Under California law, driving under the influence of alcohol is commonly a misdemeanor offense. When facing charges for first, second, or third DUI offense, you will receive misdemeanor charges as long as there are no aggravating factors. However, there are several instances when a DUI offense may attract felony charges under California law. If you are currently facing felony DUI charges, the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm can assist you to come up with a defense strategy.
Overview of Felony DUI
You may face felony DUI charges in California under three instances. You may face felony DUI charges if your DUI offense leads to the death of another person or makes another person suffer significant bodily injury. You may also face felony charges if you commit a fourth DUI offense. If you already have three prior DUI offenses, you automatically face felony charges for committing the fourth offense within a period of ten years. It is important to note that wet reckless offenses also count as priorable DUI offenses. You may also face felony DUI charges if you have one prior felony DUI charge.
Felony DUI Due to Multiple DUI Convictions
If you operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in California, the offense qualifies as a priorable offense. If you commit a subsequent related to the prior one, you will face enhanced penalties that penalties received for the prior offense. If you have committed three or more offenses in the past ten years, you will face felony charges if you commit an additional DUI offense. Offenses that qualify as priorable offenses include a DUI offense in California, a wet reckless offense, and an out-of-state offense. It is important to note that even if you commit a DUI offense outside the state of California, the offense will count as a priorable offense in California.
The most common way in which a misdemeanor DUI offense transforms into a felony is by committing multiple DUI offenses. How does the prosecutor prove that you have multiple prior DUI convictions? The prosecutor has to prove that you operated a vehicle while you were under the influence of alcohol. You are under the influence if a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds 0.08%. The prosecutor also has to prove that you have suffered at least three DUI convictions in the past ten years. The previous ten years period also goes by the name look back period or washout period. When considering prior offenses, the focus is on the offense dates and not the conviction dates.
Evidence for Past DUI Convictions
What evidence will the prosecutor present in court to prove that you have indeed faced prior DUI convictions in the past ten years? The prosecutor may produce court records outlining your prior DUI convictions. The prosecutor may also avail records from California's Department of Motor Vehicles outlining that you have faced charges for operating a vehicle under the influence. The prosecutor may also prove past convictions by completion certificates for court-approved drug and alcohol programs. For an out-of-state conviction, the prosecutor will have to avail out-of-state DMV or court records.
Penalty for Felony DUI with Multiple Convictions
The penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol are severe. Therefore, the penalties for a felony DUI offense could only be worse. When you commit a felony DUI offense with prior convictions, your punishment will vary depending on a number of factors. The penalties will vary depending on the specific facts surrounding your case, the level of your blood alcohol concentration at the time of committing the offense, and how many previous DUI offenses you have committed. The penalties you face will also depend on when you suffered the prior DUI convictions.
For a felony DUI offense, you may serve an imprisonment of sixteen months, two years, or four years in California state prison. You may also pay fines ranging from $390 to $ 1,000. For a felony DUI offense, you may gain the title of habitual traffic offender for three years. The California Department of Motor Vehicles may revoke your driving privileges in California for three years. However, if you agree to install an ignition interlock device, the Department of Motor Vehicles may restore your driving privileges in California. To help reduce your penalties, you will need to work with an aggressive attorney. In California, felony DUI offenses with multiple prior convictions attract hefty penalties. An attorney can help fight the charges or negotiate for lower charges.
Defenses for Felony DUI Offenses with Priors
When helping fight your DUI charges, your attorney will focus on the reduction of your DUI charges to a non-priorable offense. Your attorney may also negotiate for dismissal of your charges. Whether the court reduces or dismisses, your DUI charges will depend on several factors, including the issues surrounding your case.
Your DUI defense attorney explores all your prior wet reckless and DUI convictions to identify any area that he/she may challenge based on evidentiary or procedural errors. In California, penalties for repeat DUI offense increase with every additional DUI crime you commit. Therefore, if your attorney is able to negotiate the dismissal of a prior offense successfully, you will face reduced charges. The reduction of prior DUI offenses to non-priorable offenses may help to reduce your fourth DUI offense from a felony to misdemeanor offenses.
Felony DUI Due to Prior Felony DUI
If you have a prior felony DUI offense charges on your record, you will face felony DUI charges even if you only commit a small DUI offense. Your prior felony DUI offense may have resulted from a DUI crime causing great bodily injury or death. You might face felony DUI charges even if you had committed the prior felony DUI offense more than ten years ago.
