Driving Under the influence charges are brought upon on individuals arrested for drunk driving. The indictments are introduced guided by California DUI laws. The DUI statutes serve as a legal solution to the growing problem of drunk driving. Arresting officers and prosecutors have exploited these very statutes in a bid to have more DUI convictions. This prerogative is to the disadvantage of the accused because of simple DUI matters, in most cases, escalate to severe crimes.
Having an attorney when facing DUI charges is the best decision you can make in these situations, and the Orange County Criminal Lawyer is ready to assist. We offer legal solutions for those facing DUI charges in Orange County and are prepared to take on your case.
California’s DUI Violations
Drunk driving cases in Orange County are based on two fundamental aspects. The first is whether you have any prior DUI convictions, and the second addresses the issue of whether there was a victim of your drunk driving. Prosecutors rely on these aspects when building a DUI case against you. It guides their decision on the DUI charges they will pursue.
DUI offenses are prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanor charges carry fine and probation sentences as penalties for a DUI violation, whereas felony charges are punishable with jail terms, over and above the fines imposed, and a license suspension. Felony charges are introduced if the victim in the case suffered injury or you have four prior DUI convictions.
DUI Laws, Vehicle Code 23152, in California punish first, second, and third DUI offenses. The punishments for the crimes are imposed through either a court trial or a DMV hearing. Trials issue fines and jail terms for the DUI offense while the DMV hearing is limited to issue a license suspension based on the severity of the DUI matter against you.
First Time DUI
First-time DUI offenses are misdemeanor crimes in California. Offenders risk serving a probation sentence or jail time as directed by the court. The violation may trigger a DMV hearing that may end up suspending your license for the offense. The license suspension may also be a directive from the courts as additional punishment for the crime.
Prosecutors must prove to the court that you had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or above. Further, it should be clear to the court that you are a first time DUI offender. If so proven the courts will:
- Direct that you serve three-year misdemeanor probation,
- Attend a DUI school, whose sessions are within three to nine months,
- Complete a three-month Drug/ Alcohol program,
- Pay a fine totaling to $2,000,
- Complete a day’s long Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD) session, or
- Install and use an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) in your car, or a vehicle you use. This device should remain in use for six months. Such a directive is issued when the DMV or the court directs that your license be suspended. However, you are allowed to drive your car within six months with a restricted license and only after installing the IID.
Second Time DUI
Second time DUI offenses are Vehicle Code 23152 violations for the second time. This means that the prosecution bears the burden of proof similar to your first time DUI case. That is, you were behind the wheel at the time of arrest, and that your BAC was 0.08 percent or above when tested.
A second DUI charge carries harsher penalties. A conviction means that you may be required to:
- Serve summary probation terms between three to five years,
- Complete a drug/alcohol program that may take 18 to 30 months,
- Attend AA sessions or serve time in community service,
- A $390 fine with additional penalty assessment that may total to $2,000,
- Spend 96 hours to one year in prison. Most second DUI offenders spend 45 to 90 days in jail,
- Attend a MADD session aimed at educating DUI offenders about the consequences of drunk driving,
- Restitution fees paid out to the victims in the drunk driving case,
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for one year. The installation of the IID directive follows a two-year suspension on your driving license issued by the courts. However, you are allowed to drive but with restricted driving privileges after serving twelve months of the suspension.
A DUI case is handled as a second DUI offense if it is committed within ten years of the first DUI conviction. Further, judges factor in specific matters in a second DUI case to determine the appropriate penalty. Such factors are referred to as aggravating factors. Should the prosecution present and substantiate these factors, stiffer penalties will be imposed. These issues include:
- Causing an accident while intoxicated,
- Having BAC above 0.15 percent,
- Refusing to submit to a drug or alcohol test,
- Driving at speeds above the speed limits, or
- Driving while intoxicated with children on board your car. Any individual less than 14 years of age is considered a child. If there is evidence to support this claim, you may face charges of child endangerment.
Third Time DUI
Third-time DUI charges are imposed if you are arrested for a DUI for the third time in less than ten years of your previous conviction. Such charges carry harsher sentences than first and second time DUI offenses. The owness is upon the prosecution to prove that your BAC level was more than 0.08 percent mark. Further, they will need to demonstrate to the court that you were intoxicated at the time of the arrest, and you too were the driver.
The penalties below are imposed on a third-time DUI offender. A judge may direct that you:
- Serve a three to five-year informal probation (Summary probation),
- Pay fines to the tune of $2,800,
- Complete a 30-month Alcohol/Drug program,
- Serve a 120-day jail sentence, and
- Install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) - The device is expected to remain installed for two years. It is a requirement after being issued with restricted driving privileges following a license suspension.
