In California, all drivers convicted of DUI face penalties including jail time, a suspended drivers license, fines, mandatory DUI classes and more. However, California also has a number of “enhancements” that can make the penalties for DUI more severe. Enhancements are circumstances where the law views a DUI as particularly serious, and adds extra penalties accordingly. You have the power to fight an enhancement as well as your DUI itself.
What are the most common DUI enhancements in California?
The most common sentence enhancements include:
- DUI with excessive blood alcohol levels. The normal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving is .08%. If your BAC is much higher, however, it suggests that you were extremely intoxicated and posed a greater threat behind the wheel. Additional penalties are given if the prosecutor can prove that your DUI involved a BAC of .015% and .20% respectively. These enhancements can mean longer license suspension and mandatory alcohol treatment. Read more about excessive BAC.
- DUI with excessive speeding. If you were clocked speeding by an extra 20-30 mph or more, you may face a minimum 60 days in jail. This is substantially more than a normal fist time DUI, which can carry just a few days or jail or even a deal for no jail time at all. Learn more about speed enhancements.
- Refusing the chemical test. After you are arrested for DUI you will be asked to take either a blood test, breath test or urine test. If you refuse, you face higher penalties including a much longer mandatory license suspension. Learn more about refusal.
- Hit & run DUI. If you knew you had been involved in an accident and you left the scene, you can be charged with a separate offense, hit and run, in addition to DUI. California has both felony and misdemeanor versions of hit and run. Learn more about hit & run DUI.
- DUI causing injury or death. If your DUI injured or killed anyone, you will likely be charged with a different, more serious DUI offense. The exact offense depends on how badly anyone was hurt, whether anyone was killed, and how recklessly or negligently you were driving. Many of these charges are felonies, and the penalties may include years of prison time. It’s imperative to fight these charges. Learn more about DUI causing injury, DUI manslaughter, and DUI murder.
- Child endangerment/DUI with children in the vehicle. If you had a minor under the age of 18 in the car, you will face an enhanced DUI penalty even if no one was hurt. If the minor was under 14 years of age, you are likely to face a separate child endangerment charge. Learn about DUI child endangerment.
- Underage DUI. Drivers who are younger than 21 face tremendously different circumstances in a DUI case, because it is illegal for them to have alcohol at all, in addition to drinking and driving. These drivers can be more easily convicted of DUI, cannot refuse roadside breath tests, and face much tougher penalties once convicted, including a year of license suspension. Learn about DUI under 21.
How do I fight a DUI enhancement?
The strategy is different for each specific enhancement. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your lawyer may be able to challenge the legality of the traffic stop, the arrest, or key evidence about the DUI itself. This has the advantage of undermining the entire case against you. If you cannot be convicted of DUI, you cannot be convicted of the enhancement in most cases.
Your lawyer could also work to challenge the evidence of the enhancement itself. In an excessive BAC case this could mean disputing whether the test results were accurate, while in a refusal case it could mean disputing whether police warned you of the penalties for refusing. Any supporting evidence the prosecution is relying on is open to being challenged.
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