What Is Misdemeanor DUI?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in California, it’s important to understand the difference between a misdemeanor DUI and a felony DUI. Simply put, felony DUI convictions often come with more serious penalties than misdemeanor convictions. That said, even a misdemeanor DUI can lead to harsh consequences.

Whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI, you’ll want to hire an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer to help with your case. A skilled attorney can answer questions like, “What is a misdemeanor DUI?” In addition to providing guidance, a legal representative can also fight your charges and push to get them dropped or reduced.

A lawyer sits across a desk from a client and explains what a misdemeanor DUI is.

A lawyer sits across a desk from a client and explains what a misdemeanor DUI is.

What Is a Misdemeanor DUI?

A misdemeanor is a criminal charge for a minor offense. While misdemeanor DUIs are less severe than felony DUIs, they are more serious than traffic or moving violations, which do not add to your criminal record. You may face a misdemeanor DUI if you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that is over the legal limit.

If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you might be wondering what a misdemeanor DUI is. Sometimes, it can be helpful to examine the differences between misdemeanor and felony DUIs. Consider the following comparisons between felonies and misdemeanors to gain a deeper understanding of your charges:

  • Jail time for misdemeanors is shorter than felony sentences and is served in the local or county jail instead of a state prison
  • Misdemeanor DUI fines are lower
  • Although all criminal offenses may appear on a background check, a misdemeanor conviction does not follow you around the way a felony conviction does

Although misdemeanors are generally less serious than felony charges, misdemeanor DUIs can have particularly tough penalties. If convicted, you could owe thousands of dollars in fines, have your driver’s license suspended, be ordered into a traffic safety class, and even spend time in jail.

What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction in California?

The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI conviction in the state of California can vary depending on aggravating or mitigating factors and your criminal history. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI, you could face any of the following consequences: 

  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol or drug education class.
  • As much as one year in a California county jail
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) at your own cost
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Home detention
  • Mandatory participation in a HAM or MADD VIP program.
  • Probation for up to 5 years
  • Court fines and license reinstatement fees.

If you’ve been pulled over by a police officer while driving impaired and were charged with a misdemeanor offense, these penalties could turn your life upside down. Whether you’re sentenced to use an ignition interlock device or to jail time, you’ll want to take your case seriously.

Additionally, if aggravating factors are present, such as a violation of California’s implied consent laws, a passenger under the age of 14 being in the vehicle, or your blood alcohol concentration levels at or above .15%, you could expect enhanced penalties.

Fortunately, a lawyer can help you build a strong defense against your charges. They’ll explain what a misdemeanor DUI is and advise you on what you can do to avoid the damaging consequences of a conviction.

How Long Can You Go to Jail for a DUI?

Now that you know what a misdemeanor DUI is, you’re probably wondering how long you can go to jail for one. If you are sentenced to jail time, the amount of time you get will depend on the details of your offense and whether you’ve been convicted of a DUI in the past. Here are the jail sentences you could face:

  • 48 hours to six months for your first impaired driving offense
  • 10 days to one year for your second DUI offense in 10 years
  • 120 days to one year for your third offense in 10 years
  • 180 days to three years for your fourth offense in 10 years 

If you’ve been brought up on misdemeanor charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, it’s highly advisable to hire a lawyer. A skilled attorney can determine how much jail time you could receive and work tirelessly to protect your freedom.

When Is DUI Treated as a Felony?

In some cases, a DUI is treated as a felony offense. If your DUI is tried as a felony, you could receive increased sentences and harsher penalties. Your DUI may be considered a felony if one of the following statements is true:

  • Someone was injured or killed in the DUI accident you caused
  • It’s your fourth DUI in 10 years
  • You have a prior felony DUI on your record

Felony convictions can result in the loss of certain civil rights and may even lead to suspension or revocation of your professional license. If you’re facing felony charges, you should familiarize yourself with the consequences for first-time and repeat offenders. If your case does not meet any of the above-listed criteria, then you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor.  

Either way, you’ll want to work with a seasoned criminal defense attorney to fight your charges. A lawyer can help you avoid hefty fines, jail time, alcohol education classes, and other consequences associated with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

Can I Remove a Misdemeanor DUI From My Record?

While it’s possible to remove a misdemeanor DUI from your record, you must meet specific requirements to do so. First, you must have finished all of your probation requirements, paid your fines, served any jail time, and met any other requirements set by the court.

Then, you will need to formally approach the court for an expungement. It is best to do this with a criminal lawyer who has experience in expungements

Once your case is expunged, it hides your DUI record from most searches, and you do not have to mention it as part of a background check. However, it may not restore all rights. For example, the DMV may still suspend or revoke your driving privileges. 

What to Do if You Have Been Charged With Misdemeanor DUI

If you’re still asking yourself, “What is a misdemeanor DUI?” an experienced lawyer can explain further and answer any other questions you have. At Los Angeles DUI lawyer, we’re here to provide the legal guidance and resources you need to mount a strong defense against your charges.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options. We’ll meet with you to discuss your unique situation, explain the consequences you could face if convicted, and give you the information you need to navigate the legal process effectively. 

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