The penalties for driving under the influence in California can be harsh. They are even more stringent when aggravating factors are present in your case. If you are facing charges of aggravated DUI in Orange County, we advise that you give yourself the best chance of avoiding license suspension and a jail sentence. You can do this by seeking the services of our expert DUI attorneys at the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer. Our attorneys fight aggressively against DUI charges, including aggravated DUI, as discussed further below.
An Overview of California DUI Laws
The essential requirement of California drunk-driving laws is that a person is prohibited from operating a vehicle under intoxication with alcohol or drugs. There are several DUI laws that are linked to this requirement. Many of these laws are complex and technical; thus, you will need an experienced DUI attorney to interpret them for you and advise you on what to do if you are arrested.
Vehicle Code (VC 23153a) - DUI
VC 23152a DUI is the most basic of the DUI laws in California. As per the Vehicle Code, a person is prohibited from operating a vehicle under the intoxication of alcohol, drugs, or both. If it is an intoxication of drugs, the law prohibits any form of an intoxicating substance. This means that you could face DUI of drugs charges irrespective of whether the drug in question is illegal, over-the-counter, or even a prescription. What matters is that the drug did impair your judgment and ability to drive.
DUI under 23152a means your physical or mental abilities are compromised to the extent that you are not capable of driving with caution as a sober driver would do. This is the general definition of driving either under the influence of or under intoxication with drugs or alcohol. The prosecutor has to show that you drove under the influence of or under intoxication with some substance.
VC 23152a is charged as a misdemeanor. However, it may also be a felony in case you have four or more DUI convictions within ten years. It can also be a felony if you were convicted of DUI as a felony in the past. There are other aggravating factors that will also lead to felony charges, as we will discuss further below.
VC 23152b - Driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08% or More
VC 23152b is another common law for driving under the influence in California. This is because if it’s a DUI that involves a blood/breath sample, VC 23152a and VC 23152b usually are charged together.
VC 23152b forbids operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. This law is otherwise called the ‘per se law.’ Under this law, if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more, you are presumed to be guilty of driving under the influence. A judge may sentence you for this crime even if you were not technically intoxicated provided your blood alcohol concentration was more than the permitted limit.
Just like in VC 23152a, violating VC 23152b is generally a misdemeanor offense. However, if you were previously convicted of DUI as a felony, you will face felony charges. Equally, if your conviction record has four DUIs within ten years, VC 23152b will be prosecuted as a felony.
Under California DUI laws, the punishment for operating a vehicle under intoxicating varies based on two primary factors. They include:
- Whether or not you have past DUI convictions on your criminal history
- Whether there was an injured or dead victim due to your DUI
However, there are other factors that if they are present in your DUI case, a judge will consider them while passing his/her sentence. These are what we call aggravating and mitigating factors. Briefly mentioning about mitigating factors; they are pieces of evidence or information that would lead a judge to reduce your sentence. Mitigating factors in a DUI case may include:
- Your driving conduct (non-dangerous driving)
- BAC that is lower or at the legal limit
- Being cooperative with law enforcement officers and answering questions honestly
On the other hand, aggravating factors are factors that would lead a judge to increase your sentence. If these factors are present in your case, your case is said to be an aggravated DUI. Generally, if you have been prosecuted for DUI for the first time, and have no past incidents, you may not face a jail sentence. However, there is an exception when your first DUI offense has aggravating factors. If you have been charged with aggravated DUI, contact Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer as quickly as possible. You must have legal representation from an attorney that will convince the jury to strike off the aggravating factor from your case through valid arguments. Let us look at aggravated DUI in detail.
As we said earlier, aggravating factors are circumstances or facts that enhance the seriousness of a crime or a defendant’s guilt. Aggravating factors warrant harsher penalties when they are present in a case. These factors include:
- During your DUI, you got into a crash with another car. A judge will consider this an aggravating factor even if the other driver was also intoxicated.
- When you were put under arrest for DUI, your BAC was .15% or more. To get rid of this aggravating factor, your attorney may argue that the BAC test results were not accurate. He/she could argue that the BAC testing equipment had a default that resulted in a false positive. This may lower the BAC that the prosecuting attorney can accuse you of.
- During your DUI, you had a passenger that was below 14 years in your car. If you are charged with DUI, and this factor is present in your case, you could also face child endangerment charges. Thus, you need to have an experienced attorney by your side to build a strong defense for the two charges. This is because if the attorney can win the aggravated DUI case, it would hardly be a relief since you will still have a child endangerment case to answer. Also, even if the judge drops the DUI charges against you, it is most likely that you will still be required to answer the child endangerment case against you.
