A DUI conviction can have long-term effects on an individual’s life. You may be fined, have your license suspended, or face jail time. Also, convictions affect your records, and they reflect when a potential employer or education institutions do a background search. Our goal at Orange County DUI Attorney is to help our clients in Laguna Beach, CA, avoid harsh DUI consequences. Our team handles DUI-related criminal cases and DMV hearings as detailed in this article.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Cases

DUI cases are punishable by fines, jail or prison sentences, or license suspensions, among other punishments. You risk triggering either of two legal proceedings if investigations determine your liability in the DUI case:

  1. A bench trial or jury trial that is set up in a criminal court to hear and determine the matter

  2. A license suspension hearing established by the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) agency

Our Laguna Beach DUI attorneys can represent your interests in these cases.

Cases Determined by Jury or Bench Trials

Aggravated DUI

California law describes driving under the influence as operating a car above a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent. The courts take into account your criminal records, mitigating as well as aggravating circumstances to determine the punishment equal to the crime. Mitigating factors refer to issues that reduce a defendant’s liability in the case. As such, they are likely to get lenient sentencing. For instance, being under medication at the time of driving is a mitigating factor that can reduce the possible sentence. Aggravating factors, on the other hand, increase the severity of the convictions.

In determining your culpability under aggravated DUI cases, the prosecution looks into:

  • Your prior convictions, if any

  • If you were driving over 25 to 30mph beyond the speed limit as a case for reckless driving

  • Blood or breath test results of a BAC level above 0.08 percent

  • Injury and property damage that resulted from drunk driving

  • The fact that you were on probation at the time of the DUI arrest

  • You are driving with a suspended license

  • You are driving with a minor at the time of the arrest. A minor in this circumstance is considered as one below the age of 14 years

  • Refusal to submit to a blood or breath test

  • You fled the accident scene

These circumstances above affect plea bargain negotiations and have a bearing on the final determination of your case. Having the right Laguna Beach DUI attorney ensures that lesser charges and ultimately lesser penalties come your way, and our team is prepared to take on the task.

Driving Under the Influence of a Drug (DUID)

Vehicle Code 23512(e) defines DUID as driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. Any substance that impairs your mental ability and affects your physical capability or your nervous system is classified as a drug. The definition of a drug under this law is not limited to prohibited drugs. It also includes Over the Counter (OTC) drugs and prescription medicine.

Penalties in DUID cases are similar to those in regular DUI trials. The offense is charged as a misdemeanor with penalties including fines, attending and completing a substance abuse class, and/or a license suspension. Any prior convictions attract a jail sentencing whose duration is as directed by the judge. In most cases, jail terms are imposed on individuals who have had three DUI priors, or as the court deems fit by the facts of the case.

It is upon the prosecution to prove that when you were driving:

  1. The drugs were in your system

  2. The drugs impaired your driving beyond how a reasonable person, who is not under the influence of drugs, would drive

Unlike DUI charges, there is no limit on the quantity of drugs in your system, as is the case with DUI of alcohol. The limit on blood alcohol concentration is set at 0.08 percent. For DUID cases, any presence of drugs in your system is enough for a conviction. It is argued that any level of the drug is not enough to impair your driving. However, witness accounts detailing how the accident occurred will be evidence that proves your impairment.

DUI Homicide

Some DUI cases can lead to another person’s death. In assigning liability, the court will seek clarity on who caused the demise of another in the DUI matter. The case will be prosecuted in either of three ways; Vehicular Manslaughter while Under the Influence, Second-Degree Murder or as a DUI Causing Injury if you were under the influence and caused the death of another person. If you did not cause the accident, but you were under the influence, your case will be tried as a regular DUI.

If you are responsible for the death of another person, the prosecution must address two aspects for you to be convicted for Vehicular Manslaughter while Under the Influence, Second-Degree Murder or DUI Causing Injury.

