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 is good to know the difference between misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI if you are 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 severe 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 a felony conviction does.
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.
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 whether aggravating or mitigating factors are present in the extent of your criminal history. However, generally, if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI, you could expect one or more of the following penalties:
- You may be required to participate in and complete an alcohol or drug education class.
- You might spend as much as one year in a California county jail.
- You could be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) at your own cost.
- You may have your driver’s license suspended or revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
- You may be placed on home detention.
- You might be ordered to participate in a HAM or MADD VIP program.
- You could be placed on probation for up to 5 years.
- You may be required to pay court fines and license reinstatement fees.
However, 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 being at or above .15%, you could expect increased penalties.
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 10 years
- You have a prior felony DUI on your record
If your case does not 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 is possible, though you must meet specific 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 is 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 do not 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 Have 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 100% free consultation. Please fill out our convenient contact form or call our team for your free consultation today.