Typically, when a person is arrested for driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, they are guilty of a criminal offense. They are charged with a misdemeanor offense in California. This usually is when no aggravating factors are involved in the offense. The first three DUI offenses get charged as simple DUI offenses, but on getting to a fourth one, it becomes a felony due to the previous convictions. However, some situations can make a simple DUI offense be charged as a felony. Felony offenses attract severe penalties that can be detrimental to one’s life. When one is facing felony charges, they need to hire an experienced attorney to fight for them against these charges. At The DUI Defense Attorney, we have a team of experienced lawyers that are ready to take up your case when needed.

DUI Felony Offenses in California

As earlier stated, most DUI offenses attract misdemeanor charges and penalties, especially the first three offenses. However, some factors aggravate the charges even when it is a first-time offense to a felony offense. Some of the situations that make a DUI offense a felony one are:

  1. A DUI offense that results in significant bodily injuries or fatalities
  2. When a person has three previous wet reckless or DUI convictions in a ten-year period
  3. When one has a prior DUI felony conviction

Felony DUI – Causing Death or Injuries

When a third party suffers injuries or death due to the fact that you drove while intoxicated and as a result, you committed a traffic violation by driving negligently, there are three ways you can be charged with a felony. Here we discuss the different scenarios that will result in felony charges for a DUI offense.

  1. VEH 23513 – Causing Injuries

When, as a result of your driving under alcohol or drugs influence you caused an accident that resulted in injuries, the prosecutor may decide to charge you with a felony offense. Some of the violations one can be charged with include:

  • VEH 23152(a) – Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • VEH 23152(b) – having a BAC of 0.08% or higher while driving
  • VEH 23152(f) – Driving under the influence of drugs.

Proving the Offense of DUI Resulting in Injuries

For a conviction of VEH 23153 violations, the prosecution is expected to prove three facts of the offense. These elements are:

  • The defendant violated the DUI laws of California
  • In the process, the defendant further broke other laws such as driving negligently
  • The defendant’s negligent actions resulted in injuries to a third party

 A person is said to violate DUI laws in California when:

  • The person’s driving was impaired because of alcohol meaning both your physical and mental abilities were not in your control
  • The defendant drove while their BAC was at 0.08% and above
  • The defendant was driving while drugs influenced their mental and physical abilities

For a commercial vehicle driver, the prosecutor only needs to show that the defendant’s BAC was at 0.04% or more.

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08% and Above

Based on the laws of causing injuries, a person driving under the influence means they are not able to drive cautiously like a sober person. Because your mental and physical abilities are influenced or impaired, you are capable of causing an accident that can result in injuries.

A person driving under the influence of drugs can also be negligent and cause injuries. Additionally, these drugs could be illicit narcotics or illegal or prescription medication.

The per se law is what describes driving with a 0.08% BAC or more. The law assumes that when your Blood Alcohol Content was at or above the legal limit when a chemical test was administered, automatically, one is guilty of a DUI offense.

Breaking the Law and Acting Negligently

DUI laws under VEH 23153 states that a defendant must behave negligently and violate a law besides driving while under the influence. In translation, this means the act of negligence is what resulted in the injuries to the third party.

For instance, a person driving from an office party at high speed and is drunk may hit another vehicle from the rear. This may cause the owner of the car at the front to crash the windscreen. As a result, he breaks the glass that cuts his face. The prosecutors, in this case, will charge the person that hit from the rear with VEH 23153 violations. This is because they were under the influence, yet they drove with high speed, and due to the speed, he hit the other vehicle from the rear, causing an injury to the vehicle owner.

Felony Penalties for VEH 23153 Violations

When a defendant is charged with a felony offense under this statute will face severe penalties. The penalties or punishments, in this case, depends on the circumstances of the offense. They may differ from one offender to the next. The possible punishments a defendant will face include:

  • State imprisonment for a period of 2 or 3 or 4 years
  • A further and a consecutive sentence of six years if there was a victim of significant bodily injuries
  • An additional and consecutive sentence of one year for each individual that may have suffered injuries as a result of a maximum of three years.
  • Following the law on three strikes, the defendant gets a strike on their record. This is when a third person sustains significant bodily injuries due to their actions.
  • A cash fine ranging from $1,015 to $5,000
  • The defendant may be asked to attend a DUI school for a period of one and a half to two and a half years
  • Being registered as a Habitual Traffic Offender for not less than three years
  • The defendant will get their driver’s license revoked for five years.

