Most driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in San Diego are misdemeanors, punishable by no more than one year in county jail, but there are some specific instances in which a prosecutor can pursue felony DUI charges, which can result in much more severe penalties, possibly including a state prison sentence of 16 months, two, three or four years. If you or a loved one is facing felony DUI charges in San Diego or the surrounding areas, you probably realize by now that the stakes are higher than ever. When it comes to protecting your freedom and your future, there is no substitute for experience. Contact our reputable and knowledgeable DUI defense lawyers at Sevens Legal, APC as soon as possible to begin strategizing an effective drunk driving defense.
Reputable San Diego Felony DUI Lawyer
Any time you are facing charges for a San Diego DUI, you have the right to represent yourself in court. However, DUI law is complicated and always changing, and it can be extremely difficult for someone without a strong background in DUI defense to successfully beat drunk driving charges, especially felony DUI charges. Our DUI defense attorneys at Sevens Legal understand that every felony DUI case is different, with unique circumstances that can influence prosecution and sentencing, and when you hire our firm, our legal team will analyze every detail of your case to determine the defense strategy most likely to get you the best possible outcome based on your specific situation. At Sevens Legal, we offer potential clients a free initial consultation, which means you can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case with a knowledgeable San Diego DUI defense attorney with no obligation to hire our firm.
San Diego Felony Offense DUI
Generally speaking, DUIs are charged as misdemeanor offenses in San Diego. However, there are certain specific situations in which a San Diego DUI can be charged as a felony offense. The main difference between misdemeanor and felony charges is that misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for no more than one year, while felonies are punishable by more than one year in prison, among other serious penalties. DUIs can be charged as felony offenses under the following circumstances:
- Prior convictions – DUIs are priorable offenses in San Diego, which means each subsequent DUI occurring within ten years of one or more previous DUI convictions carries a more serious punishment. If you are arrested for a DUI within ten years of three or more DUI or DUI-related convictions that took place in California or any other state, the new offense could be charged as a felony.
- Prior felony DUI – If you have a previous felony DUI conviction on your criminal record, a subsequent DUI will also be charged as a felony offense, regardless of the circumstances of the case. Even if the new DUI offense would ordinarily be charged as a misdemeanor, a prior felony DUI conviction automatically makes the new offense a felony.
- Injury or death – If your alleged DUI results in serious bodily injury or death to another person other than yourself, the prosecution may choose to charge your DUI offense as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. If a felony DUI is pursued, the criminal charges you face may include DUI with injury, DUI vehicular manslaughter or DUI second-degree murder.
Driving Under the Influence
What many people don’t realize is that you can be charged with DUI even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08%, so long as the police have reason to believe that your driving was impaired by alcohol. Under California Vehicle Code § 23152 (a) VC, the “subjective” standard for DUI in San Diego, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. This law defines being “under the influence” as having your physical or mental abilities impaired to such a degree that you are no longer capable of operating a motor vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar circumstances.
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or Higher
The California DUI law people are most familiar with is California Vehicle Code § 23152 (b) VC, which makes it a crime “for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” This law sets forth the “per se” definition of DUI in San Diego – operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
What to Do After a Felony DUI Arrest
After your DUI arrest, you will be taken to the police station to be booked and the arresting officer will make arrangements for a breath or blood test to determine the amount of alcohol in your system, if any. Under California’s “implied consent” law, if you have been lawfully arrested for DUI, you are legally required to submit to the chemical test
. If you refuse the test, you could face additional penalties, including an administrative suspension of your driver’s license, and your refusal to submit to the test could be used to enhance the criminal penalties against you if you are found guilty of the DUI.
The process of being arrested for and charged with drunk driving can be incredibly intimidating and frightening, especially if you have little to no experience with the criminal justice system, but it is important to remember that no matter how serious your situation may seem, you still have important rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. The latter means that you are not obligated to answer any questions posed by the police without your attorney present. The police may act like they are on your side and say they only want to help, but in reality, their main objective is to gather evidence that the prosecution can use against you in court.
Any DUI arrest in San Diego can be overwhelming and stressful, but if you are arrested for a DUI with injury or another DUI offense that could result in felony charges, it is more important than ever to understand what lies ahead of you and how you should proceed. If you have been arrested for an aggravated DUI in San Diego, hiring the right DUI defense attorney could mean the difference between possibly spending years in prison and walking away with your freedom intact. Contact an experienced defense lawyer as quickly as possible after your arrest and you will greatly improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome in your case.
