The moment your driver’s license gets confiscated by a police officer over a DUI charge, panic will most likely be the first reaction. Then you realize this is your fourth DUI and anxiety and fear may overwhelm you. Vista DUI Attorney is here to help those in dire situations when they are facing an uphill battle. Our experienced criminal DUI lawyers can help you possibly mitigate the severe penalties you are facing. If you are in Vista, CA or surrounding areas please contact us immediately if you have been charged with a fourth DUI.
What California Law Qualifies as a Fourth Offense DUI?
The main guiding rule is the California Vehicle Code Section 23550. It states that (i) if one gets found guilty of a violation under section 23152 and the fault arose within a 10 -year period, with three or more detached violations of Section 23103, as outlined in Section 23103.5, or Section 23153 or 23152, or any grouping as such, that culminated in convictions, that person shall be subject to imprisonment in accordance to Section 1170 (h) of the Penal Code, or county jails for not less than 180 days and not exceeding 1 year, and pay a fine ranging from $390-$1,000, plus court costs. Also, the person’s privilege to drive a motor vehicle shall get annulled by the Department of Motor Vehicles according to passage (7) of subsection (a) of Section 13352. As such, the court will necessitate the person to submit their driver’s license to the court of law following Section 13550. (ii) An individual found guilty of a violation of Section 23152 disciplined as per the section shall get labeled as a typical traffic offender for three years, consequent to the conviction. The individual shall be advised of this label according to subdivision (b) of Section 13350.
In simpler terms, a felony DUI charge applies for an offender who has had three separate alcohol-related charges in 10 years. A fourth DUI charge leads to advanced punishments including jail time. A fourth DUI may also apply in cases where blood-alcohol levels as per the arrest time call for more charges, or the charged driver caused harm or death to other individuals. California law treats cases where no injury or death occurred as misdemeanors. However, where there is a loss of life or injury, it gets classified as a felony and carries graver punishment. Where no death or injury gets reported, one could serve a term not exceeding four years in a California State Prison. Additionally, the offender may get fines not exceeding $1,000, 18 months in an alcohol education program, driver’s license loss for four years, or getting a DMV title as a habitual traffic offender.
In general terms, DUI offenses committed in California often attract harsh punishments. The felony DUI charge further gets complicated though it varies on a case-to-case basis. For instance, the judge might consider whether the offender’s driving habits endangered or put the public in harm’s way. At times, the judge may be interested in Blood-Alcohol levels dating back to a period outside of the 10 years. Based on information gathered in such assessment, sentences vary in harshness. However, the guiding charges for a fourth DUI are as outlined above.
Varying Forms of a Fourth Offense DUI
To start with, DUI charges in California are at the highest level in terms of strictness. Perhaps so, due to the shocking numbers as per a 2010 survey that found over 20,000 traffic-related injuries directly linked to alcohol-blood levels. Also, close to 2,000 people died that same year due to DUI-related offenses. As such, it is only natural that even on mere suspicion of DUI, police officers are allowed to stop you. Officers further undertake a roadside or chemical test if they think that you have had too much to drink. Since California state laws require submission to such tests, if one fails a urine, breathalyzer, or blood test, they get booked in for DUI charges. If one has had 3 prior DUI charges in 10 years, they get booked in for a fourth offense DUI. However, DUI charges vary for different people. Here is a list of illegalities under which a person may not operate a vehicle in accordance with the Department of Motor Vehicles in California.
- Blood alcohol concentration levels of above 0.08% for people 21 years or older.
- 01% blood alcohol concentration levels for minors below 21 years of age.
- 01% blood alcohol concentration levels for people of any age, but on probation for DUI or DWI.
- 04% blood alcohol concentration levels for drivers of vehicles requiring a commercial driver license. That is, whether the driver has a CDL or not.
Some may, therefore, wonder how blood alcohol concentration levels get determined. Well, various factors such as weight and gender determine the BAC. Generally, anything beyond two bottles is more than enough for most people. The BAC, however, reduces with time, 40 minutes contributing to a 0.01% reduction in concentration levels. Further to this, ingesting other illegal drugs may count as DUI. Under California law, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is often used interchangeably with DUI. Hence, consuming other drugs might as well call for DUI charges.
