If you or a loved one are facing the possibility of a 4th DUI conviction in Los Angeles within 10 years of your first DUI conviction, you are in danger of dire, long-term consequences and should take great care to hire an extremely skilled DUI defense lawyer.
A fourth DUI is like any other DUI in so far as the definition of driving under the influence goes and the elements that the prosecution must prove, but the stakes are much higher.
Thus, besides availing yourself of a good lawyer, you should learn as much as you can about the process to clear up any confusion. Below, we outline for you some of the most important information concerning a 4th-offense DUI in California:
Defining a Fourth Offense Felony DUI
A 4th offense DUI may be charged as a felony if the three previous DUI convictions occurred within 10 years of the 4th arrest for DUI; the crucial dates being from the dates of arrest to arrest. Second, a wet reckless conviction counts as a "priorable offense," just like actual DUI's, for the purpose of tallying one's "prior DUI's."
A 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th-offense DUI can be charged as a felony under California Vehicle Code Section 23153(a) or (b) if bodily injury or death was inflicted as a result of the DUI offense.
Finally, we should note that Out Of State DUI convictions and wet reckless convictions will also count as priorable offenses if they would have counted as a "previous DUI" under California law. This is not as clear-cut as it might seem because plea agreements are often complex and different terms for the same basic offenses can be used in different states. Conversely, similar terms for significantly different offenses might be used.
Possible Penalties for a Fourth DUI Conviction
Penalties for first-time DUIs are the lightest, and with each additional DUI, they become successively harsher. Thus, a 4th time DUI will have very severe sentencing enhancements versus a first, second or even a third time DUI. However, there are still factors that can affect your specific sentence, including:
- Whether or not you put other people at imminent risk of death or injury while driving under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating drug. This could be passengers in your vehicle, other drivers on the road, or pedestrians nearby.
- Whether or not another person actually was injured or killed in the DUI incident.
- Having a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle with you during a DUI.
- How high your blood-alcohol content was, just barely .08%, .15%, or higher. A higher BAC could bring harsher sentencing.
- The circumstances of your three previous DUIs and even of DUIs prior to the 10-year "look back" period.
While there may be additional punishments or terms of probation, certain elements might be avoided in a plea bargain. Here is what a typical 4th time DUI sentence looks like in California where Great Bodily Injury was not Inflicted:
- 16 months, two years, or three years in County Jail;
- A one to four year suspension of your driver's license;
- A fine of $2,000.00 to $3,500.00, plus additional fees and costs;
- A three-year period on the HTO (habitual traffic offenders) list;
- Attendance and completion of an 18 month SB38 alcohol program.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt several elements of the crime of a 4th time DUI to gain a conviction. Here is what they must prove:
- You in fact did have physical control over a motor vehicle that you drove while under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
- Your BAC or BrAC was .08% or higher at the time of driving, .04% or higher if operating a commercial vehicle, or .01% or higher if under the age of 21.
- You have indeed been convicted of three previous DUIs within the last 10 years.
In order to establish these elements, the prosecution will bring forward police reports and police officers to testify against you, blood or breath test results, and any witnesses who observed your driving at the time just before your arrest.
The prosecution's burden of proving you have three previous DUI convictions will be done by introduction of court records, DMV records, or certificates of completion for DUI classes ordered by a California court. The prosecutor will also have to produce DMV and court records for any out of state DUI convictions or their equivalents.
In essence, the only major difference in what the prosecution must prove with a 4th DUI charge vs. 1st through 3rd DUI offenses are in the number of previous DUIs to document or in the need to document any at all. Otherwise, the prosecution's job is just as difficult as with any other DUI case.
Defending Against a Fourth DUI Charge
Because a 4th DUI is normally charged as a felony and because these cases are prosecuted by the DA with great vigor, it is imperative that a very experienced DUI defense attorney handle your case. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have solid expertise in these types of high-stakes cases, and we know how to "leave no legal stone un-turned" in our quest to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
First, we will fight for a dismissal, which might be obtainable if the police did not follow proper protocols during the arrest or if you were pulled over without probable cause. If a dismissal is not possible, however, we next move to explore every possible way of getting your charge/sentence reduced.
We will look at all your alleged priorable offenses in detail to see if any of them could possibly be changed or challenged based on procedural or technical errors. If we can reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, your sentence will most certainly be lighter and it will be easier for you to later (possibly) get the DUI conviction expunged from your permanent record.
Three other strategies we often use in 4th offense DUI cases are as follows:
- Have blood samples retested by a third party to see if they are truly accurate. We have ongoing relationships with "blood splitting" clinics that can sometimes arrive at a more accurate reading than the police test. If you were just barely over .08%, this approach is especially important. In addition, we don't just re-test for alcohol level, we also test for the amount of sodium fluoride (preservative) that was in the vial BEFORE your blood sample was placed in the vile. And lastly, we test for any Bacteria that may be present in the sample after collection.
- Hire a private investigator. A "private eye" can assist greatly by finding and interviewing possible witnesses in your favor, interviewing the arresting officer(s), and looking for evidence in your favor at the scene of the accident/arrest.
- Have a psychologist as an expert witness.By working with a psychologist with many years of experience in his/her practice and in evaluating how alcohol affects the brain, it is possible to uncover evidence in your favor. This kind of expert opinion can sometimes be helpful, depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
By leveraging every possible strategy and knowing where and when to use such strategies, a good DUI defense attorney can turn a difficult case into a victory. We always work diligently on your behalf and fight for your best interests the way we would wish to be fought for if our situations were reversed.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, the Law Offices of Jeff Voll has the legal expertise and dedication to each client that it takes to fight for and win the best possible outcome to your DUI case. Our thorough understanding of the California Vehicle Code and intricate familiarity with local Los Angeles court processes puts us in an ideal position to win your case.
For a free DUI consultation, do not hesitate to contact us anytime 24/7 at 424-281-3020.