In the state of California, first, second, and third DUI offenses are often charged as misdemeanors. However, the District Attorney may charge a defendant with a felony DUI offense if the case includes:
- A fourth DUI arrest occurs within 10 years of the three prior DUI convictions;
- The defendant’s DUI results in injury or death to another;
- The defendant’s blood alcohol level when arrested or past driving record warrants additional charges.
If you have been arrested for a fourth DUI, or a drunk driving accident involving injury or death to another in Orange County, our team of attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help defend you. Our lawyers specialize in representing clients who are facing felony DUI charges and will dedicate themselves to reduce the punishments associated with a felony DUI and help reduce your felony charge to misdemeanor charges.
The difference between a felony and misdemeanor DUI charge in the state of California is significant. A felony DUI conviction can result in substantial fines and life imprisonment if your case involved severe injury or death of another person.
Typical punishments for a fourth DUI offense that do not involve an injury or death are:
- Maximum of 4 years in a California state Prison.
- Fines up to $1,000.
- Driver’s license suspension for up to 4 years.
- Attendance of an alcohol education program for up to 18 months.
- Designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) by the DMV.
The team of experienced lawyers at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help you avoid being convicted of a felony for your fourth DUI arrest. Our firm is proud to serve all communities located in Orange County.
Call our office today at 949-377-2280 for a FREE DUI consultation.
As stated above, there are a few ways where an individual may be charged with a felony DUI in California, which is known as VC23153(a). For example, if the DUI, even a first offense DUI, involves an accident where the victim suffered great bodily injuries (GBI) or death. Another example is where an individual receives a DUI and the individual’s previous DUI is a felony DUI, or if, within the last 10 years you have been convicted of 3 DUIs and are arrested for your fourth DUI offense, it will be considered a felony DUI. These felony DUIs are known as VC23153(a) and VC23153(b). This article will focus on VC23153(b), which is a felony fourth DUI resulting from three prior DUI convictions within a period of ten years.
Felony DUI in California – Fourth DUI Charge
In the state of California, you can be charged with a felony DUI, if you have been convicted of three prior DUIs in California, or if you have three prior DUI convictions in another state where the offenses would be considered a DUI conviction in California if they had occurred in this state. This includes DUI related offenses. For example, if a person is convicted of a wet reckless, no matter how many times, these convictions will count as prior DUIs for purposes of charging an individual with a felony fourth DUI offense. A wet reckless only counts as a prior DUI conviction if it occurred in the previous ten years of when your current DUI arrest happened. It is important to remember, that since other states classify plea bargains in a different manner, and use different terms for DUI plea bargains than California, convictions that occurred in a different state should be carefully examined. An experienced DUI attorney can determine if the out-of-state offenses will be considered a “priorable” offense, to give an example, a wet-reckless in California may be referred to as a wet negligent operator in a different state.
Prior Convictions Must be Proven
For the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty of a felony fourth DUI offense, there are number of things the prosecutor needs to establish. First, you were driving, or the one in control of the motor vehicle, and you did so under the influence of alcohol and/ or drugs. Second, that while you had physical control of the motor vehicle, your BAC was .08% or higher. Last, the prosecutor must prove that you have been previously convicted of three DUIs, or related offenses during the last 10 years. This 10-year period is called the “look-back” period. The prosecutor can use different methods to prove that you were previously convicted of DUIs, or related offenses. The prosecutor can use court records, or DMV records that show driver’s license suspensions as a result of previous DUI convictions. The court can also obtain any records indicating you completed any court-ordered alcohol or drug education programs that would show any previous DUI convictions. Usually, the prosecuting attorney will obtain California records that will be used to prove you have previous DUI, or wet reckless convictions in California. Also the prosecution will rely on DMV and court documents to show any DUI convictions that occurred in another state.
Fourth DUI Offense Defenses
We would defend your fourth DUI offense no differently than how we would defend any other DUI charge. Our lawyers at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm will dedicate themselves to defend you using any method available to them, in order to reduce the charges against you, and possibly get your case dismissed entirely. If we determine that your chances of a complete dismissal are not likely, we will work meticulously to review every one of your prior DUI, or wet reckless convictions, so that we can determine if we can challenge any of those convictions’ validity due to procedural or evidentiary mishaps. Since a fourth DUI offense is a felony charge, we understand that it is imperative to look at every angle of your case to improve any possibility for our attorneys to possibly strike any subsequent or prior DUI conviction from your record. By engaging in this thorough analysis of your prior convictions, the long-term goal is to increase the chances that your sentence is reduced, or get your felony DUI charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor DUI charge.