Charges Similar to Fourth Offense DUI
DUI, as indicated previously is also known as DWI in some states. That said, there are several charges related to the same. For instance, it is already clear that prevailing a fourth offense DUI; there has to be other charges within 10 years. Here is a detailed explanation on many charges that closely relate to fourth offense DUI.
- First offense DUI: as the name suggests, this is the charge drivers encounter when arrested for drunk driving for the very first time. Under California Law, it is guided by sections 23152(a) and 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code. Both sections encompass driving under alcohol influence as well as other drugs. Section (a) states that a person under the influence of any alcoholic beverage should not operate a vehicle, while section (b) states that it is against the law for a person with 0.08% or more in terms of weight of the alcohol present in the bloodstream. If found to have broken the law as per the two sections, fines go up to $1,000 with a probable jail term not exceeding 6 months. Fines are subject to additional surcharges while offenders also risk a suspended license with the likelihood of installation of an interlock ignition device.
- “Wet Reckless” Driving: first-time offenders are sometimes in luck as the district attorney’s office has the mandate to reduce charge intensity. One such charge is reckless driving with alcohol involvement, otherwise known as “Wet Reckless” Driving in California. Constituted under Vehicle Code 23103.5, it often substitutes section 23152 (a)(b). The charge comes with reduced fines, probation time, and DUI school time if any. Further to this, there is no mandatory jail term nor driver license suspension. Nonetheless, if arrested over another DUI in 10 years, it counts as a prior DUI charge.
- Second DUI: by now it is quite clear that the prior period is usually 10 years. As such, one can get charged for a second DUI if the other DUI offense got committed within the 10-year limit. The period gets calculated from the date of arrest to date of arrest, and the second DUI gets classified as a misdemeanor. The jail term is mandatory and ranges from a 10-day minimum to a probable 1-year maximum. Fines and other related charges could easily exceed $2,000, while level II DUI school could come as additional punishment. An interlock ignition device could also get placed in the offender’s car. There may be other punishments, but that depends on the California county in question.
- Third DUI: it is yet another misdemeanor offense and should occur within the 10 years after the first and second DUI. A mandatory jail term ranging from 120 days to 1 year is the penalty and could be accompanied by 18-month DUI school period, possible installation of interlock ignition, and 3-year license revocation. Fines could go way past $3,000 due to other attached assessments and penalties. Again, there may be extra penalties depending on the California county in question.
- Felony DUI: under California Law, three instances qualify as felony DUI. The first, being a DUI arrest involving injury or death, the second being having a DUI charge subsequent to a previous felony DUI, and lastly, a fourth DUI charge within the 10 years. According to California’s Vehicle Code 23153 (a)(b), a driver violates the law if they cause injury to another person other than self, and having a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08% in so doing. Felony DUI attracts various penalties such as a minimum 180-day jail term, fines going past the $3,000 mark due to penalties and assessments, and a 4-year driver’s license withdrawal. Moreover, a felony DUI leaves a felony charge on the offender’s history, plus where injury or death got caused may lead to a jail term of 10 years and $5,000 in fines. The offender is further required to pay some money to the affected parties.
- Commercial DUI: holders of commercial driver’s license, classes A and B, get into ‘advanced’ trouble if arrested for a DUI. Based on Vehicle Code Section 23152(d), even first time DUI offender suffers severe fines and penalties so long as they have a commercial drivers license. The blood alcohol levels minimum is on the lower side compared to those of normal offenders. As per the section stated, it is illegal for a person with 0.04% or above in blood alcohol level by weight to drive a commercial vehicle. Punishments are similar to those of first time DUI charges. However, at times the offender may lose the license for one year. In repeat cases, the offender risks losing their commercial driver’s license for a lifetime.
