While most typical San Jose DUI charges are misdemeanors, there are several factors which may cause the DUI to be charged as a felony. Felony DUI charges carry severe penalties, both in terms of prison time and restitution charges. Additionally, the proceedings for a felony DUI case in San Jose differ from that of a misdemeanor charge. It is critical to hire a qualified San Jose DUI lawyer to handle your case if you have been charged with a felony DUI. Without adequate legal representation, a person accused of felony DUI in San Jose has very limited recourse.
In general, if a San Jose DUI case involves injury or death, or is a fourth or greater offense in a time period of ten years, then the DUI will be charged as a felony. Specifically, California Vehicle Code 23153 describes a felony DUI as an offense resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Vehicular manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and second degree murder all count as felony DUI offenses.
Vehicular manslaughter is a felony based upon gross negligence. Within the text of a San Jose DUI charge, gross negligence is taken to mean that the individual knew that his or her actions were likely to result in death.
By contrast, vehicular homicide is charged when death occurred as a case of ordinary negligence. Sometimes, this can be charged as a misdemeanor, but often prosecutors go after the most severe penalties possible in a San Jose DUI case. This is why it is so important to retain quality counsel early, as a reputable San Jose DUI attorney can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf in cases where a charge can go either way.
Second degree murder with regards to a San Jose DUI is applied in those cases where it is believed that the individual acted with implied malice. While this can be difficult to prove, in cases where multiple DUI convictions are already present, some prosecutors may argue that the defendant willfully engaged in drunken driving as malicious behavior, having known the consequences from prior arrests.
Because felony DUI charges carry far harsher penalties than a misdemeanor DUI, it is important that anyone who has been charged with felony DUI in San Jose to contact an experience San Jose DUI attorney right away. There is no option to have a lawyer appear in court on your behalf in a felony case, but with the right legal representation, the process can be less stressful for the defendant involved. With qualified, experienced San Jose DUI counsel representing your case, you can be assured that the circumstances surrounding your San Jose DUI charge will be thoroughly evaluated. The evidence against you will be carefully examined, and the very best defense possible based on your unique situation will be obtained.