What You Need to Know
If you are facing your third DUI offense, the court will view you as a habitual offender and will treat you differently than in previous DUIs. This means the consequences of a conviction are severe—much more so than before. You will spend at least six months in jail and you could lose your license long-term. You need to understand the penalties you face and the defenses available to you.
What counts as a third-time DUI?
If you have two previous DUI convictions on your record in the past 10 years, they will count as “prior” DUIs, making this your third offense. Older DUI charges are not counted as priors. The 10-year window goes back from the date of your arrest.
Certain 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.
Just as in your previous DUIs, your third DUI will be handled by two different processes: the California DMV and the criminal justice system. Each comes with its own penalties.
What are the administrative (DMV) penalties for a third offense DUI?
The DMV will automatically suspend your license if you don’t request a hearing within 10 days of getting the suspension notice (you will usually be given it at your arrest). Penalties related to this suspension include:
- Your license will be suspended for at least one year
- If you are able to apply for “restricted” driving privileges at all, you will have to wait at least twelve months to do so
- To reinstate your license or get a restricted license, you will need to carry expensive SR-22 insurance
You should request your DMV hearing immediately after your arrest, or you risk having the suspension go into effect in just 10 days.
Although the DMV process is not part of the court system, you still have rights:
- You can have an attorney represent you throughout the DMV hearing process.
- You can request an in-person hearing rather than one done over the phone. This is generally good for you as the defendant.
- You can require that the officer who arrested you attend the hearing and answer questions. This can do more than just help your DMV case—it could also expose new information and weaknesses you can use in your criminal defense.
- If you request a hearing, the DMV cannot suspend your license until the hearing is over. This can buy you months of extra time while you handle your criminal defense. If you win at court, you might not end up serving any suspension at all.
It is always in your best interest to have a DUI defense lawyer represent you in the hearing process.
What are the criminal penalties for a third DUI?
The penalties include:
- Mandatory jail sentence of 6 months to 1 year in the county jail. (But be aware there are circumstances where you could face hard prison time instead of jail time.)
- A fine of $390 to $1000. However, the court will also add “penalty assessments” which will raise your total substantially. Some third DUIs end up costing $18,000.
- Your license could be “revoked” instead of suspended. This means it will be harder to get it back even after the suspension period is over.
- You could be declared a habitual traffic offender. This means that you are deemed a dangerous driver, and you will face extra penalties every time you are caught driving on a suspended license. You will carry this status for 3 years.
- You will be required to attend a set of DUI classes that lasts 30 months.
- 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.
- You are likely to face alcohol treatment, drug treatment or other court-ordered penalties (see below).
- Your DUI will remain on your record for 10 years. During that time, if you have another DUI arrests it will count as your fourth offense—which is an automatic felony in California.
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 AA? Will I go to rehab?
Yes, if you are convicted of a third DUI it is very likely that the judge will order you into one of the following programs:
- Alcoholics Anonymous or another alcoholism support group
- A similar twelve-step support group for drug addiction
- A live-in rehab facility
Which one the judge chooses will depend on the nature of your DUI and how severe the judge believes your addiction is. You will also be ordered not to drink or use drugs at all during this time.
You could also face other “extra” penalties. For example, you might be ordered to attend a morgue program where you see firsthand the human cost of drunk driving. Or, you might be required to live under house arrest or wear a special bracelet called a SCRAM which can detect when you’re drinking. These penalties are not pleasant and almost all of them cost you money.
Is it possible to beat a third time DUI?
Yes. Although repeat DUI offenders do not get a lot of leniency from prosecutors or judges, that doesn’t mean you cannot beat them. And since the penalties are so steep if you’re convicted, it’s always worth fighting the charges. A good lawyer will look at several factors to try to win your case:
- Was the arrest legal?
- Were your rights violated at any point?
- How was the breath test, blood test or urine test conducted? Were any rules broken?
- Is there any reason to believe the test results are not accurate?
A good lawyer could help you win your case or could even get the case against you dropped. Or, they could simply get the charges reduced to something much less serious than a third DUI.
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) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.