DUI is a crime, even if no one was hurt. If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence, you face repercussions. However, the severity of your infraction will determine exactly what happens in your case. There are two types of DUIs in California: misdemeanor DUIs and felony DUIs. Most of the time, DUIs are misdemeanor crimes. However, felony charges do happen. What’s the difference, and which will you be charged with?
It Depends on Your Situation
The difference between being charged with misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI in California is largely based on the specifics of your situation. If your BAC was under .10, and there was no accident or injury involved, chances are good that it will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. If it’s your first or second DUI, chances are still good that you’ll get off with a misdemeanor. Even third-time offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor.
However, if this is your fourth DUI charge within a 10-year period, if you’ve been convicted of felony DUI before, or if there was an injury or fatality involved with your DUI, it is likely that you’ll be facing felony charges, not a simple misdemeanor. Note that even if your current case would be tried as a misdemeanor DUI in other circumstances, the presence of a previous felony DUI automatically upgrades it to felony level.
Other mitigating circumstances include things like the weather conditions at the time, if you were driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, and if there was a minor under the age of 14 in the car with you at the time. If your BAC was .20 or higher, it’s automatically considered a felony DUI known as aggravated DUI.
What's the Difference?
The difference between the two types of DUI comes down to how they’re prosecuted and how you’re punished if you are found guilty. Misdemeanor DUIs, while certainly frightening and stressful experiences, usually result in less jail time and much lower fines than what you’ll find with felony charges. Actually, a felony DUI charge can result in time served in California state prison rather than in county jail. You also become a convicted felon and must live the rest of your life with the repercussions of that. A felony conviction means that you lose a number of rights:
- You cannot vote
- You cannot hold public office
- You cannot serve on a jury for seven years
- You cannot own a firearm
- You can lose professional licensing and permits
- You become far less employable
Some of these rights can be recovered, but only by serving your prison sentence and any parole time, and by paying the fines set by the court.
Both misdemeanor and felony DUI charges carry heavy punishments. Misdemeanor charges can result in jail time, heavy fines, mandated alcohol-awareness classes and the loss of your license. Felony DUI charges can result in time spent in state prison, losing your license for several years, and tens of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.
Get Expert Help
Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI, it’s a serious situation. California is becoming increasingly strict on driving under the influence. You cannot afford to be without expert representation during the trial or during the DMV hearing. Make sure you hire an experienced, expert attorney who specializes in California DUI cases.