Felony DUI Due to DUI Causing Injury or Death
If you are operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and another person suffers significant bodily injury or dies, you may face felony DUI charges. It must be evident that the other person suffered injuries or died due to your negligent actions or commission of additional vehicle code violations. In a case of great bodily injury or death, a prosecutor may charge you with felony DUI in three ways:
DUI Causing Injury
The California Vehicle Code 23513 VC outlines the crime of DUI, causing injuries. This crime entails operating a vehicle while intoxicated and inflicting bodily injury to another person as a result. For the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty under California Vehicle Code 23513 VC, he/she must prove three elements. First, the prosecutor has to prove that you violated California's DUI law by operating a vehicle while under the influence. The prosecutor must also prove that while driving under the influence, you broke an additional statute or acted in a negligent manner. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that your act of breaking an additional law or acting in a negligent manner caused injury to another person.
How do you violate California's DUI laws? You can violate the laws by operating a vehicle while your physical and mental abilities are impaired by drugs or alcohol. You may violate California DUI laws if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. If you are operating a commercial vehicle, you will break California DUI laws if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04%.
According to DUI with injury laws, being under the influence means that you cannot operate a vehicle with the same caution that a sober person would exercise under similar circumstances. According to California Vehicle Code 23152, you may be guilty of being under the influence of drugs even if the drugs in question are legal. For instance, you may be under the influence of over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs.
By taking your blood alcohol concentration readings, the law enforcement officers establish the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. There are several ways of getting blood alcohol concentration results. The results give a picture of the grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The readings may also indicate the grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
To face felony DUI charges for DUI causing injury, you must commit an additional offense or act in a negligent manner after committing the offense of driving under the influence. It must be your act of negligent or breaking other rules that led to the injury of another person.
Penalties for Felony DUI Causing Injury
The penalties you face for a felony DUI causing injury will depend on the facts of your case. The penalties will also depend on the number of DUI offenses you have committed within a ten year period. The penalties for Felony DUI with injury under VC 23153 include imprisonment in a California State Prison. The imprisonment period may range from two years, three years, or years depending on the severity of the crime. If any person suffers significant bodily injury, you may face additional consecutive three to six years imprisonment. For every person who suffers a great bodily injury due to your DUI offense, you will face one additional and consecutive imprisonment up to a maximum enhancement of three years. A felony DUI offense causing great bodily injury may earn you a strike in your record if another person other than yourself suffers great bodily injury. The strike to your record will be in accordance with California's Three Strikes law.
Other than imprisonment and getting a strike on your record, the court may order you to pay hefty fines. The fines for felony DUI causing injury may range from $1015 to $5,000. The court may also require you to undergo a court-approved DUI school. The DUI program may range from 18 months to 30 months, depending on the recommendation of the court.
A felony DUI offense causing injury may earn you the title of a habitual traffic offender. You are likely to retain the title for a period of three years. The California Department of Motor Vehicle may revoke your California's driving license for a period of five years. As from 2019, you may still be able to continue driving on a revoked license if you agree to install an ignition interlock device for a period of one year.
Fighting Felony DUI Causing Injury Charges
When helping you to fight charges for felony DUI causing injuries, your attorney will explore ways of proving that you were not under the influence. Your attorney will also focus on ways of challenging your BAC results. Your defense attorney will examine the investigation, arrest, and DUI testing procedures to identify any areas where the law enforcement officers failed to adhere to the set guidelines. If the attorney identifies any such area, he will fight your charges in court on the basis of wrongful arrest.
Your attorney may also seek the services of an engine reconstruction expert in the case of an accident causing injury. The officer examines the scene of the accident and establishes whether you indeed caused the accident. While examining the scene of an accident, the accident reconstruction expert evaluates factors like road condition, damage to the vehicle, weather conditions, and any other evidence that may help fight your charges. Upon arriving at the scene of an accident and establishing that you have been drinking, the police may automatically assume that you are to blame for the accident. However, other factors may lead to an accident, and an attorney will be determined to unearth these factors.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
If you commit a crime of gross vehicular manslaughter, you may face felony DUI charges under California law. California Penal Code 191.5 (a) outlines the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. For the prosecutor to charge you with this crime, he/she has to prove several elements. The prosecutor has to prove that you operated a vehicle under the influence of drugs or under the influence of alcohol. It must be evident that you committed an additional infraction or misdemeanor act while driving while intoxicated. The prosecutor must also prove that you committed the misdemeanor or infraction with gross negligence. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that your gross negligence led to the death of another person.
