Is DUI a Felony in the State of California?

Next time when you are about to drive under influence please keep in mind that you put into risk not only your life but also the lives of other human beings. And one question, that interests people a lot is the following: is DUI is a felony? If you want to find out, keep reading.

We are all well aware that felony is the most serious kind of criminal charge. If somebody drives under the influence throughout the state of California it is generally considered a misdemeanor offense.

Both misdemeanors and felonies are criminal charges. The only difference is that misdemeanors are less serious. You have a right to a lawyer to represent you in both cases. And yes you will face a trial by jury. Unlike misdemeanors, felonies involve more complex trials and heavier penalties. They usually have effects that last pretty long after your case is over.

So facing a felony DUI charge is much more serious than a misdemeanor.  Is DUI a felony? Yes it is a felony in the following 3 cases:

  • four DUIs or more in a 10 year period
  • an accident that caused bodily injury to somebody else
  • a prior felony DUI conviction

Four DUIs or more

Note, that any DUI within 10 years will be prosecuted as a felony, in case one already has three DUI convictions. The prior DUIs may include DUI convictions from out of state as well as convictions for alcohol-related reckless driving. Some of these cases may also involve probation violations and drive on a suspended license charges.

Accidents causing bodily injury

If the injuries are severe, one will be charged with a felony. Only the cases that involve serious injury or even death will result in felony DUI charges. There are different ideas on what you can call a serious injury. Also, it is very important to prove that you were at fault in the accident.

Prior felony DUI

If somebody has a previous felony DUI conviction, you may wonder is DUI a felony in this case. The answer is yes any subsequent DUI within 10 years will be charged as a felony.

So, in case DUI does not involve any of the above-mentioned three circumstances, then it is a misdemeanor. If it involves any of them, then one may face felony DUI charges. The punishment is much harsher in terms of jail or even prison time. It can also cause license suspension and probation. So If you have been arrested for DUI, it is very important for you to know what kinds of charges you are going to face. As with any felony conviction, with DUI outside of court, there are potential life-altering consequences: including some possible employment issues.

In California, felonies carry a minimum of one year of jail time. They may possibly carry a longer prison sentence (it is served in state prison). Your sentence may include parole as well as probation.

Now let us discuss the effects that felonies can have.

Limited types of licenses

In case you are a convicted felon, you cannot qualify for hunting or fishing license. You may face limits for other types of licenses, too.

No right to bear arms

After being convicted, you lose your right to bear arms. Additionally, you cannot own firearms legally. And this is for the rest of your life.

Difficulties in getting a job

Note, that many industries will consider felony sufficient reason not to hire you. And it is completely legal for them to do so. You better disclose your felon status when you apply for jobs.

No right to vote

Once convicted of a felony you temporarily lose your right to vote. While you are serving your prison sentence (including parole) you will not be able to vote in any election. After you are finished with prison you may once again register to vote no matter if you are still on probation or not.

Generally, these cases are pretty complex involving multiple stages. If you have been arrested for DUI, the best thing you can do is to find a good DUI attorney who knows how to strengthen your case and how to help you. An experienced lawyer can change a lot in case of a DUI felony. We wish you to stay positive and good luck.


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