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Is a DUI a Felony in Sacramento, CA

Posted by John Campanella | Sep 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense that poses significant risks to both the driver and others on the road. In Sacramento, California, DUI cases are treated with the utmost seriousness, but whether a DUI is classified as a felony depends on various factors. Understanding the implications of a DUI charge, the circumstances that can elevate it to a felony, and the potential consequences is essential for anyone navigating the legal landscape of DUI offenses in Sacramento. Let's delve into the specifics to shed light on whether a DUI can indeed be deemed a felony in this jurisdiction.

In Sacramento, as in the entire state of California, driving under the influence (DUI) is a grave offense with potentially severe legal consequences. DUI refers to operating a vehicle while being impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. It is considered a criminal offense due to the associated risks and potential harm to oneself and others on the road. Understanding how DUI is defined and treated under the law is essential for anyone driving in Sacramento or residing in this jurisdiction. Let's explore the legal intricacies of DUI in Sacramento, including the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits set by law and the implications of exceeding them.

What is DUI in Sacramento?

  • In Sacramento, as in the rest of California, DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence." It occurs when someone operates a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications. DUI is a serious offense because it poses a significant risk to public safety.

  • Definition in California Law Under California law, a person can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit or if they are impaired by drugs. The legal BAC limits are:

    • 0.08% for adults 21 and older.
    • 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers.
    • Zero tolerance for drivers under 21.
  • Why is DUI Taken Seriously? DUI is taken seriously for several reasons:

    • Safety Concerns: Impaired drivers are more likely to cause accidents, injuries, and fatalities on the road.
    • Deterrence: Stricter penalties serve as a deterrent to discourage people from driving under the influence.
    • Legal Consequences: DUI convictions can lead to fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI programs, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity.
  • Consequences of Exceeding BAC Limits If someone's BAC exceeds the legal limit, they can face immediate consequences, such as arrest and their vehicle being impounded. It's important to note that even if your BAC is below the limit, you can still be charged with DUI if your driving is impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

  • Zero Tolerance for Underage Drivers In Sacramento, and throughout California, there is zero tolerance for drivers under 21 who have any detectable alcohol in their system. This means that even a small amount of alcohol can lead to DUI charges for drivers in this age group.

DUI Charges and Penalties in Sacramento

  • Levels of DUI Offenses In California, DUI offenses are categorized into different levels based on factors such as prior convictions, BAC levels, and whether the DUI caused harm. These levels include:

    • Standard DUI: Typically the first offense with BAC over the legal limit.
    • DUI with Injury: Involves a DUI where another person was injured.
    • Felony DUI: In cases of severe injury or when there are prior felony DUI convictions.
    • DUI with BAC of 0.15% or higher: Enhanced penalties for significantly elevated BAC levels.
  • Penalties for DUI Offenses Penalties for DUI offenses can vary based on the level of the offense and any prior convictions. Common penalties include:

    • Fines: Monetary penalties that increase with subsequent offenses.
    • License Suspension: Temporary or long-term loss of driving privileges.
    • DUI Programs: Mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs.
    • Community Service: Assigned hours of community service.
    • Probation: Supervised release instead of jail time for first-time offenders.
    • Jail or Prison Time: Depending on the offense and prior convictions, incarceration may be a consequence.
  • Fines Fines for DUI offenses can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, escalating with each subsequent offense. Additional penalties and assessments also contribute to the overall financial impact.

  • License Suspensions DUI convictions often lead to license suspensions. The length of the suspension can vary based on factors such as prior convictions and whether the offense caused injury or death.

  • Mandatory DUI Programs Offenders are typically required to complete DUI programs, which can range from three to thirty months. These programs aim to educate individuals about the risks of DUI and alcohol abuse.

  • Potential Jail Time Depending on the level of the offense and any prior convictions, an individual may face jail or even prison time. Felony DUI convictions or DUIs causing significant harm often result in longer sentences.

Factors That Can Elevate a DUI to a Felony

  • Multiple DUI Convictions: One of the key factors that can elevate a DUI offense to a felony in Sacramento is having multiple DUI convictions on your record within a specific timeframe. California has a "look-back" period of ten years. If you have prior DUI convictions within this period, a subsequent DUI offense could be charged as a felony.

