If you are facing a California DUI in which your blood-alcohol content (BAC) was recorded at or above .15%, you are looking at an aggravated DUI charge and could receive an especially severe sentence if convicted. In this situation, it is more imperative than ever that you avail yourself of an experienced DUI defense lawyer to fight in your behalf.

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have handled numerous over .15 DUIs and know how to find every weakness in the prosecution's case and build you a strong defense. With the stakes so high, you cannot afford to "go it alone" or to rely on inexperienced attorneys. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we know how to win cases just like yours, and we win them, in fact, on a routine basis.

About Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

When you are arrested on for DUI and stand before a judge at your California DMV hearing and/or jury trial, much more is of relevance than merely if your BAC was registered at .08%. Even when a DUI conviction of some sort occurs, there is always a range of possible punishments. Whether you get the maximum, the minimum, or an intermediate sentence will often depend on various mitigating or aggravating factors.

If your BAC was high because of a prescription medication, if you barely hit .08 on the blood/breath test, or if you have a perfect previous driving record, these could be seen as reasons to mitigate, or lower, the sentence against you.

If, however, your BAC was .15% or higher, this is one among many possible aggravating factors to your DUI charge. A conviction would, therefore, require a stiffer sentence than for a .08% charge, all other things being equal. The reason is that .15% is considered an "excessive" BAC level, being nearly double the ordinary standard of .08%.

The statute that addresses .15 DUIs, California Vehicle Code Section 23578, also addresses DUIs where the arrestee refused to take the chemical test and treats these two aggravating factors essentially the same way.

Other aggravating factors for California DUIs include the following:

  • Child endangerment, defined as a DUI in which a child age 14 or under was in the vehicle you were driving.

  • Excessive speeding and/or reckless driving. On "streets," 20 miles per hour or more above the speed limit and, on "highways," 30 miles per hour over the limit are counted as excessive speeding.

  • Property damage, injury, or death caused by a DUI can aggravate the offense greatly. Injury DUIs are often felonies, and if there were multiple victims in a single incident, the aggravation grows even greater.

  • DUI in a construction zone will lead to increased fines.

  • Prior DUI convictions, especially prior felony DUIs, within the past 10 years will increase your sentence and could even lead to time in state prison if it is your 4th DUI offense.

Possible Penalties for Violating VC 23578

Even with a .08% BAC, DUI arrestees are "presumed" to have their driving impaired by alcohol or an intoxicating drug. However, the higher the BAC, the more impaired your driving is assumed to be, and the more severe your sentence potentially could become.

One major sentencing enhancement for a .15 or higher BAC is probation possibly being denied, or if granted, the terms of probation being stricter. A good DUI lawyer, however, can help to negotiate on this point.

Secondly, the basic sentence will be more severe, to one degree or another. For example, a first-time offense at .08 normally gets you a 4-month license suspension and a 3-month DUI class; but a first-time .15 offense would likely receive a 6-month license suspension and a 9-month DUI class.

Additionally, fines, time in county jail, time spent on community service, and probationary periods could all be increased.

Also covered under VC 23578 is the refusal to submit to a chemical test, which is considered required by "implied consent" based on your simply possessing a California driver's license. The results of refusal are an automatic "administrative license suspension" and a longer jail term if convicted.

For a first-time DUI with BAC test refusal, your license is suspended for a full year, you get 9 months in DUI school, and two extra days are added to any jail term.

For a second refusal, you lose your license for 2 years and have 4 extra days of jail time. For a third or subsequent offense with refusal of the chemical test, you can get 10 extra days in jail and a 3-year license suspension.

What Additional Consequences Are There for a .20% or Higher BAC?

Though .20 and .15 DUIs are very similar, there are a few differences. First, a .20% BAC will normally get you at least a 10-month license suspension, while .15% has 9 months as the minimum. In either case, however, you can apply for a restricted license after the first month.

Second, a .20% or higher DUI will get you a 60-hour, 9-month long alcohol/drug education class, versus a 3-month, 30-hour DUI class being likely for a .15 DUI.

In either case, there is a good chance of needing an ignition interlock device for up to 3 years, and it will take a good DUI defense lawyer to get probation and avoid or minimize jail time.

Common Defense Strategies

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we employ "customized" defense strategies to each case we take on, not mere "cookie cutter" defenses. However, it is undeniable that there are common basic classes of defenses that are used in many DUI cases, including in .15 DUIs. Here are some of the most common ones:

  1. Illegal traffic stop: Our Bill of Rights protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures, so that police must have a specific and reasonable suspicion of illegal activity taking place before they can legally stop your vehicle. This means that, other than at DUI checkpoints, you must have violated some traffic law or have driven in a way that comports with one who is driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs.