The prosecution must determine that you were:

  • Under the influence -That is, you had a BAC level of 0.08 percent or above

  • You were behind the wheel at the time of the accident - In proving that you were the driver, it is assumed that you were driving while impaired

In attesting the above aspects, the prosecution can then proceed to introduce the Vehicular Manslaughter while Under the Influence, DUI Causing Injury, or Second Degree Murder charges.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter while Under the Influence, Penal Code 191.5, can be tried in two ways, as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The severity of your case determines whether the prosecution tries the matter as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The prosecution needs to prove that you were driving at the time of the accident. Furthermore, they should demonstrate to the court that you acted negligently, recklessly, or illegally, actions that led to the crash and subsequent death of another person.

Second Degree Murder or “Watson Murder”

In trying a second-degree murder charge under DUI, the prosecution uses Penal code 187. It is expected that they satisfy the following elements for them to have a successful second-degree murder charge against you. They should prove that:

  • You intentionally caused the death of another person

  • Your actions while driving put other road users and your passengers’ lives at risk

  • You knowingly proceeded with your actions while disregarding the lives at stake

From the ongoing, the prosecution is required to demonstrate malice in the defendant’s actions. That is, you were aware that your actions while driving under the influence would put human lives at risk. If the prosecution is successful in proving your liability in the second-degree murder charge, you risk:

  • Serving a prison sentence of 15 years to life with a maximum fine of $10,000

  • Paying restitution payments to the family of the deceased party

  • A strike to your criminal record under California’s three-strikes law

  • The courts offer severe punishment for repeat offenders. A second-felony charge carries twice the prison sentence the second-degree murder charge will carry. If convicted of a third felony charge, you risk imprisonment for 25 years to life.

DUI Causing Injury

This charge is under California Vehicle Code §23153. The prosecution in DUI causing injury cases may pursue the matter as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts in the case. Furthermore, the prosecution assesses your history for any DUI charges. If you have DUI priors, you risk having harsher penalties for your actions.

DUI Causing Injury cases prosecuted as misdemeanors attract the following penalties:

  • Fines ranging from $350 to $5,000

  • Restitution to the victims of the accident of an amount determined by the court

  • Informal probation of 3 to 5 years

  • License suspension for a period of between one to three years

  • A sentence for a period ranging from 5 days but no more than one year

  • A felony charge, on the other hand, attracts the following penalties

  • A license suspension for no more than five years

  • Fines of amounts ranging from $1,015 to $5,000 as directed by the courts

  • A jail sentencing of two, three or four years over and above three to six years if the victim suffered severe bodily injury

  • A strike under California’s three strike law

  • An additional year for each victim of the DUI offense. However, the extra years are capped at a maximum of three years

  • A label of a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) that lasts no more than three years

DUI Hit and Run

DUI Hit & Run is prosecuted under Vehicle Code 20001 and California Vehicle Code 20002. Code 20001 addresses DUI Hit and Run cases that result in bodily harm to another person. Code 20002, on the other hand, offers guidelines as to how DUI Hit and Run cases that involve property damage should be handled.

Certain aspects require your attention when in a DUI Hit and Run situation.

First, you should never leave the scene of the accident. You will be culpable for the injury caused to another, or property damage if you leave the scene of the crash. You risk being charged for a DUI Hit and Run offense even if it was the actions of another that led to the accident.

Second, you should report your account of the events that led to the accident to the authorities. The information should be truthful. Reporting to the authorities is your responsibility and is not pegged on whether the third party intended to report the accident or not. The law allows you to leave the accident scene only if you are seeking medical treatment.

DUI hit and Run cases are treated as misdemeanors or as felonies. The aspects explained below inform the decision by the prosecution to handle the case as a misdemeanor.

  • The driver left the accident scene without providing information regarding their identity to the parties at the accident scene.

  • The property was damaged as a result of the crash.

  • The driver was fully aware of the damaged property of another person.

Misdemeanor offenses are prosecuted under the guidelines of California Vehicle Code 20002. Any physical injury related to the case is not the first matter under consideration. However, it is factored by in as facts to the case. If charged, you risk penalties that include a jail term of up to 6 months and/or fines that amount to no more than $1,000. Further, you face up to three years in probation, an additional two points on your driving record, and restitution payments for the damage.