San Diego Felony DUI Penalties
Every San Diego DUI case is different and the penalties you could face for your DUI offense can vary a great deal depending on your criminal record and the specific facts of your case, including whether your alleged DUI resulted in any injuries. Because DUIs are priorable offenses, meaning the punishment increases with each subsequent conviction, felony DUIs in San Diego carry some of the most severe criminal penalties
. If you are convicted of a San Diego felony DUI, you could face the following potential penalties:
- 16 months, two, three or four years in state prison,
- Three to five years of formal probation,
- Up to $5,000 in fines, plus other fees and costs,
- License revocation for five years,
- Payment of restitution to victims,
- 18 or 30 months of DUI classes,
- Habitual Traffic Offender designation for three years, and/or
- Participation in an alcohol rehabilitation program.
There are certain so-called “aggravating” factors, or extenuating circumstances, that, if relevant to your case, can result in increased penalties for a San Diego felony DUI conviction. These include the following:
- Speeding or driving recklessly
- Causing a motor vehicle accident
- Having a BAC of 0.15% or higher
- Driving on a suspended license
- Refusing to submit to a chemical test
- Having a minor under the age of 14 in your car
- Violating your probation
- Fleeing from a police officer
California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law
There is a habitual offender law in place in California known as the “Three Strikes” sentencing law, which is designed to impose more severe criminal penalties on individuals convicted of multiple serious or violent felony offenses. If you have one previous serious or violent felony on your record and you are convicted of an aggravated DUI in San Diego, you could face double the prison sentence otherwise required under the law. If you have two or more “strike priors” on your record, a subsequent aggravated DUI conviction could result in a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life.
San Diego Felony DUI Defense
No matter what DUI charges you are facing, remember that, like any defendant in a criminal case, you are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. What that means is, the prosecutor in your case can only get a conviction for felony DUI if he or she can prove that you are guilty of each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, if you are facing felony charges for a DUI causing serious bodily injury to another person, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime of DUI with injury (VC § 23153):
- You were driving under the influence of alcohol or with a BAC of 0.08% or higher,
- While doing so, you acted negligently or broke another law in addition to DUI, and
- Your negligence or unlawful act caused injury to another person.
Best Defense Strategies for a Felony DUI
All San Diego DUI cases are different, especially felony DUI cases, which can involve any number of aggravating factors, such as causing injury or death to another person or having prior felony convictions, which is why you need an attorney on your side with experience handling all manner of DUI cases, including felony DUI, DUI with injury and DUI drugs. A good DUI defense attorney will have a clear understanding of DUI law and how it applies to your case and will be able to craft a strong defense after analyzing every aspect of your case. Depending on the circumstances of your case, some potential felony defense strategies your attorney can present in court include the following:
- Your DUI arrest was illegal
- You did not cause the accident
- False positive alcohol test results
- You were not driving the vehicle
- The injuries sustained do not constitute great bodily injury
- You do not have prior DUI convictions
- The police violated your Miranda rights
- You were not intoxicated or impaired at the time of the accident
How Our San Diego Felony DUI Lawyers Can Help
If you have been charged with a felony DUI, you are probably wondering if you need an attorney to represent you in your case. Seeking qualified legal representation is a good idea for any criminal offense, but in particular for a felony DUI, which can result in significant fines and a lengthy prison sentence upon conviction. DUI cases are complex and multifaceted and there is a great deal of work that goes into building a solid defense that can hold up in court. That being said, not all DUI cases go to trial. In many cases, DUI charges end up being dropped or reduced to a lesser offense. If you have been charged with a felony DUI in San Diego, our DUI defense attorneys at Sevens Legal may be able to negotiate the charges from a felony down to a misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement, or present mitigating circumstances to the court to secure a reduction in charges or a lesser sentence. Having a seasoned and trial-tested DUI defense attorney on your side who is familiar with the facts of your case, your criminal history, California DUI laws and the nature of your DUI offense is the key to obtaining a satisfactory resolution.
Contact a San Diego Felony DUI Defense Attorney
Many felony DUI charges are brought as a result of multiple prior DUI convictions, but you could also be charged with a felony DUI as a first offense, if the DUI caused serious bodily injury or death. And not only are the criminal penalties associated with a felony DUI conviction severe and long-lasting, there is also a stigma associated with felony charges that can follow you for the rest of your life, even after you have served your sentence, paid the necessary fines and satisfied any other conditions of your DUI conviction. If you have been arrested for or charged with felony DUI in San Diego or the surrounding areas, your first course of action should be to hire an aggressive and competent DUI defense attorney to represent your case. Our defense lawyers at Sevens Legal have extensive experience protecting the rights of clients facing San Diego DUI charges, and we can help you get the best possible outcome in your case.