Impaired driving or driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is a severe crime under various sections of Vehicle Code (VC) section 23152. If you are under arrest on suspicion that you were drunk driving in the city of Bakersfield, CA, you will need the services of an attorney, especially if it is your fourth time driving under the influence (DUI) charge.
The penalties you will face upon a conviction for a 4th offense DUI will be stiffer and life-changing because it shows you are a habitual offender, meaning your last sentence was not enough to discourage you from driving under the influence.
We at Koenig Law Office can help you counter the alleged 4th offense DUI you are up against for the best possible outcome. Our skilled attorneys will leave no stone unturned when gathering and preparing evidence to convince the judge to drop or reduce the alleged 4th offense DUI charge.
4th Offense DUI at a Glance
Like any other DUI offense, a 4th offense DUI charge under VC 23550 starts with a traffic stop when a traffic officer suspects that you might be drunk driving or driving under the influence of other unlawful drugs. The following signs can give a traffic police officer reasonable suspicion that you could be driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs:
- Driving erratically
- Making unsafe left turns
- Sudden braking
- Broken headlights or missing parts in your vehicle
Typically, a 4th offense DUI is a charge you will face if you are under arrest on suspicion that you are driving a vehicle under the influence and you have three (3) past DUI offense convictions on your record.
According to section 23550 of the Vehicle Code (VC), the prosecutor has the discretion to file a 4th offense DUI as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on your unique case's circumstances and facts because it is a wobbler offense.
Before filing your case as a felony, the court will require the prosecutor to verify that you have a minimum of three (3) past drunk driving or any other alcohol-related offense convictions in the last ten (10) years. A conviction for any of the following listed offenses will count as past conviction in the alleged 4th offense DUI under VC 23550:
- VC 23103.5 violation (wet reckless)
- VC 23152(a) violation (driving under the influence of alcohol/drunk driving)
- VC 23152(b) violation (driving with excessive BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level of 0.08% or above)
- VC 23152(f) violation (driving under of influence of both alcohol and drugs)
- Any offense conviction outside the state that might qualify as any of the above offense convictions
- An expungement record of any of these offense convictions
What to Expect After Arrest for an Alleged VC 23550 Violation
After an arrest on suspicion that you were driving or operating a vehicle under the influence, the officer will take you to the police station for an official procedure known as booking. Typically, during this procedure, the arresting or booking officer will do the following:
- Record your name, alleged offense, date of the arrest
- Check your criminal background
- Confiscate your items like watches, necklaces, and clothes
- Take your mugshots
- Check your eligibility for bail on their bail schedule.
Suppose you cannot post bail while at the police station. In that case, you will have to wait for the arraignment hearing to convince the court that you deserve this form of pretrial release. In the meantime, you might remain in jail for not more than 48 hours. To protect your best interests as the alleged DUI case continues, you should consider retaining the services of a credible DUI attorney.
The attorney you will hire will fight to protect your rights for the best possible outcome on the following court procedures:
The Arraignment Hearing
Typically, your first court appearance after an arrest for an alleged VC 23550 violation will be the arraignment hearing, where the judge will inform you of the type of charge you are up against and the plea options you have. Before taking a plea, the court will advise you of your constitutional rights, including:
- The right to have a public defender by your side if you do not have a private attorney
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to trial
Since you are not yet guilty of the alleged 4th offense DUI charge under VC 23550, the court will determine the amount you need to pay as bail during this hearing. The amount you will pay as bail for VC 23550 violation will depend on your unique case facts and criminal history.
Before the trial hearing, your attorney will have a chance to cross-examine the prosecutor's evidence against you at the pretrial hearing. The pretrial hearing will also take place in front of a judge. During this hearing, your attorney and the prosecutor will exchange the evidence they intend to use to prove their cases at trial.
