California Felony DUI Laws

Many people arrested and charged with a DUI in California face misdemeanor criminal charges. However, under California Vehicle Code § 23153, aggravating factors can turn this charge into a felony. These include:

  • When the DUI is a driver’s fourth DUI offense within 10 years
  • When the driver has a previous conviction for felony DUI
  • When the drunk or drugged driver causes an accident where someone else is seriously injured or killed

You May Face Multiple Charges Related to Felony DUI

Depending on the facts of your case that led to your felony DUI charges, you might face additional criminal charges.

Accident Causing Injury or Death

For the prosecutor to pursue felony DUI charges, someone else must have been seriously injured or killed because of a drunk driving accident. This proven element can produce other charges, including:

Multiple Convictions

The penalties for California DUIs worsen for multiple offenses. These are known as priorable offenses.

Suppose you have three or more DUI convictions on your record over the last ten years, and you are subsequently arrested for a fifth DUI. In that case, you will automatically face a felony DUI charge under California law.

Having a Prior Felony DUI

California law requires anyone who has a previous conviction for DUI on their record should be tried with felony DUI upon subsequent arrest. It does not matter whether the ten-year look back period has passed.

Suppose you have previously been convicted of a DUI, or someone else was seriously injured or killed because of a felony you were convicted of. In that case, you could face felony DUI charges. This may be true even if there are no aggravating factors in your current DUI case.

Penalties for Oakland, CA Felony DUI Convictions

Due to the range in severity of this offense, penalties vary widely. Prior convictions and situations where serious bodily injury or death occurred may result in higher penalties. Felony DUI convictions are punishable by the following criminal penalties:

  • A maximum of three years in state prison
  • Up to 30 months of DUI school
  • License suspension or revocation of up to five years
  • A maximum of $1,000 in fines
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for a minimum of one year
  • Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) by the California Department of Motor Vehicles
  • A strike on your record under California’s Three-Strikes law
  • Court ordered alcohol or substance abuse treatment

Collateral Consequences

In addition to these criminal penalties, you can expect the rest of your life to be affected by a felony DUI conviction as well. Common collateral consequences include:

  • Child custody issues
  • Trouble finding safe housing
  • Citizenship or immigration issues
  • Loss of firearm rights
  • Difficulty finding gainful employment
  • Loss of federal student aid eligibility
  • Suspension or revocation of your professional licenses
  • Damaged relationships with family and friends
  • A destroyed reputation

You Have Options When Facing Felony DUI Charges

Those charged with misdemeanor DUIs may have more options to avoid jail time, like pretrial diversion programs. However, these options may not be available for felony DUIs. Instead, you need an experienced attorney willing to present a powerful defense strategy.

Here are a few of the more common defenses:

Unlawful Stop

Police do not have a right to pull over anyone for any reason at any time. They must have a valid reason for stopping you first. For example, some of the valid reasons police may stop someone on suspicion of drunk driving include:

  • Responding slowly to traffic signals
  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Driving without headlights at night
  • Swerving in and out of traffic

However, law enforcement can also pull over vehicles for broken taillights and other routine traffic violations. If police detect alcohol or drugs or have other probable cause, they can legally proceed with an arrest.

However, if police do not have a valid reason for the traffic stop, any evidence obtained that may have been used against you could be deemed inadmissible and thrown out at trial.

Inaccurate Chemical Test Results

Breathalyzers and other chemical test results are not as accurate as many people assume. They can only be as accurate as the people administering the test.

When police do not administer breathalyzers accurately, or lab technicians mishandle chemical blood alcohol samples, your DUI lawyer in Oakland, CA may question whether the chemical test results are accurate.

Miranda Violations

The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment allows you the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Law enforcement is required to read you your Miranda warnings before they take you into custody. However, many people are often confused about what it means to be considered “in custody.”

If police take you into custody and fail to review your rights, any evidence they may have obtained before these Miranda violations may be considered inadmissible at trial. Protect yourself from the start by politely declining to answer any police questions without your attorney present.

Contact a Felony DUI Lawyer in Oakland, CA for Help

The severe charges against you require serious representation. With a strong criminal defense lawyer advocating for your freedom, you could get your charges reduced, dismissed, or obtain the acquittal you need to move forward with your life.

Schedule your confidential consultation with Seth Morris at Morris Law today. Fill out our secured contact form or call our office at 510-330-0814 to get started on your defense.