Fighting VEH 23153 Charges

Just like any other DUI offense, the defense strategies are similar. Your experienced lawyer may argue that you were not under the influence when arrested or the BAC levels indicated where inaccurate. In addition, your lawyer will evaluate each evidence presented to establish any inconsistencies. He or she will further check to see that the legal procedures in arresting and taking the chemical tests were followed.

With every DUI offense, the “at fault” party is an essential element to aid in a conviction. Your lawyer will use a different approach to establish that the defendant was not responsible for the accident. With an accident reconstruction expert, he or she can reconstruct the accident scene while putting various factors into consideration. The road conditions, weather, vehicle damage, or any other evidence that may be necessary will be used to lift the blame from the defendant.

It is a common thing for the police to arrive at an accident scene and assume the drunk person is the cause of the accident. However, because of the challenges of proving that the defendant was negligent and responsible for the crash, often VEH 23153 charges are reduced to VEH 23152. This means that the defendant will face driving under the influence charges only but not the more severe charges.

PEN 191.5(a) – Gross Vehicular Manslaughter Under Intoxication or PEN 191.5(b) – Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

A person is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated when he or she commits a negligent act as well as a DUI offense that would result in a fatality. The action of gross negligent is expected to be separate from the DUI. The act must be an infraction or a misdemeanor under California law that would result in death.

For instance, a man with a BAC of 0.08% overtakes on the sidewalk, hoping to beat a traffic snarl-up. In the process, a pedestrian appears and is hit, getting killed instantly. This becomes manslaughter because the driver had not planned to kill the pedestrian. However, due to his negligent act of driving on the sidewalk, he caused a death.

Penalties for PEN 191.5(a) Violations

When a defendant commits this offense, he is charged with a felony. As a result, the defendant will face state imprisonment of four or six or ten years. In addition, the defendant’s driver’s license is also suspended.

Possible Defenses

Although some defenses are similar to those of a standard DUI offense, there are various other defenses your lawyer can apply with regard to this offense. These include:

  • At the time the accident happened, the defendant was not intoxicated
  • The behavior of the defendant was not that of gross negligence
  • If indeed the defendant was negligent, their negligence was not the cause of death to the victim
  • The defendant was faced with an emergency he did not anticipate, and he acted like what any reasonable person would react under the circumstances

PEN 191.5(b)

The difference with PEN 191.5(a) violations is that the negligence, in this case, is ordinary. This is a lesser offense than PEN 191.5(a) where the defendant acted with gross negligence that resulted in the death. For instance, if a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or more makes a call while on the road and doesn’t use the hands-free device, that ordinary is negligence. In the process, a pedestrian jumps into the road without warning. He or she is hit and dies on the spot. The driver will be charged with PEN 191.5(b) violations.

Proving Negligence

A defendant can only be found guilty of violating PEN 191.5(b) if they acted under ordinary negligence. When a person fails to apply reasonable caution so as to prevent possible danger to another person, the law considers this as an act of ordinary negligence. A person is said to act negligently when:

  • A person acts in a way an ordinarily cautious person would not act under similar circumstances
  • A person fails to do what a reasonably careful person would do faced with a similar situation

Causing Death to a Third Party

Vehicular manslaughter under regular negligence offense will stick only when the defendant’s negligent behavior is responsible for the death of the person. Under this statute, the death needs to be as a result of the defendant’s natural, direct, and possible consequences of their actions. The actions of the defendant needs to be the only reason death happened.