If your attorney believes that the prosecutor has some illegal evidence against you, they can file any of the following motions for the best possible outcome:
- Motion to dismiss under Penal Code (PC) 995 if they suspect the prosecutor's evidence does not provide probable cause for your arrest
- Motion to suppress under PC 1538.5 if some part of the prosecutor's evidence against you was due to an unlawful search and seizure
- A Pitchess motion if they suspect that your arrest was due to police misconduct or racial profiling
The Trial Hearing
If it is impossible to resolve the criminal allegations against you at the pretrial stage, the court will consider your case ripe for trial. The trial hearing is the trickiest stage of the criminal justice system because it can result in a conviction in the worst-case scenario.
To increase your chances of attaining the best possible outcome on the alleged 4th offense DUI charge, you should have an attorney in your corner for legal counsel and representation in the tricky criminal justice system. During the trial hearing, you should expect a judge or a panel of 12 jurors ready to make a judgment on the alleged 4th offense DUI.
Like other crimes, to obtain a conviction against you for VC 23550 violation, the prosecutor must have adequate evidence to support and prove the allegations against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, you will be guilty of VC 23550 violation if the prosecutor can provide viable evidence to prove the following facts to the jury or a judge beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were driving or physically controlling a vehicle at the time of the arrest
- You were driving an automobile while under the influence of alcohol, unlawful drugs or both
- You have at least three past convictions for a DUI offense or related DUI offenses
Reliable Legal Against Defenses for a 4th Offense DUI Charge
Even though a 4th offense DUI is a severe crime in the court's eyes, a reliable and experienced attorney can convince the jurors to drop or perhaps reduce the charge to a less severe offense. The following legal defenses can work out in your favor to achieve the best possible verdict on the alleged 4th offense DUI charge under VC 23550:
The Arresting Officer Had Insufficient or No Probable Cause to Initiate Your Arrest
DUI laws require an officer to have sufficient reasonable cause and probable cause before stopping a driver on suspicion that they could be driving under the influence at any point on the road or the sobriety checkpoint. Swerving on the road, driving slowly, or having a missing side mirror in your car is not enough to justify your arrest for a 4th offense DUI charge.
Before initiating an arrest for a 4th offense DUI charge, a police officer must have sufficient probable cause, for example:
- You had slurred speech
- You had watery eyes
- You had visible alcohol or beer bottles in your vehicle
- You had an excessive BAC level
If your DUI attorney can prove that the arresting officer had insufficient or no probable cause to initiate your arrest, the court will consider the evidence against you inadmissible.
Your Tests Results are Unreliable
Before an arrest for an alleged DUI offense, the officer will require you to participate in particular sobriety tests to determine whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One of the tests the officer will use during a DUI investigation involves blowing a breathalyzer to determine your BAC level using your breath vapor.
After that, the officer will request you to step out of the vehicle and participate in the following field sobriety tests (FSTs):
- One-legged stand test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- Walk and turn test
As a legal defense on the alleged 4th offense DUI charge, your attorney can raise a doubt on the accuracy and dependability of these sobriety tests for a less severe charge or dismissal of the entire case. For instance, even lawmakers acknowledge that a breathalyzer tests results could be inaccurate and unreliable if:
- The breathalyzer equipment is faulty or unmaintained
- You had mouth alcohol, which could be due to regurgitation, acid reflux, or belching
- You had a rising BAC based on time of drinking alcohol
On the other hand, your field sobriety tests results could also be unreliable and inaccurate because of:
- Your clothing or shoes
- Nonuniform ground
- Improper lighting
- Improper or misleading instructions by the traffic officer
According to your attorney's evidence, if this legal defense is viable, the court will likely reduce or dismiss the alleged 4th offense DUI charge.
You Had Physical Signs of Impairment, But You Were Not Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
A reliable attorney can challenge the prosecutor's application of physical intoxication or impairment signs like watery or red eyes to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. The court would consider this legal defense argument reasonable because even a sober driver could display or exhibit similar intoxication signs due to fatigue, allergy, cold, or an eye infection.
You Were Not Driving
Generally, the prosecutor must be able to provide proof that you were driving, meaning you had actual physical control of a vehicle before the officer flagged you down. If this particular evidence does not exist, the prosecutor's case will be weak to secure a conviction against you for VC 23550 violation.
