Facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge in San Diego, CA comes with significant legal implications that could impact your life in various ways. It’s important for defendants to understand that while not all DUI charges escalate to the felony level, certain circumstances can elevate them from the misdemeanor level, leading to more severe consequences. 

The gravity of these charges makes it essential to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. 

DUIs in California Are Generally Misdemeanors 

Generally speaking, first-time DUIs in the State of California – and usually even second or third offenses – are charged as misdemeanors. However, it should not be overlooked that even as misdemeanors, these can carry significant penalties. The most common consequences for a misdemeanor DUI include: 

  • Probation between 3 and 5 years
  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Home detention or work release
  • Fines reaching several thousand dollars
  • Alcohol and drug education classes
  • Requirement to install an ignition interlock device
  • Driver’s license suspension

However, these penalties can be increased in certain circumstances. For example, if you refuse to submit to chemical testing or your blood-alcohol level is over .15, you might receive a harsher sentence. 

When a DUI in California Becomes a Felony

While most DUI charges in California are classified as misdemeanors, there are certain conditions under which a DUI can escalate to a felony:

Fourth and Subsequent DUI

If you have been convicted of three prior offenses within 10 years – even if they were “wet reckless” convictions or occurred out of state –  your fourth DUI within this period will be treated as a felony.


The penalties for a fourth DUI conviction include 6 months, two years, or three years in county jail, along with fines potentially reaching $10,000. 

Previous Felony Conviction

If you previously had a felony DUI conviction, any future DUIs will be treated as felonies. This is true even if the new DUI doesn’t have any aggravating factors


Should you be charged with another DUI following a felony conviction, penalties include 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail and fines that may reach $10,000.

Accidents Causing Bodily Injury

When an accident caused by a DUI results in someone else experiencing bodily injury, that can elevate the DUI charge to a felony. 


This carries 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail and up to $10,000 in fines. 

Fatalities Resulting from Accidents

If your DUI results in an accident that causes the death of another person, it is an extremely serious situation, and you will be charged with a felony. In such cases, you can be charged with either vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated – both felonies carrying severe penalties.  

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Penalties

This charge occurs in incidents where prosecutors deem your behavior as “simple negligence” – meaning your actions were simply careless. In such cases, the penalties can include 16 months, two years, or four years in county jail.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Penalties

On the other hand, if it’s determined you exhibited “gross negligence” – meaning your actions were reckless enough for any reasonable person in similar circumstances to know they might cause harm –then you could be sentenced much more severely: four, six, or 10 years in state prison. 

If You’re Facing a Felony DUI, Contact a Lawyer Right Away

Facing a felony DUI charge in California is by no means a small matter. Consequences can be severe and long-lasting, which makes seeking immediate legal help critical to protecting your rights. Don’t hesitate to contact Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with our DUI defense lawyers.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers Today For Help

For more information please contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation, give us a call at (619) 357-4977 or visit our convenient location:

Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers – San Diego Criminal Defense Law Firm
255 Broadway, Ste 1740. San Diego, CA. 92101