It is a gamble to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. You don’t just put your own safety at risk. You have an elevated chance of causing a crash which could cause severe consequences for other people.
The police in California constantly monitor the roads for warning signs of driving under the influence (DUI) infractions. When a police officer identifies a likely drunk driver, they will have that individual pull over for screening and then potentially arrest them.
Usually, California DUI charges are misdemeanor offenses. However, in one of the three scenarios below, the state might charge you with a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
You injure someone else
One of the most common reasons that the state brings a felony charge against someone accused of impaired driving is that their decision hurt someone else. Whether the state claims that you struck a pedestrian or caused a crash that resulted in harm to someone else, a prosecutor will likely charge you with a felony DUI. There are strict limits on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that can put those in commercial vehicles at elevated risk of such charges.
You have three prior DUI offenses on record
When someone repeatedly breaks the same law, the state increases the penalties that apply. Eventually, there may also be more serious charges levied against the defendant. Unfortunately, drunk driving is an offense with a high rate of recidivism. Many people who get arrested for a DUI once will eventually get arrested for impaired driving again. Someone with three or more prior DUI charges will face a felony DUI after their fourth or subsequent arrest.
When you already have a felony DUI on record
You could face felony charges for a DUI even if it was only your second offense and no one got hurt. If you previously caused a crash that hurt someone and faced a felony DUI, a second offense would then also be a felony offense. Any DUI charge after a felony DUI conviction will also be a felony.
Understanding when the state will bring enhanced charges against you might inspire you to fight back against allegations that you committed a DUI offense.