If you have been recently arrested in Los Angeles for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, you are already facing serious consequences if convicted. But when you are facing an aggravated DUI charge, the stakes are even higher. It is more critical than ever that you avail yourself of an experienced DUI defense lawyer who knows how to win your case.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the severe and long-lasting impact of losing your California driver's license, having to Install an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle and Insurance Premiums that will skyrocket. We put ourselves in your shoes and fight for your future like it was our own, and we apply our deep knowledge of California DUI law and of local L.A. court/DMV processes to give you the advantage in Court and at the DMV hearing.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact us 24/7 by calling 424-281-3020.
Mitigating vs. Aggravating Factors
With DUIs, as with all other crimes, there is usually a range of punishments allowable: a minimum and a maximum sentence. And your defense attorney will have much to say about where on that scale your particular sentence is to be positioned.
Those factors that tend to encourage a less severe sentence, such as it being a first-time offense or your being barely over the .08 limit, are "mitigating factors. Those factors that tend to move the scale toward the maximum sentence are called "aggravating factors."
Additionally, there are specific "sentencing enhancements" that may add jail time, increase the length of a license suspension, suspend or restrict your drivers license, or otherwise increase your sentence. These are not just maximums but are extra additional punishments that apply based on it being a specific type of DUI.
An "aggravated" DUI is, in the broadest sense, any DUI that has an increased sentence of any kind based on an aggravating factor. Below, we will look at the most common factors that lead to an aggravated DUI in Los Angeles.
Types of Aggravated DUI and Their Punishments
Here are some of the most frequently filed classes of aggravated DUI's in California, along with the sentences or sentencing enhancements that apply to them:
- Refusal to take a chemical test:In California, all who drive on the public roads are considered to give "implied consent" to submit to alcohol and drug testing when arrested by a police officer for DUI (with reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop or at a DUI checkpoint). If you fail to submit to a chemical test, you lose the possibility of getting a restricted drivers license if convicted and you may be ordered to take a longer (6 or 9 month) DUI class. A one-year license suspension (instead of 6-months) also applies. A second-time refusal of a chemical test gets you a 2-year suspension and mandatory jail time, and a third-time refusal a 3-year suspension and minimum mandatory 120 days of jail time.
- Excessive BAC level:The legal limit blood alcohol or breath alcohol (BAC) level for DUI is .08%, but when your BAC reaches .15% or higher, expect a more severe sentence. If it is .20% or higher, you will be assigned additional time at a court approved alcohol abuse programs for 9 months.
- Excessive speeds/reckless driving:If, during a DUI, you were speeding by 20 mph or more over the limit on a city street or 30 mph or more over the limit on a highway, you can be charged with reckless driving. The punishment will be an additional 60 days in a county jail. Note that it is possible to be charged with reckless driving without the speeding element and to not be charged with it though you were excessively speeding.
- DUI without a valid license: If your license was already suspended for DUI and you are charged with a new DUI, the sentence could include 10 days or more in jail, an increased fine, and the requirement to install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) in your vehicle at your own expense.
- Underage DUI:Those convicted of DUI while under the legal drinking age of 21 are subject to California's "Zero Tolerance Law." They will get a one-year license suspension, though with possibility of a restricted license. And you may also be required to attend an 8-hour "Hospital & Morgue" (HAM) session and the Mother's Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact 2 hour program.
- DUI plus hit and run: If your DUI also involved a hit and run allegation, your jail time and fines will be increased and you can get "2 extra points" on your license on top of the 2 points for the DUI. This will likely get you at least a 6-month drivers license suspension if not more.
- DUI and probation violation: If you are already on probation for a previous DUI and you are arrested for a new 2nd or 3rd time DUI, you can easily be sentenced to jail time for your previous DUI simply based on the new arrest for the new DUI (or any other crime that is a misdemeanor or felony). The terms of the probation violation would be added onto any potential sentence should the new arrest result in a conviction.
- DUI in construction zone:Any DUIs that occur in a construction zone will result in doubled fines and the possibility of other sentencing elements being doubled, or at least being increased.
- DUI with child endangerment: If a child under the age of 14 was in your vehicle when you were arrested for DUI, you will likely be ordered to spend a minimum 48 hours in jail, and you could also be convicted of child endangerment, which can get you 30 more days in county jail plus you will be ordered to attend and complete a 52 week state-approved parental care class that costs a minimum of $2,500.00.
- Repeat offenses: A 2nd or 3rd DUI increases your penalties in various ways, including longer potential jail sentences, longer DUI class programs, longer license suspensions, and increased fines as compared with a first-time offense. Respectiviely, first, second, and third offenses carry the following maximum penalties: jail time of 6-months, 1-year, 1-year; DUI class length of 3 months, 18 months, 18 or in rare instances 30 months; license suspension of 6 months, 1-2 years, 2-3 years; and a $2,000 - $3,000.00 maximum fine in all cases.
