For anyone facing a potential DUI, working with an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer in California can have a major impact on the outcome of the case.
Driving while intoxicated is a risky behavior that can have serious effects. In 2019, DUI offenses in California accounted for almost 10% of the alcohol-impaired fatalities in the country, according to a report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
What is Driving Under the Influence?
Driving under the influence is defined as operating a vehicle while intoxicated. We most often think of alcohol when we think of DUIs, but it can also include drug crimes like driving while under the influence of drugs like cannabis. It can even include prescription drugs that are known to cause drowsiness and other effects.
For example, if someone were found to have taken benzodiazepines or other anxiety medications, they could find themselves facing criminal convictions.
Many DUI arrests involve the use of an electronic breath alcohol test. However, alcohol testing is not the only method police officers use to determine if someone is under the influence.
They may also focus on your supposed level of impairment, such as erratic driving.
What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor DUI and Felony DUI
A DUI conviction can be considered either a felony or a misdemeanor. In the legal profession, this is considered a wobbler offense. Whether or not it is a felony depends on the severity of the charge and the unique circumstances surrounding it.
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense, and most of them carry jail time to be served at the local jail instead of a state prison. A felony, on the other hand, is considered the most serious type of crime, with a maximum penalty of more than a year in state prison.
Most DUIs fall into the category of misdemeanors, but on some occasions, the criminal charges will be considered a felony. Here are the differences between how a misdemeanor and felony case will be treated in terms of punishments.
In most situations, the first offense will be treated as a misdemeanor. In fact, it’s possible to have multiple DUI misdemeanor offenses.
Although they are less serious than felonies, misdemeanor convictions can still result in harsh sentencing. They may include jail time of up to an entire year, monetary fines, and license suspension.
To limit your driving capabilities, the county will install an ignition interlock device that performs an alcohol test every time you start your car.
If a collision resulted from your impaired driving, you would also need to pay restitution or property damage fees.
If your DUI case is particularly serious, it may get classed as a felony. Unlike misdemeanors, felonies require mandatory jail time. Often, the time will be served in a state prison.
Being a convicted felon also means losing certain rights, like the right to vote, own a firearm, access public housing, and adopt children. Felons will also lose any professional licenses they hold.
Misdemeanor DUI Vs. Felony DUI
You may be wondering how the courts determine what qualifies as a misdemeanor DUI and what ends up as a felony DUI. Most cases start out as misdemeanors, but certain situations will elevate the seriousness of the crime, causing the court to pursue a case as a felony instead.
Previous offenses, unusual circumstances, and the court’s opinion will all affect the criminal penalties you face.
Here are some more details on how the two types of convictions differ and how they are determined.
Based on Your Situation
The court will refer to the basic facts of the case and your criminal record. Previous criminal offenses, especially others related to drugs and alcohol, will usually result in additional penalties.
A higher blood alcohol content (BAC) is another common reason for harsh penalties. A BAC that is twice or three times the legal limit will be judged more harshly in court than a lower BAC.
If you were driving with a minor under 16, your case may get pushed into the felony category. It may also result in felony child endangerment charges.
If you receive a DUI while on a restricted or suspended license, it’s likely that it will be considered a drunk driving felony.
Finally, a DUI that results in bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or even death will result in felony charges. Individuals can also face vehicular manslaughter and other related charges in addition to felony DWI.
Based on Your DUI Case Result
Felony cases have much harsher penalties and longer jail time than misdemeanors. They may face up to seven years in state prison. If the DUI resulted in a death, then life in prison is the steepest possible outcome.
These two types of cases will be treated very differently in court, and if possible, you should seek the help of a skilled lawyer to prove that your situation is a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
A qualified lawyer can help you negotiate a plea deal, such as being charged with reckless driving instead of driving under the influence. They can also push back at the prosecution’s assumptions about the case.
Get the Legal Help You Need from a Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer in California
Felony charges can have far-reaching consequences beyond just prison time and fines. They can affect the rest of your life, changing the plans that you have for your future.
When you choose LibertyBell Law Group, you will get personalized legal advice from an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer in California.
If you are facing charges that could end up being either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, a lawyer can make a major difference in the final result of your case.
To schedule a free consultation and learn more about your options, fill out our online form or contact us at 877-545-3559 at LibertyBell Law Group today!
At A Glance
Executive Managing Attorney Gina Tennen is a renowned leading advocate of personal liberties. Her meticulous trial preparation and exceptional ability to pursue every possible defense has earned her the admiration of clients and respect from prosecutors, judges, and other criminal attorneys all over the nation.
Lawyer Tennen began her career as a Senior Law Clerk for one of the toughest District Attorney’s offices in the country where she gained remarkable experience in juvenile crimes, elder abuse, parole hearings, child abuse, sex and other serious crimes. Her experience at the District Attorney’s Office armed her knowledge and case strategy in exploiting the other side’s weaknesses for the client’s advantage and building a rock solid defense. Criminal attorney Tennen’s experience on both sides and brilliant maneuvering throughout is evidenced in her winning track record. In fact, even before earning her law degree, she was instrumental in getting excellent results on several criminal cases outshining her peers.
A consummate strategist and top criminal attorney, lawyer Tennen works tirelessly on many high profile criminal cases. She is known as a relentless fighter who never gives up on any case. Whether the case is hers or handled by another criminal defense attorney from LibertyBell Law Group, no matter how small the case may seem she asserts that every client deserves the right to the best legal representation.
It is her deep belief and what she has built her entire career and lifelong dedication to that there is always hope for every client and every avenue should be pursued regardless of the time and energy it takes. For criminal attorney, Gina Tennen, devoting the finest criminal defense for clients is a habit and talent that you must apply and do all the time.
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I hired this law firm in 2014 for my son who was facing 16 years in prison for a felony robbery. Lina Helou answered all our questions. I was extremely distraught regarding what my son was facing but Lina comforted me and told me that it would be okay. And thank goodness LibertyBell saved my son from going to jail and they were able to obtain only 3 years of probation. I could not have hired a better law firm for my son and if you want the best defense call LibertyBell Law Group. Thank God for this great group of lawyers.– V. J.
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My father had found this group through his company and coworkers. I was assigned Gina Tennen and I cannot explain in just a review on how gratefull I am to be working with her. My case was an accusation of unlawful sex. This had looked extremely bad on my part since I was in a fraternity and she was in a sorority. During these times with Greek life, there are too many bad stigmas surrounding these organizations. Gina had believed in me and knew that I was innocent and that these accusations just were not true. She took her time to review all of my evidence and proved my innocence. I totally recommend this law group because they are willing to put in the work to help your situation.– C. D.
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When I first heard I was under a criminal investigation, I initially thought I would try and resolve this in the best way possible, without legal representation, as we were all interested in a "just" outcome. I quickly discovered that was not the case and contacted Gina at Liberty Bell. She clearly described the expectations and the choices available to me. She was always available to me, and when I called, if she couldn't talk with me at that time, she would quickly get back to me. Gina always kept me fully aware of how the case was proceeding. Her fee's were stipulated up front, as well as what those fees covered and what they did not.– S. B.
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