Is a DUI a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

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Many people ask whether a DUI in California is a Felony or a Misdemeanor. Most DUI’s in California are Misdemeanors; however there are three ways that a DUI can become a Felony DUI. The most common way to get a DUI charged as a felony is if someone other than the driver is injured in a collision caused by the DUI driver. The two less common ways are a fourth offense DUI (within 10 years), or anyone who has been convicted of a felony DUI will be charged with a felony for any subsequent DUI they commit within 10 years.

The big issue with these cases now days, is that the accident victims tend to claim personal injury for purposes of recovering damages in a civil claim. This puts the DUI defendant in a predicament because it exposes them to potentially facing felony charges. Someone who is convicted of a felony DUI faces a term of 16, 24, or 36 months in State Prison. An experienced DUI attorney is a must, in these cases, because of the impact they can provide. These cases can potentially be reduced to misdemeanors, or at the very least a prison sentence may be avoided.

Some prosecutors may decide to file a certain case as a felony, where a different prosecutor may believe that the same case should be a misdemeanor. The bottom line is that they have a lot of discretion in deciding how to file these cases. An experienced DUI attorney knows how important it is to intervene immediately with the prosecutor and attempt to provide them with additional information to convince them charges should be filed as a misdemeanor.

Felony DUI’s should only be handled by attorneys that are very experienced in DUI defense because not only do the stakes go way up, but so does the impact that a good attorney can have on the prosecuting agency.