Third time DUI offenses are convicted if a pattern of drunk driving is established. To prove this, they will introduce into evidence your prior DUI convictions. They will further present your drug tests to support the DUI charge and footage of a failed sobriety test to prove your culpability in the matter. An experienced attorney will seek to have the charges reduced to a dry or wet reckless charge or an exhibition of speed charge if not a dismissal of your entire indictments.
Wet reckless charges are introduced at plea bargains and not as standalone charges. This charge is a violation of Vehicle Code 23103. You will have to plead guilty to the DUI charge. The crime is a priorable offense. This means that it is considered in your sentencing in future DUI convictions. However, the charges will not reflect in your criminal record. Therefore, the wet reckless charge will be considered when determining your penalties for a future DUI conviction. Wet reckless violations are punishable with a jail sentence of no more than 90 days, a fine of between $145 and $1,000, and probation of between one or two years. The judge will also require that you attend a DUI school for six weeks, and install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) in your car.
Dry reckless charges, on the other hand, is a non-priorable offense. This means that the charge does not reflect in your records. Therefore, any punishment for a future DUI offense will be based on that particular DUI, and your third DUI offense will not be considered. Dry reckless crimes are punishable by a 90-day jail term, unlike 120 days if convicted for a third DUI charge.
Exhibition of Speed is a violation of Code 23109 (c) VC. It is also referred to as speed ex. Pleading guilty to speed ex charges means that you will be convicted for speeding at dangerous speeds to show off to another. Therefore, accepting the allegations in a plea bargain negotiation will reduce the sentences you risked facing if convicted for a third DUI offense to summary probation, a fine of up to $500 and a jail term of no more than 90 days.
First, second, and third DUI charges are misdemeanors. The penalties imposed are less severe if there was no injury involved. However, should another suffer harm on account of your drunk driving, you could be looking at a misdemeanor DUI with injury charge or a felony DUI with injury charge.
Misdemeanor DUI with Injury
Injury of another is considered an aggravating factor. You risk severe penalties for the crime. Misdemeanor DUI with injury offenses is punishable with a $390 to a $5,000 fine, summary probation that lasts between three to five years, and restitution for all injured in the accident. You will also be required to attend a three, eighteen, or a thirty-month alcohol/drug program. A judge may issue a license suspension order. However, you can request for restricted driving privileges that will require you to install an IID that will be in effect for six months.
A fourth time DUI conviction or any other is a felony DUI violation. Of interest in your case will be prior convictions that speak to a pattern of drunk driving. The prosecution will present the following aspects as they make a felony DUI case against you.
- Your multiple DUI priors, or Code 23152 (a) violations
- Driving with a BAC above 0.08 percent, which is a Code 23152 (b) violation
- You were convicted for wet reckless charges
- Any expunged convictions
A conviction of a felony DUI charge attracts a fine of $390 to $1,000, sixteen months, two, or four years in jail, and a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) tag in your driving records. The HTO status remains in effect for three years. Further, your driving privileges will be suspended.
Felony DUI with Injury
Felony DUI charges will be introduced if you caused an accident that resulted in the death of another. In such a case, you will be facing felony DUI with injury charges.
You stand charged with a Felony DUI with injury offense if your drunk driving resulted in the grave injury of another. Harsher penalties are imposed if the accident resulted in the death of another. Prosecutors will work to show negligence in your actions. In situations that the crash resulted in the death of another, the prosecution may prefer DUI causing the death of another. Depending on the circumstances in your case, you could be prosecuted under:
- Penal Code 191.5 (a), which is the gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge. Prosecutors will seek to prove that while you were drunk, you committed a misdemeanor, or acted with gross negligence that resulted in the death of another.
- Penal Code 191.5 (b) This section convicts you of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Your actions, in this case, did result in the death of another. However, you acted with ordinary negligence.
- Penal Code 187. This law prosecutes DUI second-degree murder charges. This violation is referred to as a Watson Murder offense. Under this, prosecutors will introduce evidence to demonstrate that you intentionally caused the death of another or that death was the natural consequence of your drunk driving. Additionally, prosecutors will argue that you knew that your actions would result in the death of another further supporting their argument that you acted with disregard for human life.
A conviction of a DUI with injury charge is punishable with a two, three, or four-year prison sentence, a fine of between $1,015 to $5,000 and a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) tag for three years. You will also be required to attend DUI school sessions for 18 to 30 months. In instances that the drunk driving case resulted in grave bodily injury or the death of another, you are looking at an additional prison sentence of between three to six years.
