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When A DUI May Be Charged As A Felony Under California Law

In this article, you will discover:

  • How a DUI may be escalated to a felony
  • Information to share and questions to answer during a DUI investigation
  • Possible defenses to be used against DUI charges

There are two ways that a DUI can be charged as a felony in California. The first way is if it’s a person’s fourth DUI in ten years. So, if someone has three prior DUI convictions within ten years, and they pick up a fourth case, that fourth case will be filed as a felony even if there’s nothing serious about the case itself. It doesn’t need to be an accident, it doesn’t need to be a high blood-alcohol level, it could just be a regular DUI, but because it’s somebody’s fourth arrest within ten years, that alone will elevate the charge to a felony.

The second way they can be charged as a felony is if a victim is seriously injured as a result of the DUI, even if it is a first DUI. So generally speaking, if the victim from the accident is hurt but not seriously injured, that could be a misdemeanor. However, if the victim in the accident broke their arm, it would be charged to a felony because of the severe injuries that person faced.

Potential Defenses To DUI Charges

There are no one-size-fits-all defenses for a DUI case. You have to look through the unique facts of a case to figure out what defenses may apply. But there are some common defenses. One that is pretty common sense, is that they can’t prove someone was driving because a DUI requires driving. Sometimes it happens when they encounter somebody who’s already stopped, or there’s a discrepancy about who was driving if multiple people were involved. So, a no-driving defense can be effective because even if someone was under the influence, but they weren’t driving, they can’t be convicted of a DUI. Another defense can be based upon something done incorrectly, such as the stop or the investigation that the police officer did being incorrect. Other times it can be that the testing or obtaining the chemical test sample, whether that’s blood or breath, was done incorrectly.

Another area of defenses is based on challenging the science, if we can prove that either somebody isn’t impaired by the substances showing up on a breath or blood test or that the number reflected on a breath or blood test wouldn’t have been accurate when someone was driving. Generally, for those types of defenses, we consult with experts who can testify that even if a person had a chemical test of .08, that person may not have beet at that level when they were driving.

Information Someone Should Provide To Law Enforcement At A DUI Stop

When someone is stopped in connection with a DUI, the first thing that police officers will usually do is ask them for their identification. You are required to provide police with your identification to make sure that you have a valid license and ensure that you don’t have any active warrants out.

The law gives police officers some latitude when they are in a situation that could jeopardize the officer’s safety. So, when the officer asks, “would you step out of the vehicle?” Generally, you will have to do that and go with them. This is so they can pat a person down for weapons or ensure they aren’t able to reach a weapon. After that, pretty much most things become voluntary in terms of questioning. So, once an officer gets somebody out of the car and decides to start asking them questions like, where were you coming from, where were you going, how much have you had to drink tonight? All of those questions are voluntary. You do not have to answer questions, and you never have to incriminate yourself.

So if you’ve provided your identification, and you’ve complied with an officer’s request for their safety to get out of the vehicle, at that point, you don’t have to continue to answer questions, you don’t have to do field sobriety tests, you don’t have to do anything at that point that’s going to incriminate yourself, and this will change a little bit if you are arrested. But just for purposes of while you’re talking with a police officer and being investigated, you are not required to answer incriminating questions or do the field sobriety tests.

General Information

For more information on Felony DUI Cases In The State Of California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (714) 689-2660 today.

Edward R. Flores, Esq.

Call For A Personal Case Evaluation
(714) 689-2660

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