recently stopped tracking convictions that occurred in years following the year of arrest, making it difficult to do year-to-year comparisons. DMV’s data nevertheless makes clear that fewer than three-quarters of DUI arrests result in a conviction.
A “wet reckless” (alcohol-related reckless driving) conviction is not a DUI conviction, but the DMV counts “wet reckless” in its report of convictions. According to the DMV, in recent years more than 8% of convictions have been for “wet reckless.” Deducting those from conviction statistics lowers the conviction rate to about two-thirds of the arrest rate. Having a lawyer negotiate a wet reckless conviction or assert a winning defense saves drivers from the severe consequences that follow a DUI conviction.
We always urge drivers to make smart decisions so that they do not need a DUI lawyer. Having a designated driver or taking a taxi after drinking avoids injuries and fatalities caused by DUI-related accidents.
According to the California DMV, there were 1,197 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2013, representing 38.6% of all traffic fatalities. In the same year, there were 23,178 injuries arising from alcohol-related traffic accidents, representing 10.4% of traffic accident injuries.
Keep in mind, however, that DMV deems an accident to be “alcohol-related” if one of the drivers had a BAC of 0.08% or above. Whether the driver with the prohibited BAC actually caused the accident, or whether the prohibited BAC actually contributed to the accident, cannot be determined from statistics alone.
The statistics discussed above teach us that DUI is a significant problem in California, but it is not a problem that justifies the continuing hysteria we hear from advocacy groups. The statistics also teach us that DUI arrests regularly occur in Southern California counties, but that more than a quarter of arrested individuals avoid being convicted of any offense.