California has stringent rules to protect motorists, passengers, and pedestrians from intoxicated drivers. In most cases, first-time DUI charges do not lead to jail time. Aggravating factors raise the probability of serving time in jail and heighten the level of punishment for a second or any future driving under the influence violation.
If you have been accused of aggravated DUI in Bakersfield, we invite you to contact us at Koenig Law Office. We can help you avoid the loss of your driver's license and incarceration. Our expertise in defending people facing DUI charges has earned us the trust of satisfied clients. Call us today for legal counsel.
An Overview of California DUI Laws
A large number of DUI cases start as a result of a routine traffic stop or at a random DUI checkpoint. When you are arrested for DUI, the arresting officer will give you a citation that lists the specific vehicle code under which you are going to be charged. Below are some of these codes:
- Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, California VC § 23152(a) — It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by any alcoholic beverage or controlled substance
- DUI with a BAC above 0.08% under California VC 23152(b) — Driving a vehicle while your blood alcohol content is at or above 0.08% is prohibited
- According to section 23152(c) of the Vehicle Code, it is against the law for a person who is addicted to drugs to operate a motor vehicle in any capacity. However, if you're enrolled in a legal treatment program, you are exempt from the provisions of this section
- California VC 23152(d) — Having a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.04 percent or higher while operating a commercial vehicle is illegal under this section of the law
- California VC 23152(e) — If you have a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.04% or above, you are not allowed to operate a vehicle for hire that also has a passenger in it
- California VC 23152(g) — It is illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by both drugs and alcohol
- Underage DUI California VC 23136 — It is unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01 or higher
- DUI while on probation, California VC 23154 — If you are on probation for another DUI, California law forbids you from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or higher
California's Standard Penalties for DUI
Depending on the severity of the offense, those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face penalties such as monetary fines, time served in jail, and suspension of their driver's license. Typical DUIs carry the following possible consequences:
- A jail sentence of no more than 6 months for the first DUI charge, fines ranging from 390 dollars to 1,000 dollars, and a driving license suspension of at least 6 months
- The second DUI carries fines of up to $1,000, license suspensions of up to two years, and a possible prison sentence of up to one year
- For a subsequent DUI, the maximum fine is $1,000, a maximum sentence of one year in jail, and a license suspension of up to three years
- A 4th or consecutive DUI violation is considered a felony, punishable by sixteen to four years behind bars, $5,000 in fines, and an 18–30 month driver's license suspension
Repeat DUI offenders also face probation, community service, DUI school, and IID installation as additional penalties.
Aggravating Factors that Can Lead to Aggravated DUI
Whether it was your first or second DUI conviction, certain conditions or facts could lengthen the time you spend in jail or prison for a DUI. Even if you have never had a DUI before, an extensive criminal history for non-DUI charges could discourage the prosecution or court from being lenient.
The following are some DUI aggravating factors:
An Excessive BAC
Driving with your BAC at or higher than 0.08% is prohibited. However, a BAC result of at least 0.15% is considered excessive and intensifies your sentence under California VC § 23578. The court is likely to impose harsh terms even if you are granted probation.
The following are additional penalties for a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher:
- Extended jail terms
- Ten-month suspension of your driving license
- Installation of an IID for three years
- Nine months of DUI school attendance
The enhanced penalty goes along with the standard penalties for DUI convictions, such as jail time and monetary fines. If your blood alcohol content is at 0.20%, the penalties get worse.
Refusing a Chemical DUI Test
When law enforcement authorities legally stop you at a DUI checkpoint, you are required to take a chemical test to check for drugs or alcohol under the Implied Consent laws. If you're arrested for DUI and refuse a chemical test, the judge could enhance your sentencing since they have no evidence showing what your BAC levels were.
Refusing a chemical test carries the following consequences:
- For a first DUI arrest, an additional 48 hours in county jail and a minimum of nine months attending DUI school are mandatory. You will serve 9 months participating in the DUI program rather than the three-month period that you would have served for your first DUI offense that did not entail a refusal
- A second DUI within 10 years will result in an additional 96 hours in jail
- For a third DUI charge within 10 years, you'll serve an additional 10 days serving your jail sentence
- If you are convicted of DUI four times in 10 years or more, you will serve an additional 18 days in county jail
Driving at Excessive Speeds
If you go above the speed limit on a freeway by no more than thirty miles per hour or on other routes by no less than twenty miles per hour, you will get a penalty enhancement. Your DUI term will be increased by 60 days under § 23582 of the California Vehicle Code. The additional time must be served before you can qualify for a probationary period and it must be served in addition to any time you already have to serve for the DUI offense.
