If you face your third DUI offense, the court will view you as a habitual offender and treat you differently than in previous DUIs. This means the consequences of a conviction are severe, much more so than with a first offense DUI.
Our lawyers explain the kinds of penalties you can face if you get convicted. Even though the law isn’t on your side, the more you know about the consequences you face, the better chance you have to adequately defend yourself against your charges.
What Counts As a Third-Offense DUI?
If you have two previous DUI convictions within the past ten years on your record, they will count as “prior” DUIs, which would make your current offense your third offense. Fortunately, DUI arrests that didn’t result in a conviction won’t count as a prior DUI offense.
However, other offenses such as a wet reckless, can also count as a prior DUI offense. The ten-year window goes back from the date of your arrest. Just as in your previous DUIs for the first and second offense, both the California DMV and the criminal justice system will handle your third DUI.
Administrative DMV Penalties for a Third-Offense DUI
The DMV will automatically suspend your license if you don’t get a hearing within ten days of receiving your suspension notice. Penalties related to this suspension include your license getting suspended for a minimum of one year, potential “restricted” driving privileges after a 12-month waiting period, and required SR-22 insurance which can be extremely expensive.
How Do DMV Administrative Hearings Work?
You should request a DMV administrative hearing immediately after your arrest or you risk having the suspension go into effect in just ten days. Although the DMV process is not part of the court system, you still have rights:
- You can request to have your hearing in person rather than over the phone. This is beneficial to you as the defendant.
- You can hire an attorney to represent you throughout the DMV hearing process.
- You can require the presence of the officer who arrested you at your hearing to answer questions. Doing so can significantly help your DMV case. It can also reveal new information and weaknesses to your case that you can use as part of your defense.
When you request a hearing, the DMV can’t suspend your license until the hearing is over. This provides you with extra time while you build a strong defense. If you win at court, you might not end up getting your license suspended at all. It’s 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-Offense DUI?
There are several serious criminal penalties you can face for a third-offense 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 anywhere between $390 to $1000. However, the court could also place additional “penalty assessments,” which will raise your total substantially. Some third-offense 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 the law deems you as a dangerous driver, you will face extra penalties every time you get caught driving on a suspended license, and you will carry this status for three years.
- You will be required to attend a set of DUI classes that lasts 30 months.
- By law, you will have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car. These costly devices require you to submit a breath sample at random times or your car will turn off.
- You are likely to face alcohol treatment, drug treatment, or other court-ordered penalties.
- Your DUI offenses will stay on your driving record for ten years. If you get arrested for DUI again with your prior offenses on record, it will count as your fourth offense, which is an automatic felony in California.
It is also highly likely that you will face sentence enhancements if you didn’t agree to take a chemical test for your BAC, if you caused an accident or injured anyone, or if there are egregious circumstances surrounding your case.
Will I Have to Go to AA or Rehab?
Yes, if you get convicted of a third DUI, it is very likely that the judge will order you into one of the following programs:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 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 have 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 SCRAM bracelet that can detect when you’re drinking. These penalties are not pleasant, and almost all of them cost you money.
DUIs Can Negatively Impact Your Life
DUIs, especially if it’s your third offense, can seriously impact your life for years to come. Many people severely underestimate the extent of the negative impacts a third-offense DUI can have on their lives. Many people who have a third DUI conviction on their permanent record often:
- Lose their jobs or can’t find meaningful work
- Have reduced opportunities for education or financial assistance
- Rejection from serving in the armed forces
- Difficulty filing for custody of children
- Higher insurance premiums
- Permanently losing the ability to drive depending on the circumstances
All of these consequences can prevent you from living a normal life. A third-offense DUI is definitely not something you want showing up on your record. That’s why you’ll want to get a lawyer to help you as soon as possible.
Is It Possible to Beat Third-Offense DUI Charges?
Yes. Although repeat DUI offenders typically don’t get 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.
Can I Avoid Jail Time for a Third-Offense DUI?
If you get convicted of a third-offense DUI, you may not always have to serve time in jail. As mentioned previously, the judge could order you to go to rehab. If you fit the requirements, you can use rehab as an alternative to spending time in jail.
Additionally, if you qualify and the judge gives their approval, you can carry out your jail sentence at home under house arrest. However, avoiding jail time for a third-offense DUI isn’t easy. You and your lawyer will have to present a convincing case if you don’t want to go to jail.
Should I Accept a Plea Bargain?
The prosecution may offer you a plea bargain early on to entice you to settle your charges quickly. While plea bargains may look like an attractive offer to take, you should always be cautious of them. The prosecution has zero incentive to make their plea bargains fair and can trick you into accepting a one-sided deal.
Don’t sign, agree to, or discuss anything with law enforcement until you get a DUI lawyer to help you. Our lawyers have years of experience and can review the terms of your plea bargain for you. We will always make sure that you get a fair deal.
Talk to Our Los Angeles DUI Attorneys Today
Don’t let third-offense DUI charges ruin your life. You have a lot to lose by getting convicted. Instead, contact our Los Angeles DUI attorneys today to learn more about all of the legal options you have for your case.
Schedule an appointment for a free consultation at no risk or obligation. We are available 24/7 to provide you with assistance.