Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm is a DUI criminal defense firm which offers services to anyone charged with a crime in and around Vista, CA. Our defense attorneys are well-versed with the law and help defendants fight all types of drunk-driving charges. One of the more common of these charges is Aggravated DUI, which arise from drunk-driving offenses with an aggravating factor. Such factors include the presence of minor(s) during the incident, excessive speeding, and death to a third party among others.

What is an Aggravated DUI?

A person commits DUI crime when they drive while intoxicated with drugs, alcohol, or a combination of these intoxicants, as per VEH 23152 VC and 23153 VC. Most of the offenses committed under the above statutes fall under misdemeanor category of DUI. Charges under this category are simple with no aggravating factors. Thus, the presence of an aggravating factor is a key determinant of the category that a DUI charge falls under.

An aggravated DUI is a DUI crime encompassing traits that result in severe threats to another person’s life or gross violation of any driving law. These traits include excessive speeding, recklessness while driving, endangering a child’s life, causing death to another person, driving while drunk, refusing to comply with a field BAC test, or unlicensed driving. These traits graduate to what would be a simple DUI offense into a felony.

What Leads to an Aggravated DUI Case?

1. Excessive Speed.

To be considered excessive, the speed limit should not exceed 20 mph on any road or 30 mph on a freeway. If the driver has alcohol, drug, or under medical prescriptions, they should maintain the recommended limits while driving or drive below the recommended speeds; these intoxicants impair judgment while operating a vehicle, and can lead to abrupt accidents. In such, the offender would face a DUI charge coupled with violation of speed regulations. Three types of speeding laws govern how drivers should operate their motor vehicles:

Basic Speeding Law: In this case, one has to be conscious, especially when some natural features like weather and visibility change. At no event should a motorist move at a speed which threatens the safety of other people or their properties. In short, every motorist should drive at a safe speed as they deem suitable for any given environmental change.

Presumed Speed Limits: The presumed speed limit should be between fifteen (15) miles per hour to twenty-five (25) miles per hour in school zones, residential areas, and business environments. This regulation limits chances of direct felony charges in the event where an accident would cause injuries or deaths; it also helps drivers to avoid damaging property that would result in additional penalties.

Absolute Speed Limits. Driving at least 1 mph above the speed limits is a punishable act, and the person would be violating absolute speed limit laws. Thus, it is wise to maintain the speed limits to avoid falling prey of absolute speed limit violations.

2. A Minor is in the Vehicle.

Under DUI laws, a minor is anyone under the age of 14 years. This factor is taken very seriously as it is presumed a negligent child abuse. Such crime can subject the driver to at least 48 hours in jail regardless of any probation which may be granted.

3. Driving without a license.

Vehicle code 12500 subsections (a) to (f) governs driving license requirements when operating a motor vehicle on highways, an off-street facility for parking, and public streets. The provisions make it clear that any person driving in the above areas must have relevant licensing. For instance, one cannot drive a truck when they only hold a regular driver license. Thus, a drunk driver who has no relevant license(s) is likely to face stringent Aggravated DUI punishments because they are violating multiple driving laws.

Lacking a license is a result of several reasons:

  • The motorist never applied for any license whatsoever or they have a license but it is expired. In the case where you have no driving license or you fail to renew the license after its expiry date or you relocate from another state but fail to obtain a new license in California, then this act would be a violation of the law. The penalty for driving without a valid license can result in a maximum of $250 coupled with multiple punishments such as undergoing a probationary period or the impounding of your vehicle;
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles canceled, revoked, or suspended the license. The department can suspend or cancel licenses depending on previous criminal records. Hence, it would be unlawful to drive if you are in this situation;
  • The License is valid but you are not in possession of it. This means that you were licensed but you lacked the license while the offense was committed. In such a case, your DUI attorney can prove that you had the license during the time of the offense and the charge may be dismissed. However, you may still have to pay a fine for lacking the license at the specific time of driving.

