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Misdemeanor vs. Felony DUI in Orange County: What’s the Difference?

Orange County's Best DUI Attorneys - Felony DUI in Orange CountyA DUI conviction can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony DUI in Orange County. The difference between the two will affect the final sentence. A misdemeanor conviction will result in a lighter sentence whereas a felony will result in a much harsher punishment, especially when there is significant bodily harm.

Misdemeanor DUIs are charged as violations of California Vehicle Code Section 23152.

First, California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) reads that it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.

Alternatively, California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b) reads that it is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.

Section 23152(a) was the previous DUI law and 23152(b) was added twenty years ago. The legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level used to be .10% and has been reduced to .08% in California with a trend towards reducing it further to .06%. Compared to many countries who require a 0% BAC, we are still much more tolerant. A conviction under either Sections 23152(a) or 23152(b) will result in a misdemeanor charge.

One should note that although the two sections are independent of each other it is almost always certain that the prosecuting agency in an Orange County DUI case (usually the District Attorney) will charge a person accused of DUI with a violation of both sections. Normally, Section 23152(a) will be charged as Count 1 against the accused and Section 23152(b) as Count 2. This is done as a safe measure by the Prosecution so they can still move forward with the case against an individual under Section 23152(a) (which does not have a .08 BAC requirement) in a situation where the BAC results are below .08.

A felony DUI in Orange County is charged pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23153. Like a misdemeanor DUI, the section is divided into two sections with one additional statement.

California Vehicle Code Section 23153(a) reads, “It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”

Whereas, California Vehicle Code Section 23153(b) reads, “it is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”

You may be charged with a felony DUI in Orange County if there was a certain kind of bodily injury to a victim, as the code indicates. Bodily injury varies greatly and will guide prosecution in the plea bargain they present to the Judge. A minor soft tissue injury with mild discomfort will still be considered a bodily injury, but will be on the lower end of the scale in comparison to fractures or other major internal injuries that yield much harsher punishments in the eyes of the law.

Whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor DUI, the ultimate goal is to avoid any kind of conviction. You need someone who will fight in your corner to obtain a dismissal or alternatively reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, or a misdemeanor charge to an infraction.

To learn more about this issue or other areas of law visit the Core Law Group blog or call one of our attorneys at 949-505-2479.

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