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Felony DUI

Los Angeles Felony DUI Attorney

Any DUI charge is serious—but a felony DUI can result in years of imprisonment in a state prison, as well as heavy fines and other penalties. Most commonly, charges for a fourth DUI, a DUI with injury, or vehicular manslaughter will be charged as a felony in California.

At Gold & Witham, we can provide competent DUI defense even in the face of complex charges. Our years of experience—coupled with our commitment to our clients—has given us the benefit of helping many clients achieve successful outcomes for their cases. By providing representation throughout your case, we can give you peace of mind in knowing you are in good hands.

Arrested for an alleged felony DUI? Contact us to schedule your free consultation today!

Felony vs. Misdemeanor DUI Charges

  • A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by up to 12 months in county jail
  • A felony is an offense punishable by a minimum of 1 year in state prison or jail

That is the classification which determines whether a DUI offense will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor—the penalty associated with the crime itself. Most DUI charges in California are charged as misdemeanors, particularly first-time offenses. Certain circumstances, however, will qualify a charge as a felony DUI, where the consequences of a conviction are much more serious.

Penalties for a Felony DUI

  • DUI causing injury is a "wobbler," although it is most often charged as a felony offense. If you cause an auto accident and are determined to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with DUI with injury. The maximum penalty for this crime is up to 6 years in state prison, when great bodily injury is caused by the accident.
  • A fourth DUI is a felony. You may be sentenced to up to 3 years in prison, along with fines and other criminal penalties. Your license may also be suspended for up to 4 years.
  • Vehicular manslaughter is almost always charged as a felony. If convicted of this crime, you will face up to 4 years in state prison and 10 years if gross negligence is proven.

Can a Felony DUI Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?

In California, a felony DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge can sometimes be reduced to a misdemeanor DUI charge under certain circumstances. However, it typically depends on the specific details of the case and the discretion of the prosecutor and the court. Here are some factors that might influence whether a felony DUI can be reduced to a misdemeanor:

  • Prior Offenses: Generally, if the current DUI offense is a defendant's first or second offense within a certain time frame (usually 10 years), it's more likely to be charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the defendant has prior DUI convictions within that time frame, especially if they involve aggravating factors like injuries or fatalities, it's more likely to be charged as a felony.
  • Aggravating Factors: The presence of aggravating factors can increase the likelihood of a DUI being charged as a felony. Aggravating factors might include causing injury or death while driving under the influence, driving with a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), driving recklessly, or driving with a suspended or revoked license.
  • Negotiation and Plea Bargaining: In some cases, a skilled defense attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor to have a felony DUI charge reduced to a misdemeanor through a plea bargain. This could involve the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to the misdemeanor DUI charge in exchange for a lighter sentence or other concessions.
  • Legal Defenses: If there are weaknesses in the prosecution's case or if the defendant has valid legal defenses, such as improperly conducted field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests, it may be possible to challenge the felony DUI charge and have it reduced to a misdemeanor or dismissed altogether.
  • Court Discretion: Ultimately, the decision to reduce a felony DUI charge to a misdemeanor rests with the judge. The judge will consider various factors, including the defendant's criminal history, the circumstances of the offense, any mitigating factors, and recommendations from the prosecution and defense.

Legal Defenses to Felony DUI Charges

Facing a felony DUI charge in California can be serious, but there are several common legal defenses that a defendant may use to challenge the charges. Here are some of the most common legal defenses against felony DUI:

  • Improper Stop or Arrest: One of the most common defenses is to challenge the legality of the traffic stop or arrest. If law enforcement officers did not have a valid reason to pull over the defendant's vehicle or did not have probable cause to arrest them for DUI, evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop or arrest may be suppressed.
  • Lack of Probable Cause: Even if the initial stop was lawful, the defense may argue that there was no probable cause to believe that the defendant was driving under the influence. This could be based on factors such as the absence of erratic driving behavior, the defendant's performance on field sobriety tests, or the results of a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test.
  • Faulty Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are subjective assessments of a person's coordination and balance, and they are not always accurate indicators of intoxication. The defense may challenge the validity of FSTs by questioning the officer's administration of the tests, the defendant's physical or medical conditions that may have affected their performance, or other factors that could have influenced the results.
  • Inaccurate Breath or Blood Tests: Breathalyzer and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests are commonly used to measure a person's level of intoxication. However, these tests can produce inaccurate results for various reasons, such as improper calibration of testing equipment, contamination of blood samples, or medical conditions that can affect breath test results. The defense may challenge the reliability of BAC evidence by questioning the accuracy of the testing procedures or results.
  • Rising Blood Alcohol Defense: In some cases, a defendant may argue that their BAC was below the legal limit at the time of driving but rose to illegal levels by the time they were tested. This can occur if alcohol was still being absorbed into the bloodstream at the time of the traffic stop, leading to a higher BAC reading later on.
  • Violation of Miranda Rights: If law enforcement officers failed to advise the defendant of their Miranda rights (e.g., the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) before conducting a custodial interrogation, any statements made by the defendant during the interrogation may be deemed inadmissible in court.
  • Medical Conditions or Other Explanations: The defense may present evidence of medical conditions or other factors that could explain the defendant's behavior or physical symptoms commonly associated with intoxication, such as slurred speech or impaired coordination.

Defend Your Case with Professional Help

When facing a felony charge, you are in serious legal trouble.

It would be strongly advised that you contact Gold & Witham without delay as any defense takes commitment, dedication, and time. There is a limited time frame to develop a compelling defense on felony DUI charges. All evidence must be reviewed, and the case evaluated. It is crucial that you contact the office immediately for your free initial case evaluation.

Our Los Angeles DUI attorneys, upon review of the evidence against you, can seek further evidence with which to defend you. Witnesses can become difficult to find and finding other possibly exonerating evidence is vital in your felony drunk driving charges.

A felony conviction is a life changing event. Therefore, you can't afford to wait before retaining an attorney who will defend your case in court. Call the office today! 

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