If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a California driving crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, whether DUI or some other offense, your license (and more) is at risk. It is in your best interests to act as quickly as possible to secure the services of an experienced driving crimes defense attorney.
Not only does a serious driving crime risk getting your license suspended or revoked, it also puts points on your driving record, creates a criminal record, and can even be punished with heavy fines and jail time. There is simply too much at stake to "go it alone" on legal defense or to rely on a lawyer without extensive experience in this practice area.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the plight you are in and the legal obstacles that stand in your way. But we also possess a deep understanding of California law regarding DUIs and other driving crimes and have longtime experience at successfully defending these types of cases.
Call us anytime 24/7 at 424-281-3020, and we will give you a free, no-obligation consultation, and we will waste no time in giving due attention to your case.
California DUI Offenses
In California, a DUI is defined as a violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152a and/or 23152b.
The former statute defines DUI as driving while under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating drug such that your driving ability is thereby inhibited. The latter defines DUI as driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.
For commercial drivers, the limit is .04%, and for those under the legal drinking age of 21, the policy is "no tolerance." No tolerance means any detectable amount of alcohol in your system is a DUI, though more practically, the figure .01% is used.
Most DUI offenses are misdemeanors in California, though DUI with injury, a 4th DUI, and certain other DUIs with "aggravating factors" are felonies.
Having a previous DUI on your record will increase the penalty, the sentencing categories being 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th or subsequent DUI. The look-back period is 10 years from a DUI arrest. Note that wet reckless convictions count the same as DUIs as far as being "priorable offenses." Thus, your "first" DUI conviction would count just like a "second DUI" if you have a previous wet reckless conviction on your record.
Here are the basic California DUI sentencing guidelines:
- 1st DUI: Up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The suspension is from 6 to 10 months, and a DUI School 3 to 9 months long must be completed. You can likely get a restricted license after 30 days that will allow you to drive to/from work and DUI class.
- 2nd DUI: Up to 12 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. A license suspension of up to 2 years, a restricted license being possible after the first year. And 18 to 30 months of DUI class.
- 3rd DUI: Up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine; a 3-year license suspension and a 30-month DUI class. A restricted license is possible after 18 months.
- 4th or subsequent DUI: This is a felony charge. It is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in state prison, a fine of $1,015 to $5,000, a 5-year license suspension, and a 30-month DUI class. A DUI with serious injury would also be a felony and punished the same way.
- DUI with minor injury: For less severe injuries, a DUI with injury can be a misdemeanor. It would be punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, a fine of $390 to $5,000, a 3 to 30 month DUI school, and a 1 to 3 year license suspension.
Given the severity of DUI sentences in California and the long-term affect a DUI on your record could have on your ability to find gainful employment, be accepted for enrollment at a college, or be approved for a rental lease, all DUIs are well worth fighting. This is especially true with repeat and aggravated offenses.
And contrary to popular belief, it is not "futile" to defend against a DUI charge. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we often defeat DUI charges, and even when a dismissal or acquittal is unrealistic, we can win you a reduced charge/sentence.
Common defense strategies we use against a DUI charge include:
- Lack of probable cause for pull-over and/or for the arrest.
- Failure to read you your Miranda Rights before an arrest, or failure to tell you you are under arrest before interrogating you.
- Failure of police to follow proper Field Sobriety Test protocols or breathalyzer protocols.
- The FSTs and/or breath test are unreliable guides to whether or not someone is intoxicated. Exhaustion, nervousness, or foul weather can interfere with FST performance; and medications, mouth wash, or medical conditions can throw off breathalyzer readings.
- The police did not gather, store, and monitor blood samples in accordance with Title 17, leaving open the possibility of contaminated or otherwise unreliable samples.
- You had a still-rising BAC, so that you may have been under .08 while behind the wheel.
- The blood test result was at or near .08, and an independent re-test is showing a reading under .08.
Arguments given above, and others, can often defeat a DUI charge altogether. But in other cases, we can fight for a reduced charge or for more lenient sentencing elements by presenting mitigating evidence in your favor.