  • Causing Injury or Death: DUIs that result in injury or death to another person can be charged as felonies. If a DUI accident causes great bodily injury to someone, it can be considered a felony with severe legal consequences. In cases where a DUI accident leads to a fatality, the DUI charge can be elevated to vehicular manslaughter or even second-degree murder.

  • Prior Felony DUI Convictions: Having a prior felony DUI conviction on your record significantly increases the likelihood of facing a felony charge for any subsequent DUI offenses. Prior felony convictions demonstrate a pattern of serious DUI offenses and may result in stricter penalties.

  • Aggravating Circumstances: Certain aggravating circumstances, such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, or driving with a suspended or revoked license due to a previous DUI, can also lead to a DUI being charged as a felony. These circumstances indicate a higher level of danger and may result in more severe charges.

Legal Process for DUI Charges in Sacramento

  • Arrest The legal process for a DUI charge usually begins with an arrest. Law enforcement officers may pull over a suspected impaired driver based on observed behavior, erratic driving, or a traffic violation. If they suspect the driver is under the influence, they will conduct field sobriety tests and possibly a breathalyzer or blood test to measure BAC.

  • Booking and Initial Court Appearance After the arrest, the individual will be taken to a police station for booking. This involves recording personal information, taking fingerprints, and photographing. The arrested person will then have an initial court appearance, usually within 48 hours, where they'll be informed of the charges against them.

  • Arraignment At the arraignment, the individual will formally hear the charges against them and enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest). The judge will set bail or release conditions, which may involve restrictions on driving and mandatory attendance at DUI programs.

  • Pre-Trial Hearings Depending on the specifics of the case, there may be pre-trial hearings where legal arguments and motions are presented. This could include challenging the legality of the arrest or evidence obtained during the arrest.

  • Trial If the case proceeds to trial, both sides will present evidence and arguments. The prosecution will try to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, while the defense will present counterarguments and evidence in favor of the accused.

  • Sentencing If the individual is found guilty or pleads guilty, a sentencing hearing will be held. The penalties imposed will depend on the level of the offense, any prior convictions, and the circumstances surrounding the DUI. Penalties can range from fines and license suspension to mandatory DUI programs and jail time.

  • Seeking Legal Representation It's crucial to seek legal representation if charged with a DUI. A qualified DUI attorney can help navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and present the best possible defense. They can negotiate for reduced charges or advocate for alternatives to jail time.

  • Understanding Rights During the legal process, it's important to understand and exercise your rights, including the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to due process. It's advised to consult with an attorney before making any statements to law enforcement.

Seeking Legal Assistance for DUI Charges

  • Consult with a Qualified DUI Attorney If you find yourself facing a DUI charge in Sacramento, it's vital to consult with a qualified DUI attorney like John Campanella. Reach out to the Law Office of John Campanella at 901 H St. Suite 301, Sacramento, CA 95814, or call (916) 498-8460 to schedule a consultation. It's a crucial first step in understanding your situation and exploring your legal options.

  • Importance of Legal Representation A DUI attorney can be your strongest advocate during this challenging time. They possess the legal expertise and experience to navigate the complex legal system and build a strong defense tailored to your case. They'll explain the charges against you, potential consequences, and develop a strategy to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.

  • Navigating the Legal System The legal process can be overwhelming, especially if you're unfamiliar with it. A DUI attorney will guide you through each step, from understanding the charges and plea options to representing you in court. They'll ensure you meet all deadlines and requirements, giving you the best chance at a favorable resolution.

  • Understanding Your Rights and Options It's crucial to know your rights and options when facing a DUI charge. Your attorney will thoroughly explain your rights during arrest, the legal process, and potential defenses available to you. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and actively participate in your defense.

Facing a DUI charge can be distressing, but with the right legal support, you can navigate the legal system with confidence. Reach out to the Law Office of John Campanella for expert guidance and support. Their team is available Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, at (916) 498-8460. Remember, seeking professional legal assistance is a crucial step toward protecting your future and securing the best possible outcome for your case.

About the Author

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I am active member of the National College of DUI Defense, a member of California DUI Lawyers Association, I am certified by the National Highway and Traffic Association for the administration of Field Sobriety Tests. I regularly attend DUI continuing education of the Bar, have tried over 35 Jury Trials, hundreds of pretrial motions and over 1000 DMV hearings all relating to DUI cases.


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