Definition and Aspects of a Felony DUI:
Under California Vehicle Code 23152 (VC 23152), driving under the influence of alcohol is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, if this is the fourth conviction in a 10-year span, the repeated offense elevates the DUI to a Felony under (VC 23152). A felony DUI can be charged for various, more severe cases of operating a vehicle under the influence and is punishable with several years in prison, hefty fines, and the loss of a driver’s license for numerous years.
If the Defendant has already been convicted of a first, second, and even third violation of California Vehicle Code 23152 (VC 23152), the fourth offense is an automatic felony offense. However, other circumstances could transform even a first-time DUI into a felony.
To be convicted of California Vehicle Code 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant drove a motor vehicle
- The Defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident
To be convicted of California Vehicle Code 23152(b) (VC 23152(b)), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant drove a motor vehicle
- The Defendant has a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher
A first DUI charge (VC 23152(a)) is subjective, as it is not based on the blood alcohol level of the Defendant. The second statute of (VC 23152(b)) is objective, as it is provable by a blood or breath test. If the Defendant violates both statutes, he/she is still only being charged with one merged DUI offense.
To be convicted of a felony charge, one of the following has to occur:
- A fourth DUI offense under (VC 23152)
- The Defendant has a previous felony conviction of a DUI
- The Defendant has previously been convicted of vehicular manslaughter under (PC 192(c)(1)), where the Defendant was convicted of a felony
Fourth Offense of Driving Under the Influence (VC 23152):
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)), it is illegal for any person to operate a vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage. Drivers can be charged with this statute, even if their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08% if they display signs and symptoms of intoxication.
If a breath or blood test is taken and the results come back higher than the legal limit of .08%, the Defendant is typically charged with two crimes: Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving under the influence; and Vehicle Code 23152(b) (VC 23152(b)), driving with excessive blood alcohol levels. If both of the charges listed are sustained, it is considered a single DUI conviction.
For a first, second, or third time offense of this statute, the Defendant is generally charged with a misdemeanor, given that there are no severe circumstances. A fourth conviction of the same charge, however, is automatically a felony, even if there were no injuries and the Defendant was only charged with (VC 23152(a)), meaning he/she did not have a blood alcohol level equal to or higher than .08%.
If the Defendant had an out of state conviction that, if committed in California, would’ve been a DUI, it falls under this category, resulting in a stricter conviction.
Previous Felony Conviction:
If, at the time of the DUI conviction, the Defendant already has a felony offense on their record, he/she will be charged with a felony DUI.
This situation usually arises when the Defendant has a previous DUI conviction that caused an injury or death and was therefore charged with a felony for that occurrence, or if they’ve had multiple DUI convictions and were eventually charged with a felony. In this case, the ten-year mark does not apply. This means that if the Defendant has a clean driving record of the past ten years but has previously been charged with a felony DUI, this conviction would automatically become a felony as well.
Causing Injury or Death:
Last but not least, if the Defendant caused bodily injury or death as a result of driving under the influence or in a negligent manner that shows signs of consumption, the conviction automatically becomes a felony and will be prosecuted differently.
A Prosecutor might bring criminal charges for felony driving under the influence as one of the following:
- Driving Under the Influence Causing Serious Injury – California Vehicle Code 23513 (VC 23513)
- Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated – California Penal Code 191.5(a) (PC 191.5a)
- Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated – California Penal Code 191.5(b) (PC 191.5b)
- DUI Second-Degree Murder – or “Watson Murder”
Whether a Defendant is charged with a felony is determined by the factors and details of the individual case. Additionally, any history or prior convictions play a part in the sentencing process.
Defenses to a Felony DUI Case:
California’s felony convictions have severe penalties. If a Defendant is convicted of a felony DUI, he/she will face hefty fines and a suspended license for up to four years. Additionally, the Defendant is punished with substantial prison time of up to 3 years if there are no other charges involved with the case. The extent of the punishment is decided by a judge based on the circumstances of the offense, as well as any prior convictions on the Defendant’s record.
If this is the fourth DUI offense (VC 23152), the Defendant becomes a designated habitual traffic offender for a three-year period. This record indicated higher fines and punishments for any future traffic violation during those years.
If this is the first vehicle felony conviction on the Defendant’s record, it might still be possible to drive with an IID installed in his/her car immediately after the incident.
A felony conviction for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (VC 23152), under California Vehicle Code 23152, is a severe offense that can result in jail time, fines, and other long-term consequences. It is imperative that if you are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, you contact an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
For an experienced DUI attorney in your corner, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available to assist you with your case. Call us 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (VC 23152): Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Book a free consultation today.