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Can a DUI be a felony in California?

Jun 26, 2023 | DUI

According to the NHTSA, the police arrest over 100,000 drivers every year in California for DUI offenses. Driving under the influence is a serious offense in California. The penalties can range from fines and license suspension to imprisonment.

While most DUI charges in California are misdemeanors, certain circumstances can escalate a DUI to a felony, carrying much heavier penalties. The state considers public safety a top priority and enforces strict DUI laws to discourage drunk driving.

Repeat offenses

In California, if the courts have convicted you of three DUIs within a ten-year period, a fourth DUI charge within that same time frame will be a felony. This is due to California’s “three strikes” policy, which aims to deter repeat offenders. A felony DUI can result in severe penalties, including significant fines, a four-year license suspension and even prison time.

DUI causing injury

If you cause an accident while driving under the influence and hurt someone else, California law will charge the DUI as a felony. The charges can become more severe if the injured party suffers significant bodily harm or if the accident results in a fatality.

Prior felony DUI convictions

If you have a previous felony DUI conviction on your record, lawmakers will also consider any subsequent DUI charge a felony, regardless of the specific circumstances of the incident. California law takes repeat offenses very seriously and escalates penalties with each subsequent conviction.

A DUI conviction can have long-lasting effects on your life, from fines and potential jail time to a permanent mark on your criminal record. A felony DUI is a particularly serious offense, carrying significantly heavier penalties and longer-lasting repercussions. It is important to understand the severity of a DUI charge and the circumstances under which it can become a felony.