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When is a DUI a Misdemeanor?

Posted by Christopher Martens | Jul 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A DUI is a common charge in California. Many people get DUIs and go on to live a relatively normal life afterwards. A DUI is a criminal charge and, like many crimes, can be handled a few different ways in the criminal court system. In California, DUIs can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. These kinds of criminal convictions, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, are called wobblers in the state of California. California has many convictions that can be charged either way. A DUI is one of them. In general, DUIs come with standard sentences set forth by the state of California. All fifty states have set their legal BAC limit for driving as .08% for first time offenders over 21 years of age. Each state will have different ways of charging and sentencing those for driving while impaired. In California, first offense DUIs for of age adults result in a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor DUI is punishable by up to six months jail time, up to about $3,500 in fines and penalties and a three-month course of alcohol education classes. These punishments are handed down from the criminal court system. Jail time, license suspensions, fines and penalties and length of alcohol education courses will all increase with subsequent DUI or wet reckless offenses. Your second or third DUI offense may still be charged as misdemeanors, if no other aggravating circumstances are present. However, the punishments for subsequent DUI increase with each offense, even if they are still charged as misdemeanors. This is meant to punish recidivism. While the crime itself does not heighten in severity, and thus is not charged as a felony, the punishments reflect the court's desire to ensure you learn a lesson and don't become a DUI offender again. The Department of Motor Vehicles will handle DUI offenders under the Administrative Per Se law, which sets forth standard suspensions to driving privileges for all DUI offenders. The DMV will suspend your license for six months and require you to obtain an SR-22 proof of financial responsibility, which is like an expensive kind of insurance, for three years after your first DUI conviction. A DUI can be charged as a felony if you injure or kill someone in an accident as a result of you driving while impaired or if you have several prior DUI or wet reckless driving offenses. Under California's Vehicle Code 23153, anyone who drives above the legal BAC limit of .08% and causes death or injury to another as a result of their driving can face felony charges. This charge will come with between one and five years in jail, depending on any prior DUI or wet reckless convictions with in the last ten years. The DMV will also suspend their driving privileges for one year. Also, multiple DUI priors may result in a new DUI being charged as a felony. In California, fourth DUI offenses, within a ten-year look back period, are often charged as felony offenses. This will result in several years of a license suspension, at least a year in jail and increased fines and penalties and alcohol education classes. Since a DUI is a wobbler in California, however, how you are charged is largely up to the discretion of the court. Factors like causing an accident or being a habitual DUI offender can result in being charged with a felony however there is some discretion in the how the courts handle your charges. For this reason, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney when facing DUI charges. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor conviction is great. A skilled DUI defense attorney can ensure you have the best chance at a misdemeanor charge possible, given the circumstances of your case. Cases that would usually be charged as a felony do have the chance to be reduced to a misdemeanor under the right circumstances. Prepare your defense carefully and with the help of a skilled attorney to ensure you walk away with the least possible sentence given the case facts. Charges can sometimes be reduced in the right circumstances and with the right defense.

If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing DUI charges? The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for expert counsel on DUI laws. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

About the Author

Christopher Martens

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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