California has harsh laws for any person guilty of driving under the influence (DUI). You may incur thousands of dollars in fees and fines for committing a DUI offense. The penalties increase for every subsequent DUI conviction. All DUI and wet reckless charges in California are priorable offenses. This means that every time you get a subsequent conviction for a wet reckless or DUI, the penalties escalate in severity and length. A fourth DUI offense is an automatic felony, and the associated consequences are detrimental. If you are facing charges for a fourth DUI in Los Angeles, CA, Law Offices of Jeff Voll can help you come up with a proper defense.
Proving a Fourth DUI Offense in California
For the prosecutor to accuse you of committing a fourth DUI offense in California, he/she has to prove several factors. First, the prosecutor has to prove that you were operating your vehicle while under the influence. In California, you are under the influence if your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds 0.08%.
For you to face charges for committing the fourth DUI offense, the prosecutor must also prove that you have three previous DUI convictions. In considering prior DUI convictions, the court looks back to the last ten years. The prosecutor may obtain records from the Department of Motor Vehicle to prove that you have previous DUI convictions.
According to California law, a fourth DUI conviction is a felony. A DUI offense in California may also be a felony if you cause the injury or death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol. You may also face felony DUI charges if you have a previous felony DUI. The most common way for an otherwise misdemeanor DUI conviction to turn into a felony offense is having multiple DUI convictions.
According to California VC 23152, a fourth DUI conviction within ten years is an automatic felony. Some of the DUI offenses that may qualify as priorable offenses include operating a vehicle under the influence, according to VC 23152a. Driving with an excessive BAC, according to VC 23152b, is a priorable offense. Any offense under VC 23153, DUI with injury, is a priorable offense. Lesser offenses like wet reckless also qualify as priorable offenses under California law.
It is important to note that out of state convictions may also count as priorable offenses. If the out of state offenses would be a violation of California laws if committed in California, they may count as priorable offenses. If you have an expunged DUI offense in your record, the crime will count as priorable. The expungement of DUI offenses does not prevent the crimes from qualifying as priorable offenses.
The ten years are known as the lookback period. The alternative name for the ten years is the washback period. In determining the lookback period, the court considers the date when you committed the offense. The court does not consider the conviction date.
In addition to DMV records, the prosecutor may use court records to prove a priorable DUI offense. The prosecutor may also present certificates of completion from drug programs and court-ordered alcohol programs. The prosecutor may also present out-of-state DMV and court records to prove out-of-state DUI convictions.
What to Expect
In most instances, you may get away without serving jail time after committing your first or your second DUI offense. Even for a third time DUI conviction, it may be possible to avoid jail time with the help of a competent attorney. However, the law is harsh when dealing with a fourth or subsequent DUI offense. A fourth DUI conviction within ten years may lead to serious consequences. You require having an experienced DUI attorney to help you fight the charges.
Consequences for a Fourth DUI in California
The penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in California can be harsh. However, the penalties for a fourth DUI offense, which is a felony are devastating. When imposing penalties for a fourth DUI in California, the court considers several factors. First, the court will consider the facts of your specific case when assigning penalties. The court will also consider the presence of mitigating and aggravating factors, including the level of your BAC. The court will also consider the number of your previous DUI offenses. The court also considers when you committed the previous DUI offenses.
Some of the consequences for committing a fourth DUI offense include imprisonment of sixteen months, two years, or four years in a state prison in California. The court will also require you to pay a fine ranging between $390 and $1,000.
A fourth DUI offense will also have negative implications on your California driver's license. You will lose your driving privileges in California for four years. After completing the fourth-year license revocation period, you will have to apply for a new driver's license. You will have to repeat the entire license application procedures for the Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate your driver's license. You will have to retake a driving test and also retake a written test.
Additional penalties include registering as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). You will have to maintain the status of habitual traffic offenders for three years. While holding the habitual traffic offender status, you will face stiffer penalties if you operate your vehicle on a revoked license.
If you obtain a new driver's license, you may have to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. You have to install the device on all the vehicles you own. If you agree to install the ignition interlock device, you may be able to continue driving your vehicle even after the suspension of your driver's license. This is according to the California Senate Bill 1046, passed in 2018.
Aggravating Factors and Penalty Enhancements
You may face enhanced penalties after committing a fourth DUI in California if aggravating factors are present. When assigning charges for a fourth DUI, the court considers the circumstances of your case. Your criminal history and your blood alcohol content results. The court also considers the presence of injuries and fatalities.
Some of the aggravating factors that may enhance your penalties after committing a fourth DUI offense include refusing to submit to a DUI test. According to Per Se DUI laws, all drivers in California have to submit to DUI testing when necessary. You may face additional jail days for refusing to submit to a DUI offense.
You may also face additional jail time if you engage in reckless driving or excessive speed. If you commit a fourth DUI offense in the company of a minor below the age of 14 years, you will face enhanced charges. If you operate your vehicle under the influence in the presence of a minor, you may face additional charges under the California Child Endangerment laws. Child endangerment is a separate offense, which may carry up to six years imprisonment. However, the law does not allow a defendant to face child endangerment and DUI charges at the same time.
Other aggravating factors include causing significant bodily injuries to other people for operating your vehicle under the influence of alcohol. DUI manslaughter and Watson murder are also aggravating factors that may enhance your DUI penalties.
Fighting Fourth DUI Charges
In California, a fourth DUI or a subsequent offense is a serious offense. However, it is important to understand your rights and to know that you are innocent unless proven guilty. The prosecutor must prove various factors to show that you are guilty of committing a fourth DUI offense. The first step to preparing to fight DUI charges is hiring a competent DUI attorney.
Your DUI attorney will first attempt to have your DUI charge reduced to a lesser crime. Your attorney may also fight for a dismissal of your DUI charges. A DUI attorney starts by reviewing your prior DUI or wet reckless convictions. The attorney checks if procedural or evidentiary errors are present. If the errors are present, the attorney may use the errors as a basis for fighting your DUI charges in court.
The penalties for DUI offenses increase with every subsequent DUI offense in California. Therefore, if your attorney succeeds in having some of the prior offenses removed from your record, your penalties will significantly decrease. With proper defense and if the court agrees to dismiss some of your previous offenses, you may face misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges. If the court re-classifies your offense from felony to misdemeanor, your charges will significantly reduce.
You may challenge the procedural evidence by pointing out that the police did not have a probable cause for undertaking the DUI stop and arrest.
You may assert that the testing officer did not follow the correct field sobriety testing procedures. If the testing officer did not follow the right procedure for conducting a blood test, you might challenge the DUI test results.
If you suspect that the test equipment like the breathalyzer was faulty, you may challenge the tests obtained in court.
Contact a DUI Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one is facing charges for committing a fourth DUI offense in California, you need proper legal defense. Law Offices of Jeff Voll have experienced DUI lawyers who understand the California DUI law and how to navigate around the law. Contact us at 323-467-6400 and speak to one of our attorneys today.