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What is the Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Los Angeles DUI?

California Vehicle Code outlines unlawful behavior that can lead to a DUI conviction in California. California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it unlawful for a person to be under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, drug, or both, and operate a vehicle.

California Vehicle Code §23153 makes it unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle, while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, drugs, or both, and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by the law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

Essentially both statutes outline the same unlawful act, but the felony has several additional elements. Let’s consider a breakdown of the elements to fully understand the difference between the two.

Misdemeanor DUI under California Vehicle Code §23152:

  1. Person must be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both; and
  2. Operating a vehicle.

To be found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI, the Prosecutors must prove both of the elements above beyond a reasonable doubt. A person who is just driving but not under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both, cannot be found guilty of a DUI. A person who is just under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, but is not operating a vehicle, cannot be found guilty of a DUI. BOTH elements must be present.

Felony DUI under California Vehicle Code §23153:

  1. Person must be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both; and
  2. Operating a vehicle; and
  3. Any one of the following:
    1. Driver is engaged in any act that is forbidden by law which proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver
    2. Driver has neglected any duty imposed by the law in driving a vehicle which proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver

In order for a DUI to be charged as a felony, there has to be some bodily injury to a person other than the driver. And that injury must have been caused by an act or neglect on behalf of the driver. If there is no bodily injury, the driver will still likely be charged with a DUI, but it will be a misdemeanor.

With proper arguments and negotiations, a felony DUI may be reduced to a misdemeanor. However, it takes a lot of skillful strategy, experience and proper preparation. A felony DUI faces mandatory jail time, it remains on your record, and may have harsher consequences with educational facilities and employers. If you find yourself facing a DUI, it is a good idea to consult with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as possible.