  2. Improper FST administration: Field sobriety tests must be administered in a very specific way to be valid. Any deviation from the proper protocols or any intimidation from the officer can lead to evidence becoming inadmissible. Additionally, if poor weather, clunky shoes, nervousness, a medical condition, or other factors may have affected the FSTs, their conclusions will not be conclusive nor as weighty.

  3. False BAC reading: There are many reasons why a BAC test might render a too-high result. It could be the officer did not administer it correctly, it could be that alcohol in the mouth affected the breathalyzer, it could be that the defendant had a still-rising BAC that was lower while actually driving, and it could be that testing equipment was not properly maintained or that blood samples were not properly stored.

  4. Medical conditions skewed test results: Excessive tiredness, nervousness, allergies, sinuses, and certain medicines the defendant may have been taking can all affect FST and BAC tests. Additionally, diabetics and those under a fast can undergo ketosis, which leads to glucose in the blood fermenting and smelling and behaving much like alcohol. These are only some of the many medical conditions that can throw off DUI test results.

  5. Violations of the arrestee's rights: The Constitution requires that those being placed under arrest be told so and not led to believe they are merely engaging in an ordinary conversation. And the Supreme Court has ruled that arrestees must be informed of certain of their Constitutional rights, called "The Miranda Rights," before they can be legally arrested. Any violation of your rights when arrested or being arrested without probable cause can make evidence against you inadmissible in court.

  6. You had a valid reason for refusing the chemical test: If you have a valid medical reason for not taking the blood test, such as being a hemophiliac, you are excused that test but not the breath test. And in many cases, a good DUI lawyer can successfully challenge the assertion you refused testing, especially if police failed to inform you of what would happen upon your refusal.

What Are My Options as Far as DUI “Stay Out of Trouble” Probation?

While some suppose that you cannot get probation for a repeat offense or aggravated DUI, including for .15 or .20 DUIs, this is simply not true. It is true that it is more difficult to qualify for probation in such cases, but many, in fact, still do.

Understand that the state of California prison system and the various county jail systems are very full and that it costs the taxpayer a lot to keep so many thousands of people incarcerated. The judge will be under public pressure to be tough on DUI offenders, especially when an aggravated offense in involved, but he/she will also want to avoid locking up people needlessly when probation would likely work just fine.

That said, it is 100% at the judge’s discretion whether or not you get probation or a long jail term. Many times, a good defense lawyer can persuade the judge to allow house arrest with electronic monitoring, community service, a sober living residence, or SCRAM program enrollment, with only minimal jail time if any.

If you are granted probation, a good attorney will go over your probation terms with you carefully and emphasize to you the most important points. The consequences of a violation could be going to jail as the original “normal” sentence would have required. On the other hand, if you adhere closely to the terms, a DUI attorney may be able to eventually help you shorten your probation and get the DUI expunged from your criminal record.

What If I’m Caught Driving with a License Suspended for a DUI?

Around half of auto crash fatalities involve a driver with a .15% or higher BAC level, and dozens die nationwide every day in alcohol-related collisions. It is no wonder then that California and other states have especially harsh sentences for .15 or higher DUIs.

On the other hand, there are over 200,000 DUI arrests in California each and every year, and without a valid driver’s license, many cannot maintain a job. This is why a getting a restricted license is so crucial. But if you violate the terms of the restricted license or fail to get a restricted license and drive anyway, you will commit the crime of “driving with a suspended license.”

Those caught driving on a suspended license are subject to a minimum of ten days in county jail and a fine of no less than $300. And if it is your second offense at driving with a suspended license, you could pay $500 or more in fines and possibly be in jail for 30 days. And when the reason your license was suspended to begin with was a DUI (especially an aggravated DUI) or the refusal of a chemical test, there are yet additional penalties that could apply.

Finally, driving on a license suspended for DUI will constitute a very serious probation violation, which could get your probation canceled and send you to jail instead. Thus, while a good defense attorney can still help you in such situations, it is hard to over-emphasize the importance of following all probationary rules and never driving with a license suspended for a DUI, however tempting it might be to do so.

Contact Us Today for Help

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we know how to navigate complex California DUI laws as well as local Los Angeles court processes. While .15 DUIs might seem insurmountable to some law firms, we know how to apply proven defense strategies and well seasoned negotiation skills to win you the best possible outcome to your .15 DUI case.

To learn more or for a free DUI consultation, contact us 24/7 at 310-848-1376.