4. Causing an Injury.

Causing an accident that leads to an injury while you are under the influence of drug or alcohol can definitely get you charged. Even if the accident probed no injuries at the particular time, but a later thorough medical examination revealed the victim incurred injuries, the driver is still liable for conviction in violation of DUI causing injury laws. This offense can either be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. In the case of hit and run accident, while you are under intoxication, you face hit and run charges as well as charges for drunk-driving. Hard evidence such as immediate injuries are strong proofs for DUI causing injury prosecution, but a skilled DUI lawyer would help reduce the possible penalties or plea for the prosecution to charge you of a single driving offense rather than multiple.

5. Reckless Driving.

This activity entails driving in a way that endangers other persons or their vehicles regardless of whether an accident occurred. This can also mean that you are willfully disregarding the safety of the people on board and their properties. In short, it involves putting people’s lives at risk knowingly. This offense is a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties;

  • Motorists who commit this offense often face a jail term of 5-90 days and a fine of $1000;
  • A conviction with up to 6 months in jail or a fine not less than $2500, for reckless driving;
  • A conviction with not less than 30 days to 6 months in jail with a fine of $1000 in cases where people incur injuries;
  • There are also other incidents where major permanent injuries are incurred, for instance, memory loss, unconsciousness, paralysis, and stroke. In this case, the penalties are more severe depending on whether the jury or judge rules the offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties are similar to the ones discussed above; if it is a felony case then the convict faces 16 months to three years in jail. Thus, this type of driving crime is a wobbler. In addition to these punishments, reckless driving comes with other consequences since insurance premium rates can be added and/or the motorist’s license can be suspended for up to six (6) months.

6. Excessive Blood Alcohol Concentration.

This is one of the major factors courts take into account when deciding on a DUI sentence. It illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or above; the regulation is specific for drivers under 21 years and those operating commercial vehicles as well – if they go over .01 BAC and .04 BAC respectively. At times, drivers might have blood alcohol contents in excess of 0.15, which is eligible for aggravated punishments.

Debates surround about what amount of alcoholic intake leads to a 0.08 BAC. Generally, a 1.5 FL OZ shot of liquor or a glass of wine can get you to the .08 threshold. It takes women about three drinks an hour to reach the .08 BAC, while men take about four drinks an hour to have the same effect; however, these specifications are standard for men and women having the same weight. Thus, for one to stay under the limit in the case of men, it is advised that one should not take more than two standard drinks in the first hour and a drink per hour after that; women should consume more than one standard drink in the first hour and probably the following hours as well. Furthermore, 0.35 to 0.40 BAC indicates alcohol poisoning. This goes further to mean that each hour you are not drinking, 0.015 percent of alcohol is disappearing from the body; if the BAC was 0.08, it will take around five and half hours for the alcohol to completely metabolize from the body – and the driver can then operate a motor vehicle.

7. Refusal to Take a Test.

If you are requested to take a breath or blood test or any other chemical test for purposes of ascertaining your BAC percentage, the law requires you to comply with the demands of the police. Noncompliance with this directive is in its own way, a contravention of Vehicle Code section 23153. Note that by not complying the judges and prosecutors would not have solid evidence of your actual BAC; this leaves room for assumptions such as the alcohol content in your blood must have been in excess of the minimum levels. Nevertheless, a Vista DUI attorney can provoke an assumption that there was no tangible evidence that your BAC content was above the required minimums; consequently, you weren’t drunk-driving and not liable to charges relating to aggravated DUI.

8. Hit and Run.

If a motorist hits a person or another vehicle and flees, then later caught up by law enforcers and charged for a hit and run alongside DUI offense, the penalties would be severe if convicted, especially in cases where injuries or deaths have occurred. Such an act is a form of aggravation.

Other factors that would lead to an Aggravated DUI include having drunk-driving convictions;

9. While you have another pending DUI,

10. Within a period of 10 years – you have multiple DUIs,

11. While your driving license is suspended,

12. While on probation.

Consequences of Aggravating DUI Convictions

The penalties a convict receives depend on the nature of the charges. Notwithstanding the various penalties discussed above depending on the aggravating factor, several consequences can apply in cases of misdemeanor charges; additional consequences include community service, probation, installation of an interlock device in your vehicle, and enrollment in an alcohol treatment program.