Felony hit and run are prosecuted under California Vehicle Code 20001. In felony cases, the critical matter to be addressed is whether there was a physical injury. The prosecution will look into the following aspects to determine your culpability in the matter:

  • The accident caused physical injury to another person

  • The driver was aware of the injury caused at the time, but they fled the accident scene

  • The driver intentionally left the scene of the accident without leaving any identification inform

Successful prosecution of felony hit and run attracts the following punishments:

  • Three-year imprisonment

  • A fine of any amount between $ 1,000 to $ 10,000

  • Four-year imprisonment if the accident resulted in grave injury or death

Cases Determined at the DMV Level

Matters determined at the DMV (the Department of Motor Vehicles) are meant to address licensing issues. Violations such as Driving under the Influence, physical injury to another person or property damage due to an accident puts you at risk of a license suspension. In these proceedings, you will need a Laguna Beach DUI attorney to be present.

DMV hearings are limited in their scope. Unlike trial proceedings, DMV hearing does not pursue your guilt or culpability in the matter. Their range is limited to the following issues:

  • DMV hearings determine reasonable suspicion by the arresting officer that the driver of the car was under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • The hearings interrogate the legality of the arrest to determine if it was handled as per the law

  • Whether the driver was informed of the consequences of their refusal to take a blood or breath test, The implication in this matter is license suspension

  • Whether the driver submitted to the breath and/or blood tests

A hearing conclusion may be either to your favor or not. If the circumstances of the hearing determine your guilt, the judge may set a date for the suspension of your driving license. If the hearing is not satisfied with your guilt, the license suspension will be set aside. Here is a look at some of the matters that our Laguna Beach DUI attorneys address in DMV hearings.

DMV License Suspension; 1st Offense

DMV suspension for a first time DUI offenses are guided by Vehicle Code 13352(a) (a). At the time of your arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate your license and send it to the DMV. You have a 10-day window to request for a DMV hearing through your lawyer. Your license will be automatically suspended should you fail to act within the ten days. The final determination of your license suspension is also pegged on the outcome of the DUI proceedings in court. If you are found guilty, the DMV will suspend your license.

DMV License Suspension; 2nd Offense

A matter is determined as a second DUI offense if your license is suspended for a second time within one or two years of your initial suspension. The offense is punishable with a jail sentence of 90 days to one year and fines of up to $1,000. Further, there is a three to five year probation period.

DMV License Suspension; 3rd Offense

Two prior DUI charges in your record with a pending third charge carry severe penalties. Third-time offenses attract a three-year license suspension, over and above the penalties imposed on you by law through the courts. You will have to go through a DMV hearing that may impose a one-year license suspension. However, if you are found guilty in the DUI case, you only have your license suspended for the three years. The one-year suspension that a DMV hearing imposes will not be affected.

DUI Proceedings for Out-of-State Drivers

Arresting officers do not have the authority to confiscate your out-of-state license if arrested for a DUI offense. However, they can issue a suspension order. The order revokes your driving privileges in California for 30 days. You have a 10-day window to request a hearing. If convicted, the following are punishments that may be imposed on you:

  • You will be arrested, and it will reflect on your records

  • You may face monetary fines, probation sentences or community service

  • You may be required to attend and complete an alcohol education program

  • You will be expected to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

Hire a DUI Attorney Near Me

DUI offenses are serious cases in California, and very complicated for a person who has no legal experience to navigate the criminal system. You may not be able to get favorable outcomes if you don't hire a Laguna Beach DUI attorney to help you understand what you need to do after you are arrested, and how to handle the DMV hearing and the criminal courts.

Orange County DUI Attorney has DUI attorneys who are well versed in handling DUI related cases in your locality and we are ready to fight for you and defend your rights. Call 949-377-2280 to talk to our local DUI attorney in Laguna Beach, California today.