To support this legal defense, your attorney can argue that your vehicle was parked on the roadside when the traffic officer approached and arrested you on suspicion that you were drunk driving. If these defense arguments work out in your favor, the court will drop or reduce the alleged 4th offense DUI to a less severe offense or infraction.
Potential Penalties of a 4th Offense DUI Charge Conviction Under VC 23550
Although 4th offense DUI is a wobbler, most prosecutors will file felony charges against a defendant for the most severe possible penalty. When determining an appropriate sentence for VC 23550 violation, the court will consider the following factors:
- Whether or not you were speeding
- Whether or not there were a minor aged below 14 years in your car
- Whether or not there were an injury or property damage
- Whether or not your BAC level was above the legal limit
The above factors will aggravate or increase the penalty you might be subject to upon a conviction for the alleged 4th offense DUI. Typically, upon a conviction for VC 23550 violation, you should expect the following possible penalties if there are no aggravating factors in your unique case:
- 180 days to one year in the county jail if you are guilty of a misdemeanor 4th offense DUI
- Incarceration in the state prison for sixteen (16) months to three (3) years if you are guilty of a felony 4th offense DUI
- A fine ranging from $390 to $1,000
- A probation term of three to five years
- Attend a DUI school for a maximum of thirty (30) months
- Enroll in a drug and treatment program
Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) might also label you a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) for up to three years and revoke your driving license (DL) for up to four years. However, you can continue enjoying your driving privileges by installing an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for a maximum of three years.
An IID is a unique system or technology that can prevent your car from starting if it detects alcohol in your breath vapor. After the four-year revocation of your DL, you will have to apply for a new license if you want to continue enjoying your driving privileges without restrictions.
Other Consequences of a Conviction for a Felony 4th Offense DUI
After a felony conviction for VC 23550 violation, you will face many other consequences which can follow you even after serving your sentence. As a felon, any person interested in your criminal background may place you in the same category as money launderers, kidnappers, murderers, or burglars because of the 4th offense DUI conviction on your record.
Typically, with a felony conviction on your record, it could be challenging or impossible to do the following:
- Secure a job
- Own or possess a firearm
- Hold a public office
- Secure or own an apartment
- Pursue particular professions
- Serve as a juror in court
- Act as a witness in court
Probation Conditions You Must Adhere to After a Conviction for VC 23550 Violation
If the judge presiding over your case grants probation instead of serving time in prison, you should comply with the conditions and requirements of the probation to stay away from jail/prison. Below are some of the conditions the court can require you to adhere to upon a conviction for a 4th offense DUI charge:
- Commit no new crime while on probation
- Submit or consent to a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test after a traffic stop
- No driving with any gaugeable or measurable BAC level (typically 0.01% or above)
To have a fresh start after serving your sentence for a 4th offense DUI charge conviction, your attorney can assist you in filing an expungement petition under Penal Code 1203.4 if:
- You have completed your probation successfully
- You were not serving your sentence in the state prison
Seeking an expungement after serving your dues for a 4th offense DUI conviction is a wise idea to stand a chance to secure a job, employment, or housing without discrimination that you are a felon or a criminal. Typically, an expungement will release you from all the disabilities and consequences resulting from your past convictions on your criminal record to have a fresh start and new life.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
If you are in trouble with the law for a 4th offense DUI or any other subsequent DUI offense, the penalties you will face upon conviction are significant and life-altering. Hiring an attorney is one of the best decisions you could make to increase your chances of achieving a positive outcome on the alleged 4th offense DUI charge.
There are several helpful steps attorneys at Koenig Law Office could take to lessen the possibility of the harshest punishment you could face if you are under arrest for a 4th offense DUI charge in Bakersfield, CA.
We invite you to call our Bakersfield DUI attorney at 661-793-7222 as soon as you can to have our dedicated attorneys review your case and prepare excellent defense arguments that convince the court to reduce or drop the alleged DUI charge.