Reckless driving is defined under § 23103 as willful and malicious contempt for the welfare of property or people. It describes operating in a manner that endangers other individuals and their cars regardless of whether you cause or are involved in an accident. You will receive an additional 60-day jail term on top of any sentence you receive for the underlying DUI offenses. It is a separate term that runs concurrently with your standard DUI term and is a requirement if the court places you on probation.
The Presence of a Child In the Car
Any DUI violation that is committed while a kid under the age of 14 is in the car will lead to an additional penalty. Depending on the underlying DUI counts against you, additional sentence enhancements could be applicable. Possible repercussions for driving under the influence when a kid is present in the vehicle include:
- First-time offenders must serve at least 48 hours in jail
- If you've had one DUI conviction in the prior ten years, you'll receive an extra ten-day jail sentence
- If you've been convicted of DUI twice in the last decade, you're looking at an additional 30 days in jail
- If the current DUI charge is considered a misdemeanor offense and the offender had a minimum of three prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, they will receive an extra 90 days in jail
- If you are arrested for a fourth DUI within 10 years, you will be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. Enhancement under VC 23572 won't apply if you're facing criminal charges. You will simply be required to serve the typical DUI felony term
Under PC 273a, this offense is also considered child endangerment. Penalties will vary according to:
- BAC level
- Your criminal record
- If you were involved in a collision
- How you had been driving
The following are potential consequences for endangering a child:
- A one-year jail sentence
- A six-year prison sentence
- The likelihood of losing parental rights
If the kid suffers injuries as a result of the accident, further charges of vehicular assault will be brought along with the DUI allegations. Penalties include:
- A sentence of two to twelve years in prison, based on your record
- A first-time offender is required to spend a minimum of 48 hours in jail. You'll spend more time in jail if you have more DUI-related charges
- License suspension for a year. Having a minimum of 4 DUI-related offenses will result in revocation for five years
Drunk Driving While On Probation
For those on probation, driving under the influence of alcohol in the system, even if below the legal BAC limit, is considered a violation of their probation terms. If you're currently on probation for a previous DUI offense at the time of the arrest, you're likely to have a hearing for violating the probation terms along with the DUI charge. By doing so, you risk losing your right to probation and having to serve a prison sentence.
You could also be subject to an additional one-year license suspension since one of the terms of your probation after a previous DUI conviction is you shouldn’t operate an automobile with any level of alcohol in your system. A professional attorney has experience handling these types of situations. They would accompany you to court hearings and strive to reinstate the original conditions and terms of your probation.
DUI on a Restricted or Suspended License Due To a Previous DUI Conviction
If your driver's license was already suspended due to a previous DUI at the time you were being detained, the penalties could be significantly worse. If you are accused of violating California VC 14601.2 after having a prior DUI conviction that resulted in the suspension of your driver's license, you would spend at least 10 days behind bars, pay higher fines, and have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your car.
DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury
It can be stressful when you cause bodily harm to another individual while operating a vehicle under the influence. This is often considered the most severe kind of DUI charge. Such offenses could be classified as felonies or misdemeanors. If you cause a DUI collision that injures another individual, you risk being charged with a misdemeanor and spending at least five days in jail, and having your license suspended for a year.
When there are more severe injuries that cause "great bodily injury," your case is more likely to result in felony charges. The question of whether the injuries count as GBIs is decided based on individual cases. When figuring out GBI, the most important things to look at are the severity and type of injuries, how much pain the person was in, and how much medical care they needed because of their injuries. If the judge determines that the incident resulted in a GBI and a felony charge is brought, you could be sentenced to a 16-month prison sentence.
The court could order you to cover damages related to the accident, provide compensation to the victims, and reimburse the local jurisdiction for costs incurred during the accident investigation. A qualified DUI lawyer is ready to handle every aspect of your legal case, including court hearings, appearances in court, and restitution. They have experience managing DUI cases involving bodily injury. He or she will endeavor to mitigate at every stage of the process to reach the best possible outcome for you.
Causing a Road Accident
If another individual suffers injuries due to a drunk driving accident, a criminal case will be brought under California VC 23153. This aggravated violation can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When a hit-and-run accident occurs, you would also be charged with a hit-and-run crime and it will attract an enhanced DUI sentence. Even if there are no injuries sustained in the collision, the incident alone is enough to aggravate the DUI penalties.
A DUI accident that causes injuries carries the following penalties:
- A misdemeanor is punishable by a $5,000 maximum cash fine and no more than one year behind bars
- A felony is punishable by a fine of no more than $100,000 and 2 to 6 years in prison.