Felony Penalties

This offense is a wobbler under the laws of California. As a felony offense, the driver will get state imprisonment for sixteen or twenty-four or forty-eight months. In addition to this penalty, the driver’s license for the defendant will be suspended. Another severe penalty to the defendant would be the need to pay a cash fine, not in excess of $10,000. Depending on the circumstances of the offense, the defendant may be sentenced to serve formal probation.


The defenses for violating PEN 191.5(b) are similar to those of PEN 191.5(a). Your lawyer will explore the possible defense strategies to fight these allegations against you.

PEN 187 – Second-degree Murder

This is another offense that a person can be charged with if they commit a DUI offense that results in the death of a person. The offense does not require a person to have intended to cause harm to another. But, there was malice involved. The defendant is said to have malice or implied malice when:

  • The defendant commits an act intentionally that results in death. For instance, deliberately driving when intoxicated.
  • The defendant was aware that driving when having a BAC above the legal limit is dangerous to others
  • The act was in deliberate disregard of the life of human beings.


A conviction for this offense is a felony one. The possible penalties a defendant would face include:

  • State imprisonment for a minimum of 15 years to life imprisonment
  • A cash fine not in excess of $10,000
  • A strike in their record according to the laws of three strikes.

Legal Defenses

Although most defenses are similar to the previously discussed offenses, with regard to the second-degree charges, additional defenses can be used by your lawyer. These include:

  • The defendant is not responsible for the accident
  • There was no implied malice from the defendant
  • There was misconduct from the law enforcement officers or agencies

DUI Felony with Multiple Convictions

DUI offenses in California are priorable offenses. This means that your previous convictions on a similar offense or a DUI are taken into consideration. This is especially true when sentencing a defendant with a subsequent conviction.

California, a first DUI offense, has less severe penalties as compared to a subsequent conviction on another DUI charge. The convictions are usually pegged on violations committed within ten years from the first DUI offense.

A Defendant has had three convictions and is accused of a fourth DUI offense within a period of ten years; the conviction on the fourth offense will be a felony conviction. Some of the prior offenses that would be taken into consideration are:

  • A previous DUI conviction in California
  • A Wet reckless conviction in California
  • A conviction from out of state that is equivalent to a California DUI
  • Any previous records that may have been expunged

For a defendant to be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove the following elements as true:

  • That the defendant did actually drive
  • And they drove with a BAC of 0.08% or above
  • And the defendant had three previous DUI convictions in the last 10 years.

Penalties and Punishments

When a felony conviction for a DUI offense is due to previous convictions, the penalties may vary. This is because each case is analyzed on its merits. Judgment is based on various facts or circumstances of the offense. The judge may consider the BAC levels of the defendant when they were arrested and if any factors that aggravated the offense further. The number of DUI convictions a defendant has and the time the convictions were made are also factors considered before sentencing.

However, the law provides a guideline for the judges when sentencing a defendant on multiple convictions. The probable penalties will be:

  • State imprisonment for sixteen, twenty-four or forty-eight months
  • A cash fine ranging between $390 and $1,000
  • Being registered as a habitual traffic offender for a period of three years
  • Getting your driver’s license revoked for four years.

 DUI Felony in California with a Prior DUI Felony Conviction

When one commits a simple DUI offense that should be prosecuted as a misdemeanor that has no aggravating factors, they will be charged with a DUI felony if they have a previous DUI felony record. Circumstances that cause this to happen when a defendant had a prior DUI conviction that resulted in significant injuries or death.

When a defendant had a felony conviction due to multiple DUI offenses, another DUI offense will lead to a felony conviction even when it is after ten years.

Find a Lawyer Near Me

Facing felony charges can result in a defendant being convicted of a felony conviction that carries severe penalties. The hefty fines, license suspension, and prolonged state imprisonment are just a few of the consequences a person suffers if convicted of this offense. Because of this fact, it is essential to fight against these allegations with the seriousness they deserve; hiring an experienced attorney is the only sure way an accused person can fight these allegations. At the DUI Defense Attorney, we have a team of experienced attorneys on DUI offenses that will fight tirelessly for you. Get in touch with our experienced Van Nuys DUI Attorney today at 818-253-1913, and we will help you fight against the charges.