You may be familiar with the different kinds of charges you can face for violating a law. Criminal acts will either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Many crimes may be always charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony however some are more flexible. In California, many crimes can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. These crimes are called wobblers because they can fall on either side and can result in either one of two charges. DUI, or driving under the influence, is one of the wobbler crimes in California. How a DUI is charged, as a misdemeanor or as a felony, is based on a number of factors. How you are charged can be affected by any prior drinking and driving offenses you have had and the presence of any aggravating factors in your current DUI case. It must be noted that having a wet reckless driving charge is counted as a DUI for the purposes of future DUI sentencing. If you were given a wet reckless charge as part of a DUI plea bargain, you are still considered a DUI offender for the purposes of your DUI record. For example, if you got a wet reckless charge five years ago and are now being charged with your first DUI, your wet reckless charge will be considered a "prior" offense and so you will face the punishments for a DUI second offender. These are more severe than those for first offenders. This is important to note because having multiple DUIs or wet reckless charges can result in a new DUI being charged as a felony. California may charge your DUI as a felony if you are a habitual DUI offender. In California, DUI recidivism is seen as a big problem and so recidivist are prosecuted heavily. Generally, your fourth DUI or wet reckless charge within a ten-year period can be charged as a felony. Not only will a fourth DUI result in a felony, it will also result in extremely harsh punishments. With a fourth DUI, and the DMV will revoke your license for four years and you will not be eligible for a restricted suspended license. You will also be ordered to take a 30 month long alcohol education course for multiple DUI offenders and could face up to 16 months in prison and fines of up to $5,000. Your DUI may also be charged as a felony in light of certain circumstances that make your DUI more severe. This will result in more severe punishment as well. If you caused an accident as a result of your driving under the influence and seriously injured or killed someone, you may be charged with a felony DUI, and potentially other offenses that result from the accident. However, in this case, the prosecution must prove you negligence was the cause of the accident. A felony, like a misdemeanor charge, will result in time behind bars, fines and probation. However, a felony is a more serious charge than a misdemeanor. While misdemeanors are generally punishable with no more than one year in a county jail, felony convictions can land you time in a state prison. A DUI charged as a felony, for whatever the reason, will also ensure any subsequent DUIs are charged as felonies as well. If you are facing a potential felony DUI charge, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney right away. They may be able to get your current DUI charge reduced or raise questions about your previous charges. Because a DUI is a wobbler crime in California, the courts have discretion in sentencing you. Because of this, negotiation may be possible. A skilled DUI defense attorney can evaluate your case scenario and advise you how they think you will be charged. They may be able to avoid a felony charge for you by negotiating a plea bargain, resulting in your DUI being charged as a misdemeanor. Given the severe punishments for a felony DUI, this can be well worth it.
If you are facing DUI charges in the Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area, contact experienced DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens. Attorney Christopher Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 all the way to trial and he can do the same for you. Mr. Martens has fought in court for clients with multiple DUIs and can do the same for you. The skilled legal team at The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help ensure you take the right next steps in your case. Contact our offices in Hanford and Visalia at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.