What You Need to Know
California treats DUIs as a “priorable” charge. That means that every time you get another DUI, the consequences are more severe than they were with previous DUIs. California saves the most serious and life-changing penalties for a fourth or subsequent DUI. If you are facing your fourth DUI charge, you may be convicted as a felon and could serve years in state prison. You need professional legal help.
What counts as a 4th DUI?
If you have three prior DUI convictions on your record in the last 10 years, and have now been arrested for a new DUI, you are facing a fourth DUI charge. Some other offenses, like wet reckless, also count as a prior DUI for this purpose. On the other hand, DUI arrests (that didn’t result in conviction) do not count.
The 10-year window for determining your record starts from the date of your arrest. Older DUI charges are not counted as priors.
Note that if you have four or more prior DUIs in 10 years—if this new arrest is your fifth time, for example—you will also face the consequences of a fourth time offender, but the judge may be even harsher if you are convicted.
What happens to my drivers license if I have a fourth DUI?
The DMV and the criminal justice system work together to enforce very strict penalties for fourth-time DUI offenders. If you are convicted of your fourth DUI, your driver’s license will be revoked for four years.
Having your drivers license “revoked” is worse than having it suspended. A suspended drivers license means you still have one and simply have to reinstate it when the period is over. A revoked drivers license means you don’t have a license at all. Even when the four years are up, you will have to go through the process of applying for a completely new one. This takes more time, costs more money, and it leaves open the possibility that you won’t be approved for a drivers license at all.
Unlike in previous DUIs, you will not be eligible for “restricted” driving privileges to go to work or other appointments. You cannot drive for the entire four years. You will likely be declared a habitual traffic offender, meaning you will face extra penalties if you are caught driving without a license.
What are the criminal penalties for a fourth DUI?
The penalties include:
- Prison: 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison. In some cases, the judge may grant county jail time instead.
- Fines: Fines and fees that can add up to approximately $18,000.
- Felony status: You will be tried as a felon. If convicted of a felony, you lose many rights that other citizens have, and you will likely have a difficult time finding employment.
- DUI classes: You will be required to attend a set of DUI classes that lasts 30 months. You cannot drive again until you complete these classes.
- Interlock device: You will be required to install an interlock device on your car. These devices are expensive and require you to give a breath sample at random times while driving or the car will shut off.
- Treatment programs: You are likely to face alcohol treatment, drug treatment or other court-ordered penalties (see below).
- Priorability: Your DUI will remain on your record for 10 years. During that time, if you have any other DUI arrests, they will trigger the same harsh felony consequences as this one.
As with any DUI, you will face a sentence enhancement if you refused to take a breath/blood/urine test, if your blood alcohol was very high, if you hurt anyone, or if there are other aggravating circumstances in your case.
Do I have to go to drug/alcohol treatment for a fourth DUI?
Yes, virtually all fourth-time DUI convicts are ordered into some kind of addiction treatment program. From a medical perspective, the state simply assumes that you must have a serious addiction to drive under the influence so many times. From the perspective of your legal defense, however, treatment programs can work both for and against you.
Obviously, being ordered into treatment can be unpleasant. However, accepting treatment also shows that you regret what you did and that you want to get better. And it really can help you clean up your life and get started on a better path. For these reasons, your DUI defense lawyer will often recommend that you seek treatment on your own before you are ordered to do so.
Seeking treatment has several benefits:
- It shows the judge and prosecutor that you are serious about changing, and may influence the outcome of your case.
- If you are convicted, it makes it easier to arrange a deal where you are given alcohol/drug treatment instead of prison time.
- If you voluntarily enter treatment before you are given a court order, you have more control over the kind of treatment you choose.
There are many types of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. This includes simple twelve-step programs and weekly meetings, as well as live-in rehab facilities. Generally, in a fourth DUI you will want to enter into a serious program such as a full detox program. This both shows how serious you are and also maximizes the chances that your treatment will help you.
What are my chances of beating a fourth DUI charge?
No case is unwinnable. Even though a fourth DUI is very serious, the prosecution still has to prove all the same things they would need to prove in a first time DUI case. The court is not allowed to assume you are guilty simply because of your past history.
That means the prosecution must prove that:
- You were driving the car
- You were under the influence (impaired) or had a blood alcohol content of at least .08%
Your defense lawyer can attack both of these claims. In many cases there are problems with the blood test, breath test or urine test and the results of this test can be discredited. Without these test results, proving the case against you may be impossible.
In other cases, police may not have had probable cause to arrest you in the first place, meaning the charges against you can be thrown out entirely.
DUI lawyers can and do win fourth DUI cases. And even if you cannot completely beat the charge, your lawyer could help you avoid prison time or even reduce the DUI to a lesser charge.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.