Most often, when we encounter a fourth offense DUI, we look at every legal option available to us, in order to leverage any legal options available to you in your favor. For example, sometimes we will use an independent third-party laboratory to take your blood sample and retest it, so that we can determine if your BAC results from the original test were accurate. This method can be a particularly effective defense technique when the cases involve a BAC level close to .08%. The lawyers at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm have worked with local labs, such as Utica Technologies, that have a trusted record of retesting blood samples using a technique called blood splitting.
A second technique that may be available in your case is the use of a private investigator. Our private investigator will work alongside your attorney, as a member of your defense team, to interview any witnesses, arresting officers, or visit the crime/ accident scene. The use of a private investigator can be very beneficial when working on a felony DUI case. As stated previously, the key in any DUI case is to discover as any material facts that we can use to your benefit, and then use these facts to leverage any legal option on your behalf to provide you with the best possible outcome.
We can also use a psychologist, which can be another useful tool in dealing with a felony fourth DUI offense case. Our law firm has paired up with Dr. Judith Myers who has more than 20 years of experience as a psychologist specializing in “alcohol and brain evaluations.” Any evaluation or report she provides us with can benefit your defense in a significant manner, especially in case where the defendant in a DUI case shows a drug and/ or alcohol abuse pattern. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that before you proceed in your DUI case, you have an attorney who is willing to work closely with you to determine if this type of evaluation may be helpful for your defense.
Punishments and Sentences Associated with Fourth DUI Offense Charge
The punishments for any DUI offense in California can be severe. However, when the DUI offense is a felony fourth DUI offense the punishments can be life altering. Even so, when a California DUI felony charge stems from being convicted for three DUI or related offenses in the previous 10 years, the punishments will vary in each individual case depending on the circumstances of the case. The judge considers many factors in deciding a defendant’s punishments, these factors include: If your driving put the public in imminent risk of injury due to you operating the vehicle with a high BAC. The judge may take into account your BAC level in each of the prior offenses, in order to determine if any aggravating factors are present. The judge may also look at any prior DUI convictions outside the 10-year look back period and what the circumstances of those DUI convictions were. The guidelines for sentencing an individual for a felony fourth DUI offense are:
- 16-month sentence, a presumptive of 2 years with a maximum of 4 years in a state prison;
- A fine anywhere from $390 to $1,000, not including court costs;
- You will be designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) for a 3-year period by the DMV; and/ or
- Your California driver’s license will be suspended for 4 years.
Difference in Punishments for First, Second, and Third DUI Offenses
As you will learn from the information provided below, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony DUI sentence is extremely different. This is due to the fact that misdemeanors are crimes that carry a maximum jail sentence of 1 year. For a felony conviction, the sentence can include imprisonment in a state prison for 4 years. For this reason, we highly recommend that you hire an experienced attorney that can increase your chances at having the felony charges against you reduced, or even possibly dismissed.
Punishments for a Third DUI Offense
A third DUI offense conviction can carry the following sentences:
- A maximum fine of up to $3,000;
- Period of incarceration anywhere from 120 days to 1 year;
- A driver’s license suspension for a maximum of 3 years;
- Required completion of DUI education classes; and/ or
- A probation period up to 5 years.
Depending on the specific facts of the case, you may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device in your vehicle.
Punishments for a Second DUI Offense
A second DUI offense can carry the following punishments:
- Driver’s license suspension for a maximum of 2 years;
- A period of incarceration anywhere from 90 days to 1 year;
- Required completion of DUI education classes;
- A maximum fine of $2,000; and/ or
- A probation period of up to 5 years.
Punishments for a First Offense DUI
A first offense DUI can carry the following punishments:
- Driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 30 days;
- A possible jail sentence of up to 2 days;
- Required completion of DUI education classes;
- A maximum fine of up to $2,000.
Remember, no matter what number DUI offense you are facing, the judge has the ultimate discretion to sentence you and the punishments will vary from case to case. The judge will consider the following aggravating factors, which can enhance the punishments handed down by judge:
- DUI causing serious injury and/ or death;
- Driving in a reckless manner, or at excessive speeds;
- DUI causing property damage;
- Refusal of a blood or breath test;
- Operating the motor vehicle with a BAC of .15% or higher; and/ or
- Having a passenger under the age of 14 at the time of your DUI arrest.
As can be noticed by the information provided above, with each additional DUI conviction, one can expect the punishments to get more serious. When an individual is facing a fourth offense DUI, an individual could find him or herself facing a lengthy period of incarceration. Thus, if you are charged with any DUI offense, especially a felony fourth DUI offense, we highly recommend that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
If you are facing felony DUI charges, we recommend that you contact the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm to schedule your FREE DUI consultation.
In California, a felony DUI resulting from prior DUI convictions will be treated very seriously by the prosecuting attorney and will require an experienced attorney. The lawyers at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm have nearly three decades of experience defending DUI cases. If you or someone you know is facing a felony DUI charge, make sure to call our office to schedule your FREE DUI consultation.
Contact us today at 949-377-2280 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.