As a licensed driver, you are most likely aware of the dangers of drunk driving. Given the number of individuals who are injured and killed in alcohol-related accidents, it’s easy to see why lawmakers enact tough laws to deter motorists from driving under the influence (DUI). Yet despite all these precautions, DUI remains one of the most common crimes in the United States—a fact that leads many drivers to assume that it’s also a relatively minor one. Unfortunately, if you are charged with a California DUI felony offense, nothing could be further from the truth.
Under state law, any driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered legally intoxicated and can be arrested for drunk driving, regardless of his or her driving abilities. However, underage drivers, can be charged with DUI if a chemical test detects even a small amount of alcohol in their bloodstream—in other words, a BAC above 0.00%. Commercial drivers, on the other hand, are considered impaired with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. You can also be charged with DUI if you refuse to allow an officer to determine your blood alcohol content by administering breathalyzer or other chemical test.
The penalties for driving under the influence vary based on the circumstances of your arrest. Like any other criminal offense, a DUI can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony. While most DUIs are misdemeanors, if you are a repeat offender (meaning you have three or more prior drunk driving convictions on your record), or were involved in a serious auto accident, you will most likely face felony charges.
Assuming you are not a repeat offender, three requirements must be met for your DUI to be treated as a felony: the driver must commit a traffic violation, such as running a red light or speeding; secondly, he or she must have injured a third-party; and finally, that injury must have been caused by the violation in question. If all three of these factors cannot be proven, then the offense should not be treated as a felony.
If you are charged with DUI in the state of California, the first thing you need to do is determine whether your offense is classified as a felony or misdemeanor. As a more serious charge, a felony conviction will lead to far harsher penalties than a misdemeanor, including a minimum 180-day jail sentence, $3,000 fine, and four-year license suspension. You will also have to complete an 18-month alcohol education program and face the long-term repercussions of having a felony conviction on your criminal record—a fact that can jeopardize numerous opportunities in the future.
To protect your rights and improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome for your case, it is important to discuss your charges with an experienced DUI defense attorney in your area immediately after your arrest. Submit your information online today for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.