- Underage 21 DUI: if convicted for the first DUI and below 21 years of age, more penalties are in the offing. The blood alcohol minimum is also lower compared to other DUI charges, all because the driver has not yet attained the age allowing alcohol possession. California Vehicle Code Section 23136 states that it is illegal for persons below 21 years of age with 0.01% by weight blood alcohol level, to drive a vehicle. A violation of the said section can get charged in conjunction with Vehicle Code 23140, 23152 and others. Even in cases where there is unopened alcohol, the minor may get charged with possession. A mandatory 1-year license revocation serves as punishment, and other fines or a jail term may suffice depending on the BAC level.
How does the Prosecutor Prove a Fourth Offense DUI?
The District Attorney must proof several things for an offender to get charged with a fourth offense DUI. The attorney has to show or proof that:
- The offender drove.
- They were under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08% by weight, or higher.
- They had prior DUI convictions within the 10-year lookback, otherwise referred to as washout. Which, incorporates offense dates and not conviction dates.
For the Attorney to prove the above, they have to provide documents about the same, and from various departments, as listed. (1) Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Records, (2) Court Records, and (3) Certificates from other court-sanctioned DUI-related programs. Purview, California records are for use in proofing previous DUI-related charges. At times, other states’ court and DMV records may get used in clarifying out-of-state violations that count as violations in California.
Ways of Beating a Fourth Offense DUI Charge
In case of a fourth offense DUI charge, your Attorney prepares a tight defense based on varying factors. That being, their job, they do good of it for a fact. Meanwhile, look at some of the defenses they most likely put into use.
- Breathalyzer Inaccuracy or test Errors: when testing for BAC breath test is the most common. Thus, the police use small breathalyzers on the scene and large ones in the hospital or at the police station. The most crucial bit of information is the fact that breathalyzers do not measure BAC directly. Instead, they measure breath alcohol and only get an estimated BAC after multiplying the result by a ‘partition ratio.’ Such breath tests are further prone to a myriad of challenges such as the margin of error, improper use by the operator, driver differences that affect partition ratio, and inappropriate calibration or maintenance. Even when executed as it should, there is a marginal error that could considerably reduce the BAC level and lead to an acquittal.
- Rising Blood Alcohol: as a defense, this applies when the BAC level rose above the California limit on testing but was below limit during the driving time. Usually, BAC levels rise after 45 hours to 3 hours of ingestion as it is when alcohol gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Other than a report from a toxicologist, the defense is most effective where proven that there was a considerable delay between getting pullover and testing. The BAC level recorded should also be close to California BAC limit. Other strong combinations include being close to home and having no indication that you were DUI such as swerving, slurred speech or DUI-linked traffic violations.
- DUI with no Proof of Driving: as indicated earlier, prosecutors have to prove the offender was driving the vehicle. It is therefore hard for police to produce proof of driving where they arrested the offender in a parked car. The same case applies to those arrested in an accident scene, but no eye-witness is present to prove DUI.
- DUI Police Misconduct and Report Errors: whether or not you were driving under the influence or not, the case can get dismissed should there be proof of misconduct of police officers. For instance, the presence of inconsistencies, missing information, report errors, and officers not providing untruthful statements in court. Illegally obtained, fabricated, or manipulated evidence plus not following California’s title 17 requirements also counts as police misconduct.
- GERD and Other Medical Conditions: breathalyzer tests may turn out falsely positive due to some medical conditions that cause mouth alcohol. They include hiatal hernia, GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), and acid reflux otherwise known as heartburn.
Other possible defenses include duress or immediate danger, involuntary intoxication, radio frequency interference, innocent reasons for DUI symptoms, mistake of fact among others.
Find a Vista Attorney Specializing in DUI Cases Near Me
A fourth offense DUI’s severe charges & penalties come as a result of having several DUI offenses within a period of 10 years. Nonetheless, legal matters often come unexpected, and that is why you need to call us immediately if this is your fourth DUI 760-691-1540. You cannot waste time thinking of why you decided to drive after drinking for the fourth time. The sooner you call, the sooner we will be able to construct a strong defense on your behalf. Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm is on call 24/7, all year round to solve your legal predicaments in an aggressive and professional manner. Call our Vista DUI Lawyer Today!