In California, as in many other states, DUIs are treated as “priorable” offenses. A priorable offense is any criminal offense that comes with increasingly harsh penalties for repeat offenders. A second-time offender will face harsher penalties than a first-time offender, and a third-time offender will face even worse penalties.
If you happen to get a fourth DUI, the criminal justice system can treat it differently. Rather than file the charge as a misdemeanor, the prosecutor can choose to file it as a felony. At the felony level, you begin facing time at a state prison and the loss of certain liberties.
Whether you’re facing a first accusation or if you have multiple DUIs, a DUI lawyer can help you. DUI lawyers are experts at examining cases just like yours and finding ways of securing better outcomes for their clients, whether through reduced penalties, downgraded charges, or case dismissals. When you’re ready to speak with an experienced DUI lawyer for free, you can call us at (310) 862-0199 or enter your information on our contact form.
In an effort to curb drunk driving, California law counts other drinking-related offenses as DUIs for the purposes of repeat offenses. You can be treated as having multiple DUIs on your record for any combination of the following:
- Wet reckless convictions in California
- DUIs/DWIs from other states
- Any driving-based conviction from a different state that involved alcohol (including wet reckless convictions)
Typically, the law requires those convictions to be handed down within 10 years of the date of your arrest. An individual who had a wet reckless conviction five years ago will have a DUI treated as a second offense. However, an individual with a DUI 15 years ago can be treated as a first-time offender.
Felony Exception to the 10 Year Rule
Certain DUIs may be charged as a felony. Examples of this include:
- Four of more DUIs in 10 years
- DUIs causing serious injuries or death (particularly if you are found to have exhibited “gross negligence”)
- DUI murder
If you have a felony DUI conviction on your record, you will be charged with a felony DUI for any subsequent charge. Even if your DUI was a “simple” one and your felony conviction was 20 years ago, you won’t be able to avoid a felony charge.
Penalties for Multiple Offenses
Multiple DUIs count as a sentence enhancement to the penalties of a first-time offense, rather than a separate offense altogether. As a sentence enhancement, you’ll face similar types of penalties but with harsher terms.
- Up to one full year in county jail
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Up to two years license suspension
- All your vehicles must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed
- 18 to 30 months of mandatory DUI education classes
- Total court costs of up to $4,000
- Up to one full year in county jail or up to 16 months in state prison
- Three to five years of probation
- Up to three years of license suspension
- IID must be installed in your vehicles
- DUI classes for 30 months
- Total court costs of up to $18,000
Four or More DUIs
The penalties for four or more DUIs in ten years are the same as a third DUI conviction, except:
- You will go to state prison for at least 16 months
- The license suspension may last four years or may be permanently revoked.
- You may be charged as a felon, which results in a temporary voting ban, permanent revocation of your right to bear arms, and a criminal conviction that can’t be expunged.
The above penalties assume that you were arrested for a “simple” DUI. A simple DUI means that:
- No one was injured
- You didn’t refuse a chemical test after your arrest
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) was less than 0.15%
- You were not driving with a child in your vehicle
- There were no open containers in your vehicle
- You didn’t commit any other traffic offenses (e.g., speeding, reckless driving)
Any of these aggravating factors could be used to further enhance the penalties you face. You could be sentenced to longer jail time, longer license suspension, or charged additional fines.
You will also be subject to an administrative license suspension from the DMV within 30 days of your arrest. Any DUI arrest, even a first arrest, can trigger this process. You may contest it within 10 days and could keep your license if you win at the hearing, which happens around 30 days after your arrest.
Getting a DUI Lawyer to Help with Multiple DUIs
While the above penalties for a DUI are harsh, you may be able to negotiate the terms of your penalties, petition for a downgraded charge, or even have your charges dismissed. However, fighting for fairer treatment is not easy. Prosecutors can feel little pressure to negotiate fairly with defendants on their own.
Hiring a DUI lawyer is a great step towards getting the outcome you deserve. Even if you feel your case would be unwinnable, a DUI lawyer can have the penalties reduced substantially. Even having a fourth DUI charged as a misdemeanor rather than a felony can have a positive, long-term impact on your life.
If you’re facing the possibility of enhanced penalties from multiple DUIs, you can contact our knowledgeable lawyers at (310) 862-0199. We can give you a free case evaluation and begin forming a defense strategy for you today!