Many driving under the influence (DUI) charges may be filed by the prosecuting attorney as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Examples of these include DUI causing injury or death, DUI with three prior DUI convictions within 10 years, and DUI with a prior felony DUI conviction within 10 years. Being convicted of a felony in California can have significant impacts on you, such as going to prison, or suffering the stigma of having a felony conviction on your record.
If the prosecutor chooses to file your case as a felony it may be possible to reduce it to a misdemeanor immediately. One way is to get the prosecutor to agree to a reduction pursuant to a negotiated plea deal. In effect, you agree to plead guilty to misdemeanor
DUI, and the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges. Another way is to argue to the judge after your preliminary hearing that the facts alleged do not amount to felony conduct. The judge may then reduce your charges to misdemeanors going forward.
Even if you pled guilty to a felony DUI in the past it may be possible to petition the court to reduce your conviction to a misdemeanor now. Your conviction will be treated as though it was always a misdemeanor. This is true even if you admitted felony sentencing enhancements, such as personally causing great bodily injury. Your case can only be reduced now if it would have been possible to reduce it earlier, and if you were not sentenced to state prison (either imposed or execution suspended). A court has wide discretion to grant this relief, and will look at what you have done (positive and negative) since admitting to the felony DUI.
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