- A 4th-offense DUI:This is an automatic felony if the other 3 DUIs took place within 10 years of the fourth one. The fines and fees can amount to $3,000.00 or more You may spend up to 16 months in jail, have your vehicle impounded for 90 days or outright confiscated, lose your license for four years, and have to attend a 18 or 30-month-long alcohol treatment program. Note that wet reckless convictions also count as priors for a fourth-time DUI. And even a single prior felony DUI will result in an automatic felony charge for a subsequent arrest. Also note that any out of state DUI or wet reckless driving convictions that would have counted as priors in California can also be used against you.
- DUI with injury/death:If you cause the serious bodily injury or death of another person during your DUI incident, you will almost certainly face a felony charge. However, if the injury is not as severe, it could be a misdemeanor charge. Felony DUI with injury is punishable by: a minimum of 16 months in state prison, full restitution to the victim or his/her legal heirs, a fine of $2,000.00 to $5,000.00, DUI class for 18 to 30 months, and a maximum 5-year license suspension. A misdemeanor-level DUI with injury is punishable by: from 5 days to 12 months in county jail, full restitution to all victims, from $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 in court fines, and 3, 6 or 9 months of DUI classes. Note that, with DUI causing the death of another, you can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter or even "Watson Murder" (second-degree murder), which charges would bring extremely harsh punishments if you are convicted.| Please see this website for more information.
- DUI with property damage:If you are charged with a DUI and an accident was involved in the incident, you will have to go through a restitution hearing and pay full reimbursement for all property damaged in the accident. That is, if it can be shown that you were the at-fault party, which is not automatic just because you were driving under the influence of alcohol. You may also get a bill from the LAPD or CHP, requiring you to pay to reimburse the city for the arresting officer's time spent arresting you and investigating your case. And, if anyone was injured in the accident, you will have to pay their medical and other expenses caused by the injury if you were at fault.
Possible Defense Strategies
Many may assume that it is virtually impossible to fight a DUI, and especially a DUI where one or more aggravating factors were allegedly involved. However, this is simply false. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we fight and win all manner of DUI cases on a regular basis, including the "tough cases" like aggravated DUIs.
We use many defenses and always "custom build" each defense based on the details of the particular case. It is also true, however, that many basic types of defenses are used successfully over and over again, in case after case.
Below, we look at some of the possible defenses against an aggravated DUI. Some of them are also defenses against any DUI; others are an attempt to disprove an alleged aggravating factor to effectively reduce the aggravated DUI to an "ordinary" DUI, which will have a less severe sentence.
- Police misconduct: If you were stopped without reasonable suspicion and or arrested/searched without probable cause, other than at a DUI checkpoint, we can likely get your DUI case dismissed. Also, if evidence used against you was obtained by an unlawful search and seizure, the prosecutor may have an uphill battle in trying to convict you..
- Unreliable BAC testing: A blood or urine best result with .08 or higher BAC is not an automatic win for the prosecution. It is possible that the test was not administered correctly, that the testing equipment was not properly maintained, or that the blood sample was improperly stored and became contaminated. Additionally, if you barely broke .08, an independent re-test could easily show a lower BAC.
- Still-rising BAC:If there was a sufficient legnth of time between your being pulled over for DUI and having your BAC blood or breath test completed at the police station, it is possible that the test result may be incorrect. If your blood-alcohol content was still rising when you stopped your vehicle, that could mean it was lower while you were driving. Given enough of a time gap, you might have been under .08 while behind the wheel though you later tested at or above .08.
- Lack of cause for the injury:If another person was injured or even killed in a car accident in which you were involved while DUI, that does not automatically prove you caused the accident. It could have been the weather, a mechanical failure, or even the other driver's actions that led to the accident. If the prosecution cannot establish cause, you may not be able to be convicted of DUI with injury or death.
- You did not refuse the chemical test:It may be that you had a medical condition or other valid reason for not submitting to a chemical test at the time of arrest. The officer may only have assumed you were simply refusing it. In that case, a good lawyer may be able to get the sentencing enhancement for refusal of the chemical test dropped.
- Lack of hit and run:If you were not aware, nor could you reasonably have been expected to be aware, that your driving had caused an accident, then you did not intentionally leave the scene of the accident and are not guilty of hit and run.
There are many other defenses, each tailored to the specific aggravating factor attached to the charge, and we don't have room here to list them all. But suffice it to say that Los Angeles DUI Lawyer attorneys know how to find the weaknesses in the prosecution's case and how to build you a solid defense.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we combine a in-depth familiarity of how the Los Angeles DUI process works with an undying tenacity that never settles for anything less than the best possible outcome for each client we serve.
Contact us today, anytime 24/7/365, for a free DUI consultation and immediate attention to your case. You can reach us at 424-281-3020.