The above process is the court dispensation of the DUI matter. The courts have the responsibility to determine your guilt in the DUI matter and apportion penalties commensurate with the offense. However, you will need to go through a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) process that determines whether to suspend your driving privileges or not.
DMV hearings are independent of the court process. This independence means that a DMV hearing can recommend the suspension of your driving privileges regardless of the determination in your criminal case. However, the DMV will adopt the recommendations of the court about your driving license.
DMV proceedings are referred to as Administrative Per Se or Admin Per Se sessions. You will need an attorney during these hearings. The DMV process begins after a DUI arrest. Your license stands automatically suspended for thirty days. You should request for a DMV hearing on the matter within ten days or risk having your license suspension upheld.
The arresting officer issues a document that is transmitted electronically to the DMV. This document is released when you are arrested for a DUI or refused to submit to a drug test. The report begins the DMV process whether or not the prosecution decides to prosecute you for the DUI offense. It is worth noting that a suspension will remain in effect even if you are not convicted of the crime.
License suspension hearings do share similarities with the court processes. One notable similarity is the government’s responsibility to prove your violation. It must prove that you were operating the vehicle at the time of arrest and that you were impaired. That is, you had a BAC count of above 0.08 percent. Having an attorney to represent you is in your best interest.
Defenses to Fight off DUI Charges
Defending DUI charges is aimed at achieving either of two outcomes. Your attorney may seek to have your charges dropped entirely or have them reduced. The desired result, informed by the circumstances in your case, helps your attorney choose the ideal defense. Here is a look at some arguments your attorney can adopt.
Errors in the DUI Breath Tests
Breath tests measure the alcohol content in your breath and not in your blood. This operating model is subject to various errors. Your breath could be affected by your diet that could give a false reading. Further, the instruments are prone to malfunction or mishandling by police officers. Therefore, breathalyzers are not error-proof.
Mishandling of the Blood Test, Title 17 Violations
Blood tests are introduced as an alternative to breath tests. Your blood is tested to determine the BAC level. While this method comes across as a solution to the error-prone DUI breath test, blood tests too can give a false reading if mishandled. An officer who is trained in carrying out the tests should administer the tests. In the hands of an untrained officer, the results cannot be relied upon. Further, cases of mishandling of the tests in the labs cause concern as to the viability of the results. This situation creates an avenue for your defense.
The Lack of Probable Cause
An arresting officer should have a reasonable belief that you were committing an offense before they stop your vehicle, detain you to carry out an investigation or arrest you. This is the legal standard, referred to as probable cause. All police officers should uphold this standard in DUI related cases. If the arresting officer did not adhere to these standards, the evidence gathered in your case is inadmissible. Seeking dismissal of your case on such grounds is a good defense strategy that could have the entire case dismissed.
The Arresting Officer Failed to Read You Miranda Rights
All officers are expected to inform you of your arrest, your right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. These rights, including being informed of your arrest, are your Miranda rights. Failure on the part of an officer to read you the rights is an opportunity to question what you said after an arrest as evidence introduced against you in court. Your attorney will seek to have this information excluded as evidence. Your charges could be reduced or dismissed altogether depending on the materiality of the evidence excluded.
An Explanation for your Physical Indications of a DUI
In some instances, the arresting officer may use your physical signs to make the case that you exhibited signs of intoxication. Slurred speech, unsteady walk, a flushed face, or red eyes can be signs of intoxication. However, they too are signs of fatigue, sickness, allergies, illness, or bodily injury.
The Inaccuracy of Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are about 65 to 75 percent accurate in testing for impairment. The tests are based on an officer’s assessment. Their analysis fails to factor in an officer’s intimidation, poor lighting, bad weather, and challenging footwear, among other issues. Therefore, the results can be misleading.
BAC above 0.08 Percent is not Equivalent to a DUI
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is affected by several factors other than alcohol. Medical conditions, errors in the testing procedures, handling, and analysis of the samples are some of the factors that affect BAC levels. However, these factors often fail to substantiate DUI arguments. If produced as evidence, your attorney should demonstrate to the court that the BAC and DUI are different.
Find a Orange County DUI Attorney Near Me
Facing DUI charges is a trying moment. The thought of facing a jail term and fines results in worry. Fighting DUI charges calls for experience and understanding of DUI matters. Hiring an attorney will help you mount a defense that will help your case get dismissed or your charges reduced. The team at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer combines experience and knowledge in DUI matters when serving our clients. This commitment is our promise to you. Give us a call at 714-262-4833 for a case assessment.