- While driving under intoxication, you caused an accident that resulted in another person getting injured. This includes the passengers you were carrying in your car.
- You had been sentenced to probation when you were caught driving under intoxication.
- When you were pulled over for suspected DUI, you declined to take a breath or blood test.
- When you were arrested for DUI, the arresting officer found out that you didn’t have a valid driver’s license issued by the California DMV or you were operating a vehicle with a driver’s license that had been suspended, revoked, or canceled.
- When you got arrested for DUI, you were driving recklessly, or you were driving at thirty miles per hour over the permitted speed limit in violation of traffic rules.
- At the time of your DUI arrest, you already had been sentenced to other DUI offenses in the past. Past DUI convictions are dated back to ten years.
- In the course of your DUI, you got involved in a crash and fled the accident scene. Here, the prosecutor may charge you with DUI hit & run.
- You were driving under intoxication, yet you are not legally permitted to drink. That is, driving under intoxication when you are under twenty-one years.
Aggravating Factors and Their Enhanced Sentences
Certain aggravating factors are considered to be harsher compared to others. For instance, you may be subjected to harsher penalties in case your driving under the influence resulted in property damage or victim injury. The type of enhanced sentence you are subjected to for any of the aggravating factors depends on:
- The circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest
- Your criminal record (mostly your previous DUI history)
Note that you may not have prior DUI convictions. However, having a vast criminal history for other crimes can discourage a prosecutor or judge from being sympathetic. Let us look at the enhanced sentences that each of these factors would attract.
Driving under the Influence with a Minor Passenger
Driving under the influence with a minor below the age of 14 as a passenger could lead to an increased jail sentence. If this factor is present in your case, and you are convicted of DUI, you will face a mandatory two days jail sentence for a first-time offense. If it’s your second offense, you will face ten days of mandatory jail time, and thirty days of jail time for a third DUI offense. You have to serve the mandatory sentence even if your underlying sentence includes probation. The sentence can’t stay, and it can’t be divided into shorter sentences that can be served in intervals.
As earlier mentioned, in addition to an increased sentence, you may also face charges of child endangerment. A child endangerment charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony. It could lead to an enhanced sentence of a maximum of six years in state prison.
DUI Over the Speed Limit/Reckless Driving
Driving on a highway or street at over twenty miles per hour over the stipulated speed limit while under the influence attracts additional penalties. So is driving under the influence on a freeway at more than thirty miles per hour past the speed limit. These offenses attract an additional jail sentence of sixty days because you are putting property and the public in danger.
DUI in Construction and Safety Enhancement Zones
You will pay double fines if you are found guilty of drunk-driving in a safety enhancement zone. The same applies when you are convicted of drunk-driving on maintenance or highway construction zones.
DUI Causing Injury/Great Bodily Injury or Property Damage
Often, incidents of driving under the influence include crashing with another vehicle causing injury or property damage. Generally, most courts treat this aggravating factor as the severest of all. If you cause an injury or property damage while drunk-driving, your case could be charged differently based on the judge/court that presides over it. Also, based on how severe the damage or injury was, you may face a felony or misdemeanor charge.
Penalties to this aggravating factor include an additional of at least five days of a jail sentence and a one-year license suspension. Other penalties include mandatory community service and additional fines. If you caused great bodily injury, you would most likely face felony charges whose consequences may be more severe. One of the consequences is up to sixteen months of a state prison sentence. Also, the court may order you to pay restitution to the victims or compensate for the damaged property. You may also be required to pay fines to the court.
A felony DUI involving death or injury to more than one victim has one year of sentence enhancement for every dead or injured party. However, sentence enhancement can only go up to three years.
We at Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer are conversant with how most courts in Orange County will handle DUI causing injury/ great bodily injury. We will ensure we handle your charges skillfully to register the best probable outcome.
Note that even if the accident you caused did not lead to any injury, most judges would consider the crash as a ground to enhance your sentence.
DUI in Violation of Probation Terms
One of the terms and conditions of a California probation sentence is that you should not drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. Therefore, if you drive under intoxication with any measurable alcohol content while on probation, you will be violating probation terms and conditions. Probation terms are strict. Therefore, even if your blood alcohol content is below the legal limit, you may still face probation violation charges in addition to DUI charges. When you get arrested under these circumstances, the court will conduct a probation violation hearing against you. The general rule is that you must be in attendance for this hearing.