On the other hand, aggravated DUI may result in larger penalties compared to misdemeanor offenses, these may include larger fines, longer jail terms, and the driver’s license being suspended for a longer period of time. The suspension of a driving license can also lead to permanent revocation. The ignition interlock device may be installed at the expense of the convict. The convict may also be responsible for paying other costs like probation fee, court costs, and the victim compensation fine.

If the jury finds someone guilty and is ruled as a felon, the person may have difficulties acquiring some professional degrees or may have a professional license revoked or suspended. Worse enough, there may be challenges when it comes to employment opportunities; in the case where they were able to retain their job, it would be quite difficult getting back to work. In short, supervisions are stricter and limitations are harsher when compared with a misdemeanor case.

Lemon Laws also play a major role in Aggravated DUIs. A lemon car is that which has a problem, reduces its usability, value, and safety. Lemon vehicles may be able to divert the blame of the accident to the vehicle rather than the driver. Also, if a mechanic has tried to fix a certain problem for a repeated number of times, and the car is not repairable then the car qualifies to be a lemon. These laws protect buyers when they purchase new vehicles – but does not only apply to the new vehicles, it also applies to used cars if the owners got a warranty after purchase. Before making a claim to the court, the buyer should first notify the manufacturers so that they can try and fix the problem. It is also advisable for the claim to be made in a written form so a record could be kept. If the manufacturer repairs the vehicle without success, then the buyer has the option of seeking legal action.

Offenses Relating to Aggravated DUI

Aggravated DUI relates to all driving offenses, precisely, those that are drunk-driving related. The offense majorly falls under felony DUI crimes and can be charged alongside non-compliance on breath and blood tests, breaking traffic rules, child endangerment, second-degree murder, driving without a license, and wet reckless. When prosecuting and convicting these offenses, determination of driving privileges plays a central role.

Still, the Department of Motor Vehicles is only responsible for conducting the DMV administrative hearings through the DMV Offices and concluding on the fate of driving privileges. Unlike other court proceedings, the DMV hearings only focus on one’s driving privileges. After a hearing, the DMV officer can either revoke, suspend, or reinstate licenses.

Difference between A DUI Case and a Standard Criminal Case

The major difference between a DUI case and an ordinary case resonates around the evidence presented and the length of the driver’s license suspension required, or if there is a need for revocation. Besides, a DUI crime is a vehicle offense under California vehicle codes whereas other ordinary crimes have provisions under the states’ penal codes. The major difference though is that most criminal cases do not involve the drivers' license aspect. For instance, if someone was arrested for theft or some kind of assault, they won't have to go to the DMV Offices to get back their license. Still, a lot of other crimes would not require a body test which is mandatory in the case of a DUI. Lastly, in a DUI case, the officer in charge of the arrest is commonly the one liable as a witness unlike in other criminal cases where there can be several eyewitnesses.

Possible Defenses for Aggravated DUI

Pursuing a defense for this kind of crime is challenging since most of the evidence are so clear and strong enough for a conviction. However, similar to other criminal offenses, it is possible for reduced punishments, reduction of charges, and even case dismissals; an aggravated DUI attorney knowledgeable in all DUI charges would provoke reasonable doubts to the judge or jury’s mind concerning the charges are given by the prosecutors.

In a case where an aggravated DUI is committed and you are caught without a drivers' license, the attorney can prove that you had the license during the time of the offense; thus, not liable to charges relating to a lack of driver’s license. This would help prevent a possible license suspension or revocation, in addition to aggravated DUI punishments.

In general, while defending the accused, the DUI attorney has to counteract the proof by prosecution that the offense indeed was drunk-driving, and at least one aggravating factor was present to render the charges of an aggravated DUI.

How Can a Vista DUI Attorney Near Me Help if I am Accused of an Aggravated DUI?

Aggravated DUI convictions carry significant punishments, especially if a drunk-driving offense involves multiple aggravating factors. However, Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm helps to possibly avoid these penalties. Our criminal defense attorneys serve Vista, CA, and have outstanding results in defending DUI crimes. Call us at 760-691-1540 to get personalized assistance on your pending case.