Drunk driving, or DUI, is a criminal offense and one of the most commonly charged in California. Though there are some specific exceptions to this rule, the legal threshold for blood alcohol content (BAC) while driving is .08%. This means there are circumstances where being behind the wheel after drinking is not a DUI, as long as the BAC is below the threshold.
For those who are under 21 or who have previously been convicted of drunk driving and are on probation, the blood alcohol limit drops to .001%. This essentially means that any measurable amount of alcohol in the system of these drivers will result in a criminal offense.
Is Drunk Driving a Felony?
A DUI offense, especially a first-time one, is more often than not going to be classified as a misdemeanor. That being said, there are several factors that can make a drunk driving offense a felony.
If someone is injured, if you have a prior felony conviction for drunk driving, or if you have three or more DUI convictions within the past ten years (even if they were misdemeanor charges), then you may be charged with a felony.
What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving?
It is important to note that DUIs are prior able offenses, meaning with each consecutive offense, the penalty is increased. For a first-time offense, you may only get up to six months in jail and a fine of at most $1,000. However, a third offense could see you facing up to a year in jail as well as a fine.
For a DUI that results in someone being injured, the penalties are increased as well. A misdemeanor DUI with injury comes with a sentence of three to five years’ summary probation, up to a year in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, possible suspension of your license, and the responsibility to pay restitution to any injured parties. A felony DUI with injury, among other things, can add a strike to your record, as well as up to ten years in state prison and an additional and consecutive one to six years, depending on how many people are injured and how severe the injuries are.
How Can an Attorney Help You With a Drunk Driving Charge?
A good lawyer can be the difference between a slap on the wrist and life-altering penalties when it comes to drunk driving charges. They may investigate the initial arrest, which, if it is found to be unlawful, can get your case dismissed completely. They may also attack the accuracy of the BAC test or argue that you were not the one driving the vehicle, for example. The best defense for you will depend on the specifics of your case.