California has strict laws that protect all road users from drunk drivers. Upon your arrest for any form of DUI, you are likely to pay hefty fines or even spend time in county jail or state prison. Additionally,  DUI offenses are such serious violations that each conviction counts as a prior, and it remains in your criminal record for at least ten years.

Generally, the first DUI offenses do not result in jail time. However, aggravating factors increase the likelihood of incarceration and increase the severity of your second or subsequent DUI offenses. Aggravating factors are circumstances or facts that intensify the gravity of your criminal actions or your liability and justify a more severe sentence.

If you are facing aggravated DUI charges in Van Nuys, CA, and its surrounding areas, you need to enlist the help of The DUI Defense Attorney. We are your best option in avoiding loss of your driving privileges and imprisonment. We have numerous satisfied clients from our years of experience and respect from our peers due to our competence in such cases. We represent you in DUI charges to get you the best possible outcome.

A Summary of California’s DUI Laws

Most DUI cases begin at a DUI checkpoint or as a traffic stop. When a law enforcement officer arrests you for DUI, they will provide you with a citation indicating the vehicle code for which you will face charges. These codes include:

  • Vehicle Code 23152(a) - DUI of drugs or alcohol: It is an offense to drive while you are under the influence of a drug or any alcoholic drink.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(b) - DUI with a BAC higher than 0.08%: It is unlawful to drive any vehicle when your BAC is equal to or higher than 0.08%.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(c): It is illegal for you to drive any vehicle when you are suffering from drug addiction. This section, however, does not apply if you are participating in an approved treatment program.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(d): This section prohibits you from driving a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(e): You can only drive a passenger for-hire vehicle with a passenger inside if your BAC is below 0.04%.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(g): Driving while under the influence of both alcohol and drugs is an offense.
  • Vehicle Code 23136, Underage DUI: It is illegal for any individual who is under 21 years old to drive when their BAC is at or higher than 0.01%.
  • Vehicle Code 23154, DUI during probation: California law prohibits you from driving with a BAC of 0.01% or more during your probation for a previous DUI.

Regular Penalties for a California DUI

DUI crimes attract fines, jail sentences, and a license suspension depending on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. The potential penalties for a regular DUI include:

  • A fine of between $390 to $1,000, a minimum six-month license suspension, and a jail term of less than six months for your first DUI conviction.
  • A second DUI attracts a maximum fine of $1,000, a two-year license suspension, and up to a year in jail.
  • A third DUI is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000, jail time for one year, and a three-year license suspension
  • A fourth or subsequent DUI offense is a felony with between 16 months and four years in prison, fines not exceeding $5,000, and a suspension of your license for between 18 and 30 months.
  • Additional penalties for repeat DUI offenses include attending DUI school, performing community service, probation, and installing an IID.

Aggravating Factors

Regardless of whether your conviction is for a first or subsequent DUI, some circumstances or facts will enhance your DUI prison or jail sentence. Even when you do not have a previous DUI, a substantial criminal record for non-DUI offenses can discourage the prosecutor or judge from being moderate.

Here are some factors that aggravate DUI charges.

Excessive BAC

It is unlawful to drive while your BAC is equal to or above 0.08%. However, under California’s Vehicle Code, Section 23578, a BAC level at or above 0.15% is exceptional, and it enhances your sentence. Even if you receive probation, the court will most likely impose punitive conditions. 

Enhanced penalties for BAC of 0.15% or higher include:

  • Longer time in jail
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for ten months
  • A three-year IID installation
  • Participation in DUI school for nine months

The sentence enhancement is in addition to the jail time and fines for regular DUI offenses. The penalties become stiffer if your BAC is at least 0.20%.

Refusal of a Chemical Test

Under California’s Implied Consent law, you must submit to a chemical blood test for alcohol or drugs whenever law enforcement officers lawfully arrest you for DUI. A refusal will enhance your underlying DUI sentence because the judge has no evidence of the actual BAC level at the time of your arrest.