If the DUI crash leads to loss of life, you will most likely be subject to VC 191.5 counts for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The severity of the punishments will vary based on whether your action involved gross or ordinary negligence. No matter how reckless you were, if you broke a law that is a felony, your license will be taken away.
A misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter offense entails ordinary negligence. It includes things like lane changes made without checking for oncoming traffic. The prosecutor will file charges against you under California PC 191.5b for simple negligence, either as a misdemeanor or a felony.
The consequences include the following:
- If convicted of a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and required to pay a fine of $1,000
- Imprisonment for either 16 months, 2 years, or 4 years, and a hefty cash fine not exceeding $10,000.
Felony vehicular manslaughter normally stems from extreme negligence and features malicious intentions. Extreme negligence occurs when:
- You behave negligently in a way that raises the risk of causing harm or death
- A logical person would understand that such behaviors would pose dangers
A violation of PC 191.5a constitutes grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter. The credibility and strength of the prosecutor's case against the defendant will determine how harshly he/she will be punished. If a defendant is found guilty, he or she is likely to face the following:
- Penalties for felonies include 4, 6, or 10 years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine
- A misdemeanor carries a jail sentence of sixteen months and a fine of one thousand dollars v
It is possible to be charged with second-degree Watson murder under California PEN 187 when you maliciously or intentionally cause someone else's death. This is considered a felony crime that carries the following penalties:
- A $10,000 fine
- A sentence of fifteen years to life in prison
Elements of the Crime
The prosecution has to prove certain elements beyond a shadow of a doubt for the defendant to be convicted. The specifics vary based on the particular crime, but generally speaking, the prosecutor has to prove:
- The defendant was operating the vehicle
- The defendant was using or under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he/she was driving
The prosecutor will review evidence, based on the DUI crime, including:
- Whether the law enforcement officer who pulled over the defendant had a reasonable cause to do so
- The results of the chemical or blood tests at the time of the arrest
- The officer's account of the alleged incident, such as the performance of the field sobriety tests and if the defendant exhibited objective indicators of intoxication
- Whether the defendant had a DUI or drug-related conviction in the past
Legal Defenses for an Aggravated DUI Offense
An experienced lawyer can aggressively challenge the underlying DUI allegations to defend against the aggravated DUI. Your attorney could present the following legal arguments:
Absence of Alcohol or Drugs
A defendant can have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% because of certain factors like:
- Alcohol residue in the mouth after applying mouthwash
- A high-protein or low-carb diet
Your BAC increased while the officer was taking the sample, implying it was lower while you were driving. This discrepancy happens when you operate a vehicle after having recently consumed an alcoholic beverage and the absorption process is still in progress during the chemical testing.
Your lawyer can justify your actions rather than contending that you weren't inebriated or contesting the validity of the findings of the chemical test. The defense lawyer could argue that you had a valid reason for operating the vehicle while impaired and that you wouldn't often act in that way.
These mitigating elements include:
- The defendant tried to avoid serious injury since he/she needed to get someone to a hospital as soon as possible
- Threats were made against the defendant and they were compelled to drive away
- Involuntary intoxication. The defendant unknowingly consumed alcohol or drugs
- Inaccurate breathalyzer readings as a result of:
- Faulty equipment, such as defects and faulty calibration of blood testing instruments and breathalyzers
- Inappropriate blowing techniques lead to unreliable outcomes
- The test was not administered correctly, which is one of the jobs that the arresting officer should have been able to execute
The Police Did Not Follow Legal Procedures
If the police did not follow the law when you were being arrested and booked, the court cannot find you guilty of aggravated DUI. Some of these mistakes include:
- Conducting DUI inspections at unauthorized DUI checkpoints or conducting random traffic checks without cause
- Incorrectly conducting FSTs
- The failure to properly abide by Title 17. This law describes the DUI blood and breath testing procedures
You are not informed of your rights by your arresting officer. If the officer fails to recite your Miranda rights, the prosecution cannot use any statements you make after being arrested as evidence that you committed DUI.
DUI is not proven by physical signs of intoxication. Physical signs include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, an intense alcohol odor, and a wobbly gait. These symptoms could also be caused by an illness, injuries, flu, eye pain, allergies, or exhaustion.
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you're facing allegations of aggravated DUI, you should get in touch with a seasoned attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can provide you with counsel on your best alternatives as well as how DUI rules will apply to your particular situation. If you need a DUI lawyer in Bakersfield, CA, you can contact the Koenig Law Office for legal representation. Call us today at 661-793-7222.