We may be able to get a DUI reduced to a wet or even dry reckless charge or challenge the evidence for a previous DUI so as to make a 2nd offense a 1st or a 3rd a 2nd, etc. We can also often negotiate to get you a restricted license, shorten your suspension or DUI School periods, avoid jail time, and lower fines.
"Alternative" sentencing options, like community service, house arrest with electronic monitoring, IID installation, sober-living facilities, and more can keep you out of jail. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we are skilled negotiators and often win these kinds of concessions as part of a favorable plea deal.
Other California Driving Crimes
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23103, "reckless driving" is defined as willfully or wantonly driving with utter disregard for the safety of other people and their property.
In many cases, a DUI charge can be reduced to a wet (or even dry) reckless charge, which will result in a lessened sentence.
Reckless driving is punishable by 5 to 90 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and two points being added to your driving record. However, if an injury occurred or if it is a repeat offense, the sentence will be more severe.
To gain a conviction, the prosecution must prove you were driving a vehicle on a public street or in a parking facility and that you drove with disregard for the safety or others around you. Your actions must have subjected others or their property to "unjustified and substantial" threat of suffering harm. And your actions must have been intentional, though your intent need not have been to cause injury or property damage.
Possible defenses include: an emergency situation or a genuine belief that one existed made your actions "reasonable," lack of intent, and the fact that speeding in and of itself does not equal reckless driving.
When your poor or reckless driving results in the death of another person, under Penal Code Section 192, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. When your level of negligence was beyond "ordinary," you can be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. And if alcohol or drug intoxication was involved, the charge would be gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
As a misdemeanor, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, while as a felony, it can get you 2 to 6 years in state prison. Gross vehicular manslaughter, or any vehicular manslaughter occurring during an accident purposely caused for financial gain, is punishable by 4 to 10 years in state prison. Additionally, a license suspension of a year or more is typical.
Defense include: lack of negligence or gross negligence, lack of intoxication (for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated), and lack of causation of the fatality.
Driving on a Suspended License
Under VC 14601, it is a separate crime to drive while your license is suspended or revoked. This is different from driving without a valid license (VC 12500), which is a lesser offense, or failure to present driver's license (VC 12951), which is a mere infraction.
The sentencing for driving on a suspended license will vary widely based on the particular offense for which the license was originally suspended. When suspension occurred due to DUI or due to being designated a Habitual Traffic Offender, the punishments are particularly severe.
Possible defenses include: license was not validly suspended, you did not drive the vehicle, you were unaware of the suspension, or an emergency situation necessitated your actions.
Evading an Officer
Under VC 2800.1, it is a crime to evade or attempt to evade an officer of the law who is pursuing your vehicle. Failure to stop or any attempt to flee equals evasion. If you drove so as to endanger others and their property while evading an officer, you can be charged with VC 2800.2 (reckless evading of an officer). And if you caused an injury or fatality in the process, you can be charged with VC 2800.3 (evading an officer causing injury or death).
Evading an officer is punishable by 12 months in county jail and a fine of $1,000. For aggravated cases, stiffer sentencing will occur.
Possible defenses include:
- Lack of intent. You did not see the officer or could not safely pull over at the time.
- You had to continue driving due to an emergency situation, perhaps being en route to the ER.
- The police officer was not properly uniformed or not driving a clearly marked police vehicle. Or, there was no siren or flashing red light.
Hit and Run
Under VC 20001 and 20002, you must stop and perform basic duties following an accident. Failure to do so is a "hit and run" incident. VC 20001 covers hit and run causing injury, while VC 20002 covers hit and run causing property damage only.
Hit and run causing injury can be a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. As a felony, it is punishable by up to 3 years in jail plus the same fine.
Hit and run causing property damage only is always a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 6 months in county jail. A separate lawsuit to collect on the damages may also be filed against you.
Possible defenses against hit and run include: lack of intent, you didn't realize an accident had occurred; lack of injury or property damage to anyone but you and your own vehicle; or an emergency situation or inability to safely stop at the scene existed.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have a long track record of winning DUI and other driving crimes defense cases in the Los Angeles Area. Our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers will know how to build you a solid defense and win the best possible outcome to your case.
To learn more or for a free DUI or driving crimes consultation, contact us 24/7/365 at 424-281-3020. We will be happy to assist you!