Felony DUI Attorney in Los Angeles
Specializing in DUI cases, we have successfully handled over 500 felony DUI cases. As Los Angeles felony DUI attorneys, we understand how frightening the process can be when you are facing years in prison. We utilize our extensive experience and expertise to develop cutting-edge defense strategies that have successfully helped hundreds of people who have been arrested for a felony DUI.
What Constitutes a Felony DUI in Los Angeles?
A felony DUI is the most serious type of DUI. Most DUIs are misdemeanors which means that the maximum jail time is one year, though most people with misdemeanor DUIs will never receive any jail time. A felony DUI arrest can happen in three different scenarios:
Types of Felony DUIs
Four DUIs within a ten-year period: The fourth DUI will be filed as a felony and the maximum punishment is three years in prison (assuming there are no other aggravating factors).
Injuring someone with DUI accident: The DA will file a felony if the injuries are anything more than minor. Even soft tissue injuries like bruising and soreness on the victim typically brings about felony charges. Serious injuries like broken bones bring about an enhancement known as the great bodily injury enhancement which can add three or more years to your maximum prison sentence, and cause the conviction to be a “strike offense” under the CA three-strikes law.
Previously convicted of a felony DUI: If you get arrested on any other DUI in the future (even a minor one without an accident and low BAC level), the DA will file it as a felony subjecting you to several years in prison.
What Happens When You Get a Felony DUI?
What happens when you get a DUI in Los Angeles will vary, but anytime there is a DUI with an accident and anyone (other than the DUI driver) complains of pain, the officers will typically arrest you and book you under a felony DUI with injury charge.
The minimum bail on such a charge is $100,000 which means that unless you can pay about $8,000-$10,000, you will remain in jail at least until the case is resolved, perhaps longer if you are sentenced to jail or prison. In many DUIs with an accident, the officers use the victim’s complaints of pain as a basis for the felony arrest, even if the pain is minor and requires no medical treatment.
The officers then prepare a police report and submit it to the district attorney’s office for filing consideration. It is then up to the DA to decide whether to file the case as a felony or misdemeanor, or not file it at all. In many cases where a DUI driver is arrested and booked on a felony charge, the DA files only a misdemeanor (assuming no verifiable injuries) yet the driver still had to pay the required $100,000 bail amount, which is non-refundable.
If you are arrested on a felony DUI charge, you generally have the option to bail out at any time. If you do not bail out, the DA can file the felony charge right away or the sheriff will be forced to release you after approximately 48 hours. Once the DA files felony charges, if you are unable to bail out, you will remain in custody for however long the case lasts, plus any time that the court adds to your sentence. For example, a first-time DUI offense occurs with an accident and allegation of injury – say a broken arm. If you are unable to pay bail, the court will keep you in jail during the entire process. At the case resolution, if the court sentences you to 3 years in prison, you would remain in custody for the duration of the custody period.
The reverse is also true – that you can be arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge only to later discover it was filed as a felony. These cases are troublesome because you are normally released from custody in about twelve hours, yet on the first court appearance (usually months later), the court will take you into custody and require that you post $100,000 bond to be released.
Felony DUI Defense With Hart Levin
Felony DUIs are extremely high risk and high stakes. The prospect of going to prison for several years is not to be taken lightly. We have successfully handled hundreds of felony DUI cases and in over 90% of cases, the client does not receive prison time. If you are facing serious felony DUI charges, call our Los Angeles DUI lawyers now for a free consultation to discuss your options and the best strategy to secure your future.
Felony DUI FAQs
Four DUIs in ten years is an automatic felony, even if the previous DUIs were expunged. It’s important to note that a previous DUI charge that was pled down to a wet reckless will still be counted as a DUI for purposes of making it a felony on the fourth DUI arrest. The wet reckless is priorable just like a normal DUI.
Most felony DUIs can be expunged or removed from your record. If you are convicted of a felony DUI, you will typically be placed on probation for a period of three to five years.
Once the probation is finished, we can typically petition the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor (known as “17b”) and then expunge it altogether so the conviction is removed and the case will show a not guilty result. In felony DUI cases where the result is state prison instead of probation, expungement is not available but there are other avenues to remove the conviction, though they are more difficult.
Expungements are fairly simple and there is no reason to leave a conviction on your record when you are eligible for expungement. In some cases our clients need to have a case expunged before their probation is completed. In these cases, we petition the court for an early termination of probation and conduct hearings to demonstrate to the judge why our client deserves to have probation terminated early. Once it’s terminated, we expunge it immediately.
If the injuries are not serious, in many cases we can have the felony dismissed and instead get a misdemeanor DUI with very minimal punishment. We have several strategies we utilize to demonstrate that the injuries do not justify a felony conviction, including verifying medical records, using investigators to check into the truthfulness of the victim or showing that the injury was related to a pre-existing injury.
If the felony is based on an accident with injury, the DMV typically suspends your license for one full year. This is the case whether or not the DUI is reduced to a misdemeanor DUI with injury or remains a felony DUI with injury.
– Prison time starting at sixteen months and up, especially higher with significant injuries.
– Huge fines and restitution owed to the victim(s). The courts are generally very generous in ordering felony DUI drivers to pay victims for medical bills, missed work and any other expenses they claim. Some claims can go above $100,000 and the court will require that the driver finish paying the victim before probation can expire.
– DUI classes ranging in length from 3 months to 30 months. The average is about 18 months on a felony DUI.
– Drivers license suspension from one year all the way up to a decade of no driving.
– Community labor (CalTrans) or community service (usually through a nationally recognized non-profit organization).
– Strike offense – if the DUI is a strike, it will remain on your record permanently and will greatly enhance any future punishments you receive for new cases.
– Deportation and immigration consequences – a felony DUI conviction poses a huge risk to one’s ability to remain in the US if not a US citizen.
– Professional license revocation — If you maintain a professional license (nursing, accounting, law, etc), your ability to work in your desired profession is at risk as the licensing board will typically take severe action against the felony DUI driver
– Background check – It becomes very difficult to find future employment, to remain employed, to rent an apartment or clear any kind of background check.
A felony DUI is a life-changing event that must be addressed quickly and aggressively in order to preserve your freedom. We have an excellent track record of success in preventing our clients from going to prison and losing their livelihood. Call us now to discuss your case, free of charge.