To face charges under California Penal Code 191.5 (a), you must commit an additional California crime that is not a felony. You may also face charges if you commit a lawful act that is likely to cause death. It is important to note that driving under the influence or DUI of drugs in itself is not enough to be an unlawful act or an act likely to cause death. The additional unlawful or lawful act does not have to be an inherently dangerous crime. The crime only needs to be dangerous under the circumstances.
To face felony DUI charges under California Penal Code 191.5 (a), it must be evident that you acted with gross negligence. If the prosecutor is unable to prove that you acted with gross negligence, you may only face charges for ordinary vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and this is not a felony offense. You are guilty of acting in gross negligence is you act in a reckless way that poses a high risk of death or significant bodily injury. Under similar circumstances, a reasonable person would have known that acting in such a manner would pose a significant risk. Ordinary carelessness or error in judgment does not qualify as gross negligence. To be guilty of acting in gross negligence, you must portray disregard for human life.
Penalties for Charges Under California Penal Code 191.5 (a)
Under California law, an offense of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony offense. The consequences of the crime include formal felony probation. The court may also recommend imprisonment in a California state prison. The prison time may vary depending on the facts surrounding the offense. You may face imprisonment for four, six, or ten years. The court may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
You are likely to face harsher penalties for the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you are a repeat offender and have committed prior DUI offenses. You will face tougher charges if you have a history of gross or ordinary vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter while operating a boat, DUI offense under Vehicle Code 23152, and DUI causing injury. If you have the named prior convictions, you may face long imprisonment in California state prison. The applicable imprisonment period may range from 15 years to life.
Another harsh penalty for the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is losing your driving privileges in California. Upon conviction under Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC, California's Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke your driver's license for a minimum period of three years. If you operate your vehicle after the suspension of your license, you will face additional charges for driving on a suspended license.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
Under California law, you may face charges for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you commit a California DUI offense and engage in additional negligent behavior leading to the death of another person. The death of the other person must be a direct, natural, or probable consequence of your negligent conduct. It is not necessary for your actions to be the only cause of death. As long as your actions substantially contributed to the death of another person, you may face charges.
A crime of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated may either attract felony or misdemeanor charges. In charged as a felony, the consequences may include formal felony probation. You may also face imprisonment ranging from sixteen months, two years, or four years in A California state prison. The court may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
Will you lose your license for committing a crime of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated? If the court charges the crime as a felony, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver's license for one year. If the court charges your offense as a misdemeanor, the DMV will not suspend your driver's license.
Fighting Charges under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) and Penal Code 191.5 (b)
For a crime under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) and California Penal Code 191.5 (b), you can adopt several defense strategies:
- You can assert that the victim did not die due to your negligence or your gross negligence
- You may also state that you acted reasonably under the circumstances. For instance, you may state that you faced an emergency and responded the same way a reasonable person would have responded.
- With the help of your attorney, you can maintain that at the time of the accident, you were not under the influence
- You may also assert that you did not act either with ordinary negligence or with gross negligence
Under California law, Watson's murder also goes by the name DUI murder and is second-degree murder in California. You may face Watson murder charges if you have a prior DUI conviction, and you commit a subsequent DUI offense causing the death of another person.
To face Watson's murder charges, the prosecutor has to prove several elements of the crime. The prosecutor has to prove that you committed an intentional act leading to the death of another person. An intentional act may include operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It must also be evident that your intentional acts were dangerous to human life. The prosecutor must prove that you acted with intentional disregard for human life for you to face Watson's murder charges.
Watson's murder is a felony under California law, and you may face 15 years or life imprisonment in a California state prison. The court may require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000. You may also earn a strike on your record in accordance with California's Three Strikes Law. If you already have two strikes on your record and you perform a subsequent felony offense, you face a mandatory 25 years in jail.
Contact a San Jose DUI Attorney Near Me
If you are currently facing felony DUI charges, the associated penalties are detrimental. With the help of an attorney, you can fight the charges in court. With a good defense, the court may either reduce or drop your charges. Contact the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm at 408-777-6630 and speak to one of our attorneys.