Aggravated driving while intoxicated or aggravated DUI means that there were factors in your DUI that caused the courts to take it more seriously. In California, these are known as enhancements. State law says a DUI is more serious and may carry harsher penalties when any enhancement is present.
The most common enhancements or aggravating factors are:
- Very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- Excessive speeding
- A previous DUI on your record in the past ten years
- Refusal to take a blood, breath, or urine test after an arrest for DUI
How Does Aggravated DUI Differ from Standard DUI?
You can be convicted of DUI even if no aggravating circumstances or enhancements are involved. A normal DUI means that you either:
- Drove a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or a drug
- Drove a vehicle while you had a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more
The penalties for this kind of DUI include jail time, large fines, a suspended driver’s license, and mandatory DUI school.
Examples of Aggravating Circumstances
If there are aggravating circumstances, the court sees your case as particularly bad. It could mean that you are viewed as posing a serious threat to other drivers (such as excessive speeding), or that you appear to be flagrantly ignoring the law (such as repeat DUIs).
In many cases, state law says you must face a tougher sentence for an aggravated DUI, and the prosecutor will seek that stricter sentence. In other cases, it will be up to the judge whether to show leniency or not. Aggravated DUI can carry additional penalties such as extra jail time, extra fines, and more.
What Are the Penalties Associated with an Aggravated DUI Conviction?
The penalties associated with an aggravated DUI are often far more severe than other types of drunk driving convictions. When you are found guilty of aggravated DUI, it could have a permanent impact on the rest of your life. Some of the top DUI penalties you could face include:
- Your driver’s license could be suspended for an extended period of time. You could also have your driver’s license permanently revoked if you have four or more DUI convictions on your record.
- You may be required to participate in DUI education classes designed to help ensure you understand the risks associated with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- You could be sentenced to a specific number of community service hours. This is unpaid work designed to give back to the community, such as working in a homeless shelter or providing hospital aid.
- You might spend several years in a California jail. However, if your sentence increases to a felony DUI, you might spend 3 or more years in a California state prison.
- Your vehicle will be impounded if you are accused of driving under the influence. If you have a sober passenger in your car, you might be able to avoid hefty vehicle impoundment fees.
Can I Fight an Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated Charge?
Yes, and it is possible to win these cases. However, you need to understand that neither the prosecutor nor the judge is inclined to help you when aggravating factors are present. The prosecutor knows they can get a tougher-than-normal sentence, and they have little incentive to offer you a deal.
The judge, meanwhile, may view your case as particularly egregious and want to be strict at sentencing. This means you need a qualified DUI lawyer who works with you from the beginning to develop a strong defense. Your lawyer may:
- Dispute the accuracy of the chemical test
- Get evidence thrown out if police violated procedures
- Question whether the initial arrest was legal
- Attack the evidence of the aggravating factor, potentially removing it from the case
A good lawyer will whittle down the case against you until it is weak, and the prosecutor either offers you a deal or potentially loses in court. In many cases, they can get the charges dropped or reduced to a much less serious offense.
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