California DUI, Felonies vs. Misdemeanors: What is the difference?

Posted almost 2 years ago. Applies to California, 1 helpful vote

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A DUI conviction in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference between the two will affect the final sentence given. A misdemeanor conviction will receive a sentence on the lighter side of the spectrum whereas a felony will receive a much harsher punishment, especially when there is significant bodily harm.

California Vehicle Code 23152 http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc23152.htm is the section under which a misdemeanor DUI is charged. It is divided up into two sections.

First, California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) reads that It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.

Alternatively, California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b) reads that It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.

23152(a) was the previous DUI law and 23152(b) was added 20 years ago. The legal Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) used to be a .10% and has been reduced to .08% in California with a trend towards reducing it further to .06%. Compared to many countries who require a .0% BAC, we are still much more tolerant. A conviction under either 23152(a) or 23152(b) will result in a misdemeanor charge.

One should note that although the two sections are independent of each other it is almost always certain that the prosecuting agency in a DUI case (usually the District Attorney) will charge a person accused with a DUI with a violation of both sections.

Normally, VC 23152(a) will be charged as Count 1 against the accused and VC 23152(b) will be charged as Count 2. This is done as a safe measure by the DA, so they can still move forward with the case against an individual under VC 23152(a), which does not have a .08 requirement, in a situation where the BAC results are below .08.

California Vehicle Code 23153 http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc23153.htm is the code section under which a felony DUI is charged. Like misdemeanor DUI, it is divided into the two same sections with one additional statement.

California Vehicle Code Section 23153 (a) reads; It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

Whereas, California Vehicle Code Section 23153(b) reads that it is It is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

You may be charged as a felony DUI if there was a certain kind of bodily injury to a victim, as the code indicates. Bodily injury varies across a wide spectrum and will guide prosecution in the plea bargain they present to the Judge. A minor soft tissue injury with mild discomfort will still be considered a bodily injury but will be on the lower end of the scale in comparison to fractures or other major internal injuries which will yield much harsher punishments in the eyes of the law.

Whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor DUI, the ultimate goal is to avoid any kind of conviction. You need someone who will fight in your corner to obtain a dismissal or alternatively reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, or a misdemeanor charge to an infraction.

Our Los Angeles DUI attorney’s and Orange County DUI attorney’s are experienced in defending either misdemeanor or felony cases. The attorneys at Core Law Group has the experience, will fight on your side, will work with you to ascertain the facts and defense available, and provide you with the best possible result.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the difference between DUI felonies and misdemeanors feel free to visit www.orangecounty-dui-law.com or call Core Law Group at 949-505-2479.

Core Law Group Website

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Related Topics

DUI

The definition, charges, and penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) vary by state and depend on a number of factors.

Misdemeanor DUI

A misdemeanor DUI, which carries lesser penalties than a felony DUI, is the charge most people will be facing if they are arrested for DUI.

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