In California, DUI is more than a simple traffic violation. It can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. These refer to different categories of criminal offenses. A misdemeanor is considered a less serious crime than a felony.
Many DUIs are classed as misdemeanors in California, especially for first offenders. However, multiple offenders or certain circumstances can raise the level of penalty to a felony. While you should never drink and drive, it’s good to know the difference between misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI if you’re charged with one.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a type of criminal charge, usually for minor offenses. They are more serious than traffic or moving violations, which do not add to your criminal record. Generally speaking, misdemeanors carry less serious sentences than felonies:
- Jail time, if any, is shorter and is served in the local or county jail instead of a state prison
- Fines are lower
- Although all criminal offenses may appear on a background check, a misdemeanor conviction does not follow you around the way felony status
Unfortunately, DUI is a misdemeanor with particularly tough penalties. If convicted you will owe thousands of dollars in fines, have your driver’s license suspended, be ordered into a traffic safety class, and likely spend time in jail.
When Is DUI Treated As a Felony?
In some cases, a DUI is tried as a felony. This is mainly when:
- Someone was injured or killed
- It’s your fourth DUI in a 10-year period
- You have a prior felony DUI on your record
If your case doesn’t meet any of those criteria, then you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. It is far better to be charged with a misdemeanor DUI than a felony DUI. Felony conviction comes with a loss of certain civil rights. You should familiarize yourself with the consequences for first-time and repeat offenders.
Can I Remove a Misdemeanor DUI from My Record?
It’s possible, though you must meet certain requirements. First, you must have finished all of your probation requirements, paid your fines, served any jail time, and any other requirements set by the court as part of your punishment.
Then you will need to formally approach the court for an expungement. It’s best to do this with a criminal lawyer with experience in expungements. Some DUI attorneys can also help you with this.
Once your case is expunged, it hides the records from most searches and you don’t have to mention it as part of a background check. However, it may not restore all rights. The DMV may still suspend or revoke your license, for example.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged with Misdemeanor DUI
Have you been charged with misdemeanor DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call our team to get your free consultation today.