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Felony DUI Charges in California | Free Consultations

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While most arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) result in misdemeanor charges, some California DUI crimes are felonies. Almost 4,800 felony DUI arrests were made in 2013, representing 3% of all California DUI arrests.

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In Southern California, Los Angeles County had the largest number of arrests in 2013. Other counties reporting significant numbers of arrests included San Diego County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, and Riverside County.

Conviction rates vary widely from county to county. For example, only about 70% of DUI arrests result in DUI convictions in Los Angeles County, while almost 85% of arrests result in convictions in Orange County. While it is important to have an effective DUI defense attorney wherever a driver is charged, it is essential to hire the best lawyer a driver can find in places like Orange County, where drivers need a strong advocate to help them avoid the serious consequences of a conviction.

For a typical Californian, a conviction can be ruinous. Incarceration and a lengthy loss of driving privileges are the likely short-term consequences, but a felony conviction is a life-changing event. It closes doors to employment opportunities, professional licenses, and the chance to hold public office.

A felony conviction results in a loss of civil rights, including the right to possess a firearm. A felony conviction generally leads to deportation or exclusion of noncitizens from entry into the United States.

The Law Offices of Randy Collins has years of experience representing individuals charged with these offenses. As a top-rated DUI defense lawyer, Randy Collins is committed to obtaining the best possible result for DUI clients in Orange County and across Southern California.

Common Charges

The most common DUI felony charges in California are:

Each offense requires a careful assessment of potential defense strategies. Fortunately, defenses are available that can help the accused avoid felony convictions.

Multiple DUI Convictions

While a driver’s history of past convictions can usually be established without difficulty, there are times when records are unclear or unavailable. That is particularly true when the felony charge is based on a prior out-of-state conviction. In those cases, it is often possible to argue successfully for a reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor.

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When the prosecution is able to establish the driver’s conviction record, the defense focuses on challenges to the DUI accusation. A combination of legal challenges to the way the evidence was gathered and factual challenges to whether the evidence proves a DUI can result in an acquittal, a dismissal, or a reduction to a misdemeanor.

Causing Injury or Death

Causing injury while driving under the influence can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. It is typically charged as a felony and is usually penalized more severely than a felony DUI that is based on past convictions. The crime will always be charged as a felony if the driver has two prior DUI convictions within the previous 10 years.

To obtain a conviction of causing injury by DUI in violation of California Vehicle Code 23513 VC, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was “under the influence” and that the accident was caused by the driver’s negligence or by the driver’s violation of a traffic law.

Being “under the influence” means that the consumption of alcohol or drugs impaired the driver’s ability to drive as cautiously as a prudent driver who is sober. Instead of proving that a driver was under the influence, a prosecutor can elect to charge and prove that the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08%.

The prosecution must also prove that the driver broke a traffic law, such as speeding or failing to yield the right of way, and that the traffic violation or the driver’s negligence caused another person to be injured. In some cases, a successful argument can be made that injury was caused by the injured person’s own carelessness, not by the person who has accused of a felony.

In other cases, challenges are based on whether the accused driver was actually DUI and whether the police violated the law when they obtained evidence against the accused.

The most serious charges involve an alleged victim’s death. Vehicular manslaughter and second degree murder are the likely charges when an accident victim dies as the result of a driver’s consumption of alcohol or drugs. Defense strategies generally parallel those that apply to the defense of a DUI causing injury charge.

Penalties

The maximum penalties for the offenses are more severe than the penalties that apply to misdemeanor convictions. A felony DUI causing injury carries a maximum 4 year sentence. The sentence can be even longer if

Additional penalties include a 5 year driver’s license revocation, a substantial fine, designation as a “Habitual Traffic Offender,” and lengthy attendance at a DUI school.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can be penalized by up to 10 years in prison. Lesser penalties can also apply, depending on the degree of negligence exhibited by the driver.

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If a fourth or subsequent DUI results in a felony conviction, the court can impose a prison sentence that might be as long as 3 years. Offenders also face a 4 year driver’s license revocation, Habitual Traffic Offender status, and a substantial fine.

Southern California Defense

With offices in Orange County, Riverside County, and elsewhere in Southern California, DUI defense attorney Randy Collins is situated to assist individuals charged with a felony DUI in Los Angeles, San Diego, and other Southern California courts. A proven record of success and a reputation for excellence make The Law Offices of Randy Collins the first choice for drivers charged with serious DUI crimes. To make an appointment at an office near you, call (888) 250-2865.

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Excessive Blood Alcohol Concentration

Courts take a number of factors into account when they decide upon a DUI sentence. One of those is the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or above, but section 23578 of California’s Vehicle Code requires courts to consider a BAC of 0.15 or higher as a “special factor” that may justify an enhanced sentence.

Even when a driver receives probation, the court is likely to impose punitive conditions that will make a driver’s life more difficult.

Refusal to Take a Test

If you refuse to take a chemical test of your breath or blood and are convicted of DUI, the fact that you refused is another “special factor” that can be used to enhance your sentence. Since judges have no evidence of your actual BAC when you refuse a test, they tend to assume that your BAC was at a high level and sentence you accordingly.

Excessive Speed

Exceeding the speed limit by at least 30 mph on a freeway or 20 mph on any other road subjects the driver to an enhanced DUI penalty. Section 23582 of the Vehicle Code provides for an additional 60 days to be tacked onto the sentence that a DUI driver would otherwise receive.

Section 23582 VC tells judges to impose the 60 day sentence as a condition of probation if the judge places the driver on probation for the DUI charge. The law also requires the 60 days to be imposed as a consecutive sentence, so it cannot overlap the sentence imposed for the underlying DUI offense.

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Reckless Driving

The offense of reckless driving is defined in 23103 VC as driving “in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.” That essentially means driving in a manner that endangers other people or their vehicles, even if you did not actually become involved in an accident.

Driving recklessly, like driving at an excessive speed, is an aggravating DUI factor specified in 23582 VC. It subjects a driver to the additional 60 days in jail on the terms that are described above.

Minor in Vehicle

Committing a DUI while a child under the age of 14 is a passenger in the vehicle subjects the driver to at least an additional 48 hours in jail. That sentence is mandatory, even if probation is granted on the underlying offense.

It cannot be stayed and it cannot be divided into shorter periods that can be served in intervals. Longer enhanced sentences may also apply, depending on the DUI offense with which the driver is charged.

Causing an Accident

If you cause an accident that leads to an injury while you are DUI, you will probably be charged under section 23153 VC. That aggravated offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense. If you cause a hit-and-run accident while you are DUI, you will probably be charged with hit-and-run in addition to facing a longer DUI sentence

Even if you caused an accident that did not result in an injury, many judges will view the accident as a reason to increase your OWI sentence. The impact of an accident upon your DUI sentence may depend upon the court in which you are prosecuted.

Client Reviews

I had never gotten in trouble before, so I was pretty concerned when I called the Law Offices of Randy Collins. After a 30 minute consultation about my DUI with injury I felt like I was in the right hands. I went with them and was very happy with the result.

Rob D.