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Dealing with the ramifications of any arrest can be a difficult endeavor, requiring trips to court and the possibility of fines, loss of driving privileges and jail time. In the case of a DUI, the increasing focus over the past few decades has led to more stringent enforcement by police in jurisdictions all across the country.
Since the concept of social drinking is still a viable aspect of everyday American life, individuals within the state of California need to be aware of the dangers of excessive drinking. From a legal perspective, such a mindset means making sure to understand the difference between what constitutes misdemeanor DUI and which crimes can result in a charge of felony DUI.
In the latter instance, there are three specific areas that will result in being assessed the more severe charge. Listed below are those examples:
A Prior Felony DUI Conviction
Many people who make the mistake of drinking and driving may only stumble like that once in their lives. That momentary lapse in judgment will most often only result in being charged with a misdemeanor. However, some individuals have multiple arrests, something that likely indicates a substance abuse problem.
If that first arrest or any one of those subsequent charges ended up resulting in a felony DUI conviction, California law automatically dictates that you’ll be charged with felony DUI. As opposed to a first-time or later offense that can see prosecutors reduce felony charges to a misdemeanor, they have no such leeway in this case.
A Minimum of Three Prior DUI Convictions
As noted above, the instance of being arrested multiple times for DUI is a clear indication of a personal issue on the part of an individual. Once you’ve been arrested and convicted three times on this charge within the span of the past decade, you run the risk of being charged with a felony DUI the next time it occurs.
The California legal system considers driving under the influence to be a priorable crime, which means that being arrested on multiple occasions will result in stiffer sentences each time. If you’ve previously been convicted for what’s known as wet reckless, that can be considered a DUI conviction in this case.
Wet reckless is simply a legal option that allows for a DUI charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor so that the ultimate disposition of the case is less severe. In short, you would effectively be convicted of reckless driving.
Someone was Injured or Died
Simply being arrested for DUI may simply mean being pulled over and charged with the crime, with the only individual immediately affected being the driver. However, the tragic consequences of DUI can result in the injury or death of one or multiple individuals who may either be riding in your vehicle, driving or riding in other vehicles, using other forms of transportation or simply be unsuspecting pedestrians.
Besides the potential civil litigation that could result in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, the individual that’s charged with either injuring or killing others will be subject to a felony DUI charge. In the latter instance, you would be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
There can be cases where a felony DUI that stems from the death of one or more people can be charged with second degree murder. These indictments are usually are only given to individuals with multiple prior DUI convictions who, in the eyes of the law, have exhibited callous disregard for life.
Not every DUI arrest results in a conviction, with cases sometimes being thrown out of court for insufficient or compromised evidence. In addition, there may be extenuating circumstances that help explain the situation, such as issues related to medication.
That’s why it’s important to obtain strong legal representation from an attorney that has experience in this particular aspect of the law. The differences in penalties for misdemeanor and felony convictions are stark enough that not taking this selection seriously can result in severe consequences.