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DUIs & Fatalities: Lifetime Consequences

Matthew Cordle, a 22-year-old kid embarking on adulthood, awoke confused in a hospital bed by police who informed him that he had just killed a man. It was sobering, in more ways than one. And just like that, life as he knew it was over. He yelled "I didn't kill anyone, I didn't do it" and he refused to give a blood sample.

"My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Canzani," he says somberly. "This video will act as my confession."

With the help of defense attorneys, Cordle got into recovery and within days, on September 3, 2013, made an online video confessing to the crime that went viral with millions of views to date. He pleaded guilty, just as he had promised in the video, and was sentenced to 6 and a half years in prison. Because he had no prior record, Cordle faced a maximum of 8 1/2 years in prison and a lifetime revocation of his driving privilege. His blood-alcohol level was said to have been more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

When is a DUI a Felony in Orange County?

Unlike Ohio, where Cordle faces charges, California enforces some of the harshest driving under the influence (DUI) laws and penalties in the nation. This is especially true in DUI cases involving fatalities, which pose a lifetime of consequences for convicted individuals. Aside from lengthy prison sentences, these crimes can also result in lifetime driver's license revocations and unfavorable felony records that can place limitations on one's future. Felony convictions also result in a loss of civil rights, including the loss of right to vote and bear firearms.

DUIs resulting in death are the most serious DUI felony, and can result in various charges ranging from manslaughter to murder. In California, even with no prior DUI record, a "Watson murder," or "implied malice murder" could be charged when a person drove recklessly, causing the death of another. It is often used when individuals previously convicted of a DUI causing death while driving intoxicated.

DUIs are ordinarily prosecuted as misdemeanors, but they can be elevated to felonies in various ways:

  • Multiple DUI Convictions - There are two ways in which multiple DUI convictions can result in felony allegations: (1) In California, a fourth or subsequent DUI within 10 years can be prosecuted as a felony offense. Priorable convictions include any DUI conviction, wet reckless convictions, and out-of-state DUIs. (2) Individuals will also face felony DUI charges if they are arrested for DUI after having ever previously been convicted of a felony DUI offense. This means that if a person has been convicted of a felony DUI - for any reason and at any time - they will face felony charges, even if the 10-year look back period has expired and even if the new DUI involves no aggravating circumstances and is not typically a felony level offense.
  • DUI Causing Injury - California enforces a distinct criminal offense for individuals who cause injury while driving intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Depending on the circumstances involved in a particular DUI accident - especially the severity of another's injury - drivers can be prosecuted for felony crimes including "strikes" under California's Three Strikes Law if there is "great bodily injury" alleged.
  • Fatalities - DUIs resulting in the death of another person will result in the most serious DUI allegations. Depending on the facts of a case, these situations may result in felony charges for DUI vehicular manslaughter or DUI second-degree murder.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Jacqueline Goodman draws from more than 20 years of experience when advocating on behalf of clients charged with all types of DUI offenses, including serious felonies. Because she takes a personalized approach to working cases, she focuses on developing tailored defense strategies that challenge that unique allegations made by prosecutors. Avoiding and mitigating exposure to penalties is always the top priority.

If you or your loved one is currently facing felony DUI allegations in Fullerton or any of the surrounding communities of Orange County, please be aware that time is of the essence. Take proactive measures to protect your rights, learn more about your defense, and discuss the ways the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman can help. Contact us to consult with Attorney Goodman personally during a FREE consultation.

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