The penalties for chemical test refusal are:

  • A further 48 hours of county jail time and at least nine months of DUI school for a first DUI offense. The nine months in DUI program is in place of the three months that you get for a first DUI that does not involve refusal.
  • An extra county jail time of 96 hours for your second DUI in ten years
  • Another ten days in jail for your third DUI conviction within ten years
  • A further 18 days of county jail time for your fourth or successive DUI conviction in ten years

Excessive Speed

You will face a DUI penalty enhancement for exceeding speed limits on the freeway by a minimum of 30 mph or by at least 20 mph on other roads. Section 23582 of California’s Vehicle Code imposes 60 days in addition to your DUI sentence. The additional days are also a precondition for probation and a consecutive sentence that cannot overlap with the punishment for your primary DUI crime.

Reckless Driving

Under Section 23103 VC, reckless driving is the deliberate and malicious disregard for the safety of people or property. It refers to driving in a way that poses a risk for other people and their vehicles, even when you do not cause or get into an accident. The penalty enhancement is 60 days in jail in addition to the punishment for your underlying DUI charges. It is a consecutive sentence, does not overlap with your regular DUI sentence, and it is a precondition if the judge puts you on DUI probation.

Having a Minor in the Vehicle

Committing any DUI offense with a child below 14 years in the vehicle will result in an additional sentence. Extended sentence enhancements may apply depending on your underlying DUI charges.  Possible penalties for DUI with a child in the car include:

  • A minimum mandatory 48 hours of jail time for the first offense. The court cannot stay the sentence, and you must serve it continuously.
  • An additional ten-day jail term if you have one previous DUI conviction in ten years
  • An extra 30 days of jail time if you have two prior DUI convictions in ten years
  • An additional 90 days of jail time if your current DUI offense is a misdemeanor, and you have at least three DUI convictions in ten years.
  • Your fourth DUI charges in ten years will either be misdemeanor or felony. If you face felony charges, enhancement under Vehicle Code 23572 will not apply. You will only serve the standard sentence for felony DUI.

DUI with a minor under 14 years is also a child endangerment offense chargeable under Penal Code 273a.  The penalties will depend on:

  • Your BAC
  • Your criminal history
  • Whether you got into an accident
  • Your driving pattern

The potential penalties for child endangerment are:

  • One year in county jail
  • Six years of imprisonment in a state prison
  • Possibility of losing custody of your children

If the child sustains injuries, the crime is vehicular assault in addition to the DUI charges. The penalties are:

  • Jail time for between 2 and 12 years depending on your criminal history
  • A mandatory 48-hour jail sentence for your first offense. Having other DUI related crimes will extend your time in detention
  • A one-year license revocation. The revocation will last for five years if you have at least four DUI-related convictions,

If the child dies as a result of your DUI, you will face vehicular manslaughter charges for unlawfully causing another person’s death while you drive a vehicle. The punishment for this offense depends on the specific facts of the crime. The elements determine whether your actions amount to ordinary or gross negligence. Vehicular manslaughter results in a Class B felony indictment whose consequences are:

  • A mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail for your first offense, but prior DUI convictions will enhance your sentence
  • Imprisonment for between eight and thirty years depending on your criminal history
  • Between three and ten years of license revocation

Causing an Accident

Causing an accident as a result of DUI will result in a criminal case under Section 23153 of the Vehicle Code if another person sustains injuries. The charge for this aggravated offense can either be a misdemeanor or felony. When the accident is a hit-and-run, you will face hit-and-run charges in addition to an extended DUI sentence. Even when the accident does not cause any injuries, the incident is still reason enough to enhance your DUI penalties.

The penalties for a DUI accident with injuries include:

  • A fine of up to $5,000 and a maximum of one year in the county jail for a misdemeanor
  • A fine not exceeding $100,000 and imprisonment for two to six years for a felony

If your DUI accident causes death, you are likely to face PC 191.5 charges for Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated. The penalties will depend on whether your actions involved ordinary or gross negligence. Regardless of the form of negligence, felony Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated attracts a mandatory revocation of your driver’s license.

Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter involves simple negligence. It encompasses acts of simple carelessness like changing lanes without checking. For ordinary negligence, the prosecution will charge you under PC 191.5(b), either as a felony or a misdemeanor.  The penalties are:

  • A maximum county jail term of one year and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor
  • Incarceration in prison for 16 months, two years or four years and a $10,000 fine

Felony vehicular manslaughter arises from gross negligence and involves acting with malicious intent. It is extreme carelessness where:

  • You act recklessly in a manner that increases the risk of injury or death, and
  • A rational person would know that such actions would create such a risk.

