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 also avoided via 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; in some cases, these can reach as high as $18,000.
- A three-year period on the HTO (habitual traffic offenders) list; this makes the jail time and other penalties for further driving crimes of all kinds much more severe until HTO status is lifted.
- 3 to 5 years on DUI Stay Out of Trouble Probation.
- Attendance and completion of an 18 month SB38 alcohol program and a 30 month DUI Class.
Finally, we should also note that for 4th DUIs, it is possible that your license will be revoked rather than simply suspended. This difference would mean that your driving privileges in California would not resume after the revocation period ends, you get an insurer to file an SR22 form with the state, and you apply for reinstatement and pay the relevant fee. Instead, you would also have to prove you completed your alcohol treatment program and apply to the DMV, which technically can deny reinstatement. Thus, a revocation is technically for “an indefinite period,” though in practical terms, it can often work out about the same as a suspension.
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.
Can You Still Qualify for Probation If Convicted of a 4th Offense DUI?
Many falsely assume that a 4th-offense DUI, because it is an automatic felony and requires at least some actual jail time, bars you from qualifying for probation. In fact,
50% to 60% of those convicted of a 4th DUI in California manage to still be granted probation.
If the presiding judge is convinced you should be allowed DUI probation, you will still have to spend 120 days in jail (or longer) in most cases, but you can also possibly be allowed to enter special “alternative sentencing” programs. These include residing at a sober living facility instead of in an actual jail, being placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring to track your whereabouts, and wearing a SCRAM device around your ankle that will check your sweat for alcohol content 24/7 and report the results to the authorities.
Other conditions of probation may include installing an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle at your own expense, doing some form of community service in lieu of part of an otherwise longer jail or prison sentence, and completing a state-approved alcohol treatment and education program.
Whether or not you qualify for probation and jail alternatives and how long you do have to spend behind bars all is at the discretion of the judge and D.A. handling your case. A good DUI defense lawyer, however, will know what is possible and how to work to obtain these allowances as part of a favorable plea deal with the prosecutor.
What If I Get a 5th or Subsequent DUI?
It is natural for one facing possible conviction for a 4th DUI to already be wondering how a 5th DUI would be handled. This should, of course, be avoided at all costs since the consequences would be severe.
However, the law has the category 4th and subsequent not 5th and subsequent DUI. Thus, the penalties and situation would be about the same as for a 4th DUI, except that the more DUIs you have on your record, the less leniency you are likely to get from the judge. You would likely have more jail time, higher fines, longer DUI classes, and other sentencing elements closer to the maximums than even a 4th DUI might bring.
This is part of the reason you need to hire a good attorney who can either get the 4th DUI charge defeated or help you avail yourself of programs that can make a 5th time DUI less likely (such as SCRAM, IIDs, house arrest with electronic monitoring, and sober living environments) besides reducing your sentence and allowing you to continue a more normal lifestyle while on probation.
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.
We do not shrink from 4th and subsequent DUI defense cases because we know how to successfully handle them and have done so many times before. We can bring all mitigating factors into play and secure a good plea deal even where a dismissal or acquittal may not be possible.
For a free, no-obligation DUI consultation, do not hesitate to contact us anytime 24/7 at 424-281-3020.