Felony DUI, Penalties.
A DUI becomes a felony if a defendant has three or more prior DUI convictions in ten years or the incident leading to the arrest involved a traffic accident that led to significant personal injuries to another party. In these circumstances, a defendant is facing a possible state prison term unless the court grants probation.
Many courts handling felony DUI cases in Los Angeles or Orange Countyoffer an early disposition program, whereby a defendant who is willing to plead guilty and accept responsibility at an early stage in the proceedings will be considered for probation instead of a state prison sentence. Normally, the judge will require a probation report detailing the defendants family background, work history, criminal history and attitude to the case. The probation report is given a lot of weight by the judge and a recommendation that probation be denied or granted will usually be followed by the judge.
It is very important that a defendant be advised by an experienced felony DUI attorney before taking the step of committing to an early disposition and discussing the case with a probation officer. A defendant should be given legal guidance as to whether there are any potential defenses to the felony DUI charge. If it is decided that an early disposition would benefit the defendant, careful consideration should be given to presenting as much positive information to the probation officer as possible, such as letters of character reference, psychological report, attendance at AA meetings or treatment programs etc. If there are victims in the case, consideration should be given to compensating them financially as soon as possible, either through insurance or privately. The probation officer is likely to contact any victim for their views, and they are likely to be fairer to the defendant if they have been fully compensated.