DUI in violation of probation terms may lead to the cancelation of probation terms. If your probation terms are canceled, a judge may order that you serve the stipulated original sentence for your offense. In addition to this sentence, you may also receive a sentence enhancement. Also, your driver’s license could be suspended/revoked for an additional year.
DUI Hit and Run
Leaving an accident without giving the necessary details to the law enforcement officer is a crime. It is even a more severe offense to flee the scene if you were intoxicated with alcohol. Fleeing the scene of an accident adds two points to your driving history. If you are arrested, two more points will be added to your driving history. These four points may have your license suspended for six months. Additionally, the court will rule you as a negligent operator.
If you are facing DUI hit and run charges, contact Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. Our attorneys may be able to prevent the judge from imposing a sentence enhancement and higher fines. Also, we might be able to negotiate the points on your driving record, which eventually may prevent license revocation/suspension.
Refusal to Take Chemical Tests
Similar to most U.S states, California has an implied consent law. This means that by possessing a valid California driver’s license, you automatically consent that you will take a Breathalyzer test whenever you are pulled over for suspected DUI. Regardless of this law, it is still within your rights to refuse to submit to chemical tests. You may think that it’s in your best interest to decline to do chemical tests. However, you should note that doing so could result in more severe penalties.
For instance, if you decline to take the tests, the DMV may suspend your driver’s license immediately for a year. You may also receive an additional 48 hours of a jail sentence and a mandatory alcohol school program for nine months. If you opt not to submit to chemical tests, make sure you have an attorney from Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer by your side. Our attorneys understand California DUI laws to the latter; thus, they will effectively defend your choice of refusing chemical tests.
To strike off this factor, your attorney could argue that the arresting officer did not inform you clearly of the repercussions of refusing to submit to chemical tests. Also, he/she may argue that your refusal was as a result of a medical condition or an injury that is entirely unrelated to drugs or alcohol.
DUI with a BAC of Over 0.15 or More
Generally, if you consume a lot of alcohol, the chances of causing a crash increase. If you are drunk-driving and your BAC is slightly above .08%, the consequences might not be as severe. However, operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or more can attract severe penalties. These penalties may include an alcohol school program for nine months, an additional jail sentence, and a mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) installation in your car.
Felony DUI or Prior DUIs
If you have had a previous DUI conviction, you may receive additional penalties at your sentencing. This is also the case if you get convicted of many DUI offenses that you qualify for a felony sentencing. The extra penalties for this aggravating factor are at the judge’s discretion. A judge will enhance your sentence depending on the facts of the case. The general penalties will include increased jail time, fines, license suspension, and IID installation
DUI When You are Below 21 Years
In California, the legal alcohol-drinking age is 21 years. Thus, in case you are below 21 years and are caught drunk-driving, it could lead to harsh consequences. For instance, your driver’s license may be suspended for one year. It is worth noting that the State of California has zero-tolerance laws on underage drinking and driving. An underage DUI driver may face DUI charges and additional charges for underage drinking.
DUI on a Suspended/Revoked or Expired License
Driving under intoxication when you have a suspended, revoked, or expired driver’s license in your possession could lead to additional penalties. Similarly, it is an offense to operate a vehicle under intoxication if you never acquired a valid California driver’s license. In case you get convicted, you could face additional forty-eight hours of a jail sentence.
In case your license was revoked or suspended because of a previous DUI conviction, the judge could impose severe punishment. There are cases where your license was suspended or revoked due to a past DUI conviction, and you are convicted of violating VC 14601.2. In this case, you will be subjected to at least ten additional days in jail. Other penalties would include increased fines and IID installation in your vehicle.
DUI of Drugs
Under VC 23152f of California DUI laws, operating a vehicle under intoxication with drugs is a crime. In this case, a drug is any substance, apart from alcohol, which can distort a person’s mental & physical abilities and the nervous system. You could still face DUID charges even if your impairment ware as a result of using a legally prescribed or over-the-counter drug.
A DUID offense is penalized based on your criminal history and the circumstances of your case. DUID is considered an aggravating factor in case you drove under intoxication with both drugs and alcohol. However, if you drive under intoxication with drugs only, it is charged as an independent offense.
Find a Reputable Orange County DUI Lawyer Near Me
The good news for those arrested for DUI in Orange County is that no case is indefensible; even if there are aggravating factors. Attorneys at the Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer know what it takes to beat any DUI charges against you. We understand what aggravated DUI can lead to if you are convicted and will fight with all we have to strike off any factor in your case. If you are facing aggravated DUI charges, call us at 714-820-9592.