In the State of California, the criminal offense of driving under the influence (DUI) is taken seriously. Offenders can face serious punishments, including fines, installations of ignition interlock systems, ordered sobriety classes, and jail time. Punishments become more severe with repeat offenses and convictions.
CA Vehicle Code 23550 applies specifically to fourth-time DUI offenders. A violation of this law can result in felony charges and multiple years in prison. To ensure your rights are protected and to have your charges reduced or dismissed, contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney if you are arrested for a fourth time DUI.
California DUI Laws
Driving after consuming substances that impair your driving abilities is illegal in California. The law applies even to over-the-counter and prescription medications. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) outlines the laws governing DUI. It is illegal for:
- People aged 21 years and older driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher
- People under 21 years driving with a BAC of .01% or higher
- People of any age driving with a BAC of .01% or higher if they are on probation for a prior DUI offense
- Commercial vehicle operators driving with a BAC of .04% or higher
- Vehicle operators with paying passengers driving with a BAC of .04% or higher
You can face DUI charges even if you are over 21 and your BAC is lower than .08% if you are observably impaired. For example, officers may pull you over for unsafe driving maneuvers and note your red eyes and slurred speech. They may subject you to a field sobriety test and determine your impairment.
Fourth-Time DUI Arrests Explained
VC §23550 establishes specific parameters for determining a fourth-time violation. First, you must be convicted of DUI. Second, you must have three or more prior convictions for DUI. Third, your fourth conviction must occur “within ten years of the three or more separate violations.”
The three prior DUI convictions prompting a fourth-time offense can be for
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- A wet reckless offense
- A DUI that causes injury
“Wet reckless” is the informal term used to describe the crime a person charged with DUI pleads guilty or no contest to based on a plea agreement. Prosecutors drop DUI charges, which are more serious, and the defendant pleads to the reduced wet reckless charge. Though the penalties for a wet reckless charge are less than what a DUI would bring, the charge remains a prior offense.
Legal Consequences for VC 23550 Violations
Violating VC 23550 is a wobbler offense. This means the prosecutor decides whether to issue misdemeanor or felony charges. Whether you are convicted of misdemeanor or felony charges, your license will be revoked, and you will lose driving privileges for four years.
You will also be designated a “habitual traffic offender” under VC 14601.3 for three years. If you are put on probation for the violation, the court can order you to install an ignition interlock device as a condition of your probation, along with others. For this crime, probation terms are typically five years.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor charges, you may be punished with a jail sentence of 180 days minimum and up to a full year maximum or a fine ranging from $390 to $400.
If you are convicted of felony charges, you may face incarceration of up to three years in state prison and/or a fine ranging from $390 to $400.
Any of these consequences will disrupt your life. If incarcerated, you lose time away from loved ones, employment, or education, depending on your situation. Fines hurt your finances. A fourth-time DUI offense can seriously damage your future employment prospects.
To mitigate this potential damage, secure representation from a skilled Los Angeles DUI attorney.
Defenses for Vehicle Code 23550 Charges
Your lawyer will investigate the circumstances of your arrest and determine the best defense. Though every case is different, there are several defenses your lawyer might choose to argue.
Priors Do Not Meet the Law’s Requirements
You can only be convicted of violating this law if you have three DUI convictions within 10 years of the fourth. Your lawyer may be able to show your earlier convictions occurred outside of that 10-year window.
There Was No Probable Cause
Law enforcement officers cannot stop or arrest you unless there is probable cause that you committed an unlawful act. Your lawyer may show that the police pulled you over without having probable cause.
You Had to Drive
Your lawyer may mount a “necessity” defense, arguing you had a good reason for committing the crime, in this case, driving under the influence. For example, your lawyer may argue you had to drive a sick or injured person to the emergency room or drive to get your child out of a dangerous situation.
After examining your arrest, your lawyer may determine officers did not follow proper arrest procedures, perhaps not reading your rights, or using inappropriate methods to assess your state of impairment.
Your lawyer may argue your BAC results were faulty, as caused by human or mechanical error. There are some medical conditions, foods, tobacco products, and lip balms that can affect breathalyzer results. If your BAC was measured through a breathalyzer, and you have those conditions or consumed those products, your lawyer may be able to argue against the test’s accuracy.
Fourth-Time DUI Offenses Raise the Stakes
You have a lot to lose if convicted of a VC 23550 violation. To mitigate or avoid those losses altogether, you need an expert Los Angeles DUI Attorney fighting for you. With comprehensive knowledge of the law and savvy negotiating skills, your lawyer will implement an effective, precise defense, challenging the prosecution’s evidence and arguments against you.
Do not face these charges alone or with inadequate legal representation. Contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney today and secure the highest-quality defense.