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When Does a Person Face Enhanced Penalties for DUI in California?

California Aggravated DUI Offenders Face Longer ClassesEvery DUI case is different. Depending on the severity of the situation, which caused you to get pulled over, you may be facing harsher penalties than someone who committed a similar offense. You may be facing jail time, stiff penalties, and significant fines if you’re convicted of a DUI, no matter what the circumstances are, but there are some situations where the court will seek enhanced penalties, which go above and beyond the fundamental punishments traditionally handed down for DUI convictions.

A person may face enhanced penalties when one or more of the following situations occurred:

1.     Priors

First-time DUI offenses are serious, but if you’ve been convicted of a DUI within the last 10 years, the state will be harder on you. A second (or more) offense within 10 years will likely subject you to the following penalties:

  • Minimum Jail Sentence. For second-time DUI offenders, California law carries a mandatory minimum of 96 hours to one year in jail, which may include house arrest or work service hours. The more DUIs a person’s had in the past ten years, the harsher the minimum jail sentence will be.
  • DUI School. This court-ordered DUI educational program will cost you above and beyond the fines you pay to the courts and the DMV.
  • License Suspension. Each DUI beyond the first increases the amount of time the state of California will suspend or revoke your driver’s license.

Two priors within ten years still constitute misdemeanors. Three or more priors within a decade makes the new case #4, a felony offense, which are subject to time in the state penitentiary.

2. A High BAC

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is what the police use to determine whether you were under the influence when you were behind the wheel. A BAC of 0.08 percent usually equates to approximately one drink per hour, depending on various elements such as body weight and food consumption. In California, your BAC is considered high if you measure 0.15 percent or higher, in which case you’ll likely face enhanced sentencing charges.

3. Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing

When you’re initially pulled over, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer prior to an arrest. In fact, if you’ve been drinking, that is often a wise choice. Once you’ve been arrested, however, you no longer have this right. You are expected to submit to the officers’ demands for a chemical test. Naturally, you can refuse, but doing so will probably result in increased jail time, in addition to increased administrative license penalties for refusing to comply.

4. Speeding and/or Reckless Driving

The State takes the severity of your actions as they relate to the innocent public very seriously. You’ll likely face enhanced DUI penalties if you were caught driving excessive speeds and had a BAC over 0.08 percent.

In California, you can expect enhanced penalties to be handed down if you were driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit at the time the officer pulled you over if you were on a surface street. On highways, the threshold is 30 mph or more above the posted speed limit, even if no accident or incident occurred.

5. Child Endangerment

If your car had a minor child in it at the time of your arrest, the courts will likely seek child endangerment charges. This is a serious situation, which can impose a number of increased penalties. For purposes of child endangerment in DUI situations, California defines a minor as anyone who is 13 years of age or younger.

6. Accident or Injury

If you caused damage to someone’s property during the course of your drive, the act of driving under the influence may trigger a more severe penalty. Depending on the jurisdiction you were in, it may cause you to be charged with a completely different offense in lieu of—or in addition to—your DUI. If someone was harmed and incurred physical injuries as a result of your actions, your situation may be elevated to a felony offense.

It’s essential to hire an experienced DUI attorney if you’re facing enhanced penalties for a DUI. If the prosecution has grounds to pursue these charges, you’ll want someone on your side who can fight for the best possible outcome; this isn’t something you can do alone.

Jon Artz is a California DUI lawyer who’s been representing his clients in court for over 40 years. He’s an expert in DUI law and works diligently to ensure his clients achieve the best possible scenarios for their individual cases. Check out his California DUI video series, and reach out to him if you’re ready to schedule you’re initial consultation!

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