If you’re charged with DUI for the first time in California, and you caused no injuries or property damage, you’ll probably be facing a misdemeanor. Nevertheless, you should get legal help at once and speak with an experienced Orange County DWI attorney. Even a misdemeanor first offense DWI in California is punishable by up to six months in jail, but a felony DUI can be penalized by a year or more in a California prison.
When you’re charged with DWI in California, in most cases the law specifies whether the charge will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony. However, what law enforcement calls “wobblers” are the offenses that prosecutors may choose to prosecute as either a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the details of the case and the suspect’s prior criminal history. A DWI case may be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor for several reasons, including prior DUI convictions and whether any injuries or deaths resulted. Drunk driving that causes injury or death is almost always prosecuted as a felony.
A driver arrested on a fourth DWI charge within 10 years and after three convictions will be charged with a felony even if no deaths or injuries were involved. In these cases, earlier DUI charges that were reduced may be considered by prosecutors and the court as the equivalent of DUI convictions. A DUI that results in a death may be charged in California as vehicular homicide, manslaughter, or second-degree murder.
Whether you are charged with felony DUI or with a misdemeanor first offense, it’s imperative to have skilled legal representation from a good DWI defense attorney. If you are face any DWI felony or misdemeanor charge in Orange County, exercise your right to remain silent and do not try to act as your own attorney. Instead, arrange to speak with an experienced Orange County DWI attorney as quickly as possible.