Vehicular manslaughter due to gross negligence is a PC 191.5(a) crime. The severity of your punishment will depend on whether the prosecution’s case against you is strong. In case of a conviction, you may receive:

  • Four, six or ten years imprisonment, and a fine of $10,000 for a felony.
  • A county jail term of 16 months and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor

In some instances, causing the death of another person intentionally or maliciously can result in second-degree Watson murder charges under PC 187. This crime is a felony that attracts:

  • A fine of $10,000
  • Imprisonment for 15 years to life.

Underage DUI

California DUI laws have two codes that specifically target drivers under 21 years. Section 23136 of the Vehicle Code is the zero-tolerance law on underage drinking. It prohibits drivers below 21 years from driving with a BAC of at least 0.01%. Vehicle Code 23140 proscribes underage driving when BAC is at least 0.05%. You violate the two codes when you drive with the specified BAC levels, even if the alcohol does not impair your driving.

Contravening the zero-tolerance law will earn you a suspension of your driver’s license for one year.  Breaching the underage DUI code will result in the suspension of your license for one year, a $100 fine, and participation in an alcohol education program.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

For a judge to convict you for any form of aggravated DUI, there are some elements that prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt. The details vary depending on your specific offense, but in most cases, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You were driving a vehicle
  • You drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Depending on your DUI offense, the prosecution will examine evidence such as:

  • Your blood or chemical test results at the time of driving
  • Whether the arresting officer had probable cause for a traffic stop
  • Whether you have a prior conviction for substance abuse or DUI
  • The arresting officer’s report of the purported incident, including your performance in field sobriety tests, and whether you showed objective signs of intoxication.

Common Defenses for Aggravated DUI

An experienced attorney can put up an aggressive defense against aggravated DUI by fighting the underlying DUI charges. The arguments your lawyer can put forward include:

  1. No Drugs or Alcohol

Your BAC of 0.01% was a result of other factors such as:

  • Residual mouth alcohol after using mouthwash
  • A low-carb or high protein diet.
  • Rising blood alcohol when the officer was administering the test, meaning that your BAC was lower when you were driving. This disparity occurs when you drive after recently consuming alcohol, and the absorption process is ongoing during your chemical test.
  1. Extenuating Circumstances

Instead of arguing that you were not intoxicated or challenging the accuracy of your chemical test results, your attorney can justify your actions.  The attorney can say that you had a good reason for your impaired driving and that you would not ordinarily behave like that. Such mitigating factors include:

  • You were avoiding severe injury because you needed to rush somebody to the hospital
  • Duress: Somebody issued threats and forced you to drive
  • Involuntary intoxication. You unknowingly ingested drugs or alcohol
  • Inaccurate breathalyzer results due to:
  • Faulty equipment: Blood testing equipment and breathalyzers often yield incorrect results due to defects and improper calibration.
  • Improper blowing techniques: Which produce unreliable results
  • Improper administration of the test: A tasks that should be handled properly by the arresting officer
  1. Failure by the Police to Follow Lawful Procedures

 The judge cannot convict you for aggravated DUI if the police do not adhere to the law during your arrest and booking.  Such mistakes include:

  • Making traffic stops without reasonable cause or performing a DUI inspection at an illegal DUI checkpoint
  • Administering field sobriety tests inappropriately
  • Failure to strictly comply with Title 17 of the Code of Regulations, which outlines the procedure for DUI chemical tests.
  • The arresting officer does not inform you about your rights. The law does not allow prosecutors to use your post-arrest statements as DUI evidence if the arresting officer does not read you your 5th amendment rights.
  1. Objective Signs of Intoxication do not Prove DUI

Physical symptoms of DUI include slurred speech, red, watery eyes, a strong alcohol odor, a flushed face, and an unsteady gait. However, these signs can also be as a result of illness, injury, a cold, allergies, eye irritation, or fatigue.

  • In case of injury or death from an accident, your attorney can argue that you were not responsible. The lawyer can assert that your actions were neither ordinarily nor grossly negligent.

Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

If you are facing charges of aggravated DUI, you need to contact a competent attorney immediately. You must get sound legal advice because the consequences are severe. A seasoned attorney will advise you on your best options and how DUI laws are likely to apply to your specific case. To get a dedicated attorney to handle your DUI case in Van Nuys and its surrounding areas, call The DUI Defense Attorney team at 818-253-1913. Our goal is to get the best possible outcome.