Fourth Offense DUI / Felony DUI
There are several ways in which a California DUI may be filed as a Felony DUI known as VC23153 (a). For example, if the DUI (even on your first offense), involved an accident in which the victim sustained serious injuries (GBI) or death. A second example is if you receive a DUI and your prior DUI was a felony DUI, or if you have three prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years, thus making this your fourth DUI, then it may also be filed as a felony DUI. This is known as VC23153(a) and VC23153 (b). In this article we will focus on the latter which is the three prior DUI's or wet-reckless convictions within the last 10 years making your current arrest a fourth DUI charge.
California Felony DUI involving Prior DUI Convictions
In California, in order to be charged with a felony DUI you must have at least three prior convictions of DUI in California or in any other state in which that DUI would also be classified as a DUI conviction if the prior had happened in the state of California. This also includes each time a person may have also been convicted of a wet reckless or similar type of disposition. A wet reckless is classified as a prior DUI if it happened within the last 10 years of the current DUI that you were arrested for. It is also very important to note that since other states classify pleas differently and use different verbiage for DUI plea bargains that these out of state cases need to be carefully examined to determine if they will be classified as a “priorable” offense. For example a wet-reckless may be called a wet negligent operator, these dispositions must be carefully examined to determine if they can or will be used by the prosecution as a prior or if it may be possible to have it stricken as part of an agreement.
Prosecutors Proof of Previous Convictions
In order for the prosecutor to show proof that you are guilty for a 4th offense felony DUI under this specific category the district attorney must establish the following. First, that you drove or were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Second, while you were in physical control of a motor vehicle they must establish that you had a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. Lastly, that you have suffered or been convicted of at least three prior convictions under the vehicle code sections as listed previously in this article within the last 10 years. This period of 10 years is often referred to as the look-back period. The prosecutor can use an array of different methods to prove that you were actually convicted of a prior DUI. The prosecutor may use previous court records or a copy of a Department of Motor Vehicle record, which would show previous license suspensions due to prior DUI convictions. The court may also obtain any certificate of completion from any court-ordered alcohol or drug program that would also show prior convictions of driving while under the influence. In most cases the prosecutor will obtain California records that would be used to prove any prior California DUI or any prior convictions of a wet reckless, similarly the prosecutor would normally rely on DMV and court records to show proof of any out-of-state DUI convictions.
Aggressive Defense of a 4th DUI Charge
As with most cases the lawyers at the San Diego DUI Attorney Law Firm will use every technique possible in a fourth DUI case to first try to reduce your DUI charge or to dismiss your case outright. If it is determined that an outright dismissal isn't possible then the attorneys will work meticulously to review each prior DUI or wet reckless conviction to see if any of the priors could possibly be changed or challenged based on a procedural or evidentiary errors. Because a fourth DUI is a felony DUI it is very important that every angle of your case be looked at to try and increase any possibility that any subsequent conviction or even a prior DUI could possibly be stricken from your what record. By doing this in-depth analysis of your priors the long-term goal is to substantially reduce your sentence and may be able to reclassify your DUI back to a misdemeanor type of DUI charge.
In many cases when dealing with a 4th offense DUI you must look at every legal option and leverage any legal options that you have. For example, many times we will use and outside third-party to retest your blood to determine if it was an accurate blood alcohol content. This is even more common in cases in which the blood alcohol level is close to .08%. The attorneys at the San Diego DUI Law Firm have worked closely with local agencies (for example Utica Technologies) that are trusted in the retesting of blood sometimes referred to as blood splitting. A second technique that is often implicated in these types of cases is the use of a private investigator. The investigator will work as a team member with your legal counsel to interview any possible witnesses, arresting officers, or revisit a crime scene or accident scene. The use of these additional measures is very important when working on a defense for a felony DUI. The key in any DUI case is to uncover as many material facts that can benefit us, and to leverage these technicalities to assure the best possible outcome for your case. Another strategy and useful tool in dealing with a 4th offense DUI when you have historic prior DUI's is the use of a psychologist. Our Law Firm has teamed up with Dr. Judith Myers who has over 20 years of experience as a psychologist to do an alcohol and brain evaluation. Her evaluation and report can have a tremendous amount of leverage when dealing with and attempting to achieve the best possible result in a DUI case in which the defendant shows a pattern of alcohol or drug behavior. It is very important that before any steps are taken that your attorney works closely with you in determining whether or not this type of evaluation would be beneficial to your case.
4th DUI Penalty and Sentence
The penalty for driving under the influence in California for any type of a DUI can be very harsh. However, the penalty for a California felony DUI can be a life-changing event. When a California felony DUI is a result from having 3 multiple prior convictions of DUI within the last 10 years, the punishment can vary from case to case depending on certain factors of each case. Some of the factors that the prosecutor may look at are the facts surrounding your specific case, for instance if your driving behavior placed the public at imminent risk due to a high BAC level. They may also look at the level of your blood alcohol on your prior DUI cases to determine if there are any additional aggravating factors. The prosecutor may also be looking at how many prior DUI convictions you have had even outside of the 10-year look-back period and what the conditions of those DUI's were and what the prognosis of those cases were. The sentencing guidelines for a fourth DUI are as follows:
1) A sentence of 16 months, a presumptive of 2 years and a maximum of 4 years in a state prison.
2) A base fine of $390 to $1,000 plus court cost.
3) You will be placed on a Habitual Traffic Offenders status for a period of three years.
4) A revocation of your California driving privilege for a period of four years.
In California a felony DUI that stems because of multiple convictions of Prior DUI's are aggressively prosecuted and require a special legal defense. The lawyers at the San Diego DUI Attorney Law Firm have over 29 years of experience defending cases in both San Diego and Orange County. If you or someone you know is facing a fourth offense DUI please have them call our office to schedule a free initial consultation with our firm.