When you drink and drive, you are not only reckless and negligent, but you are endangering your life and that of others. This is the reason the state discourages drunk or drugged driving on our roads to protect the public from accidents that cause unwanted injuries and sometimes death. The state has stringent laws aimed at discouraging motorists from drinking alcohol or any intoxicant and driving. When you want to drink, then do not drive. Instead, take a taxi back home to avoid prosecution on a drunk driving offense and also save your life. When accused of intoxicated driving, finding an experienced attorney to fight the allegations may save you from being punished. When charged in Harrison Park, call San Diego DUI Attorney and we will passionately defend you to avoid a conviction.
Understanding DUI Laws
Standard DUI allegations are typically prosecuted as misdemeanors in California. The penalties for an offense depend primarily on whether the defendant has a prior conviction or if injuries were sustained. Aggravating factors are also taken into consideration when prosecuting a DUI offense because they increase the penalties a defendant faces even when it is their first offense.
DUI charges are priorable over ten years. This means your DUI record is kept over this period, and any subsequent offense you commit from the first one receives harsher penalties. For instance, a first-time offender, although prosecuted on misdemeanor charges, gets lesser sentences than third-time misdemeanor offenders.
DUI offenses can also change from standard misdemeanors to felonies. When a defendant repeats the offense for the fourth time, it automatically becomes a felony. This is irrespective of whether there was an aggravating factor or not. The offense can also be a felony if the defendant caused an accident that injured other persons, and their injuries were significant.
In as much as the first three offenses are misdemeanors, they can also become felonies when aggravating factors exist. The penalties when convicted on a felony offense are harsher than when convicted on a misdemeanor crime. When convicted of the offense, it alters your life because the other consequences can make life even harder for you. Fighting against a conviction is always crucial in avoiding these consequences. Hiring a Harrison Park DUI Attorney to represent you increases your chances of winning your case.
There are three categories of DUI offenses based on the circumstances of the crime. These are:
- Standard DUI offenses
- Underage DUI offenses and
- Commercial DUI offenses
Standard DUI Offenses
These are the typical DUI offenses that are charged on individuals driving regular vehicles and are over 21 years. When a motorist is below 21 years and found to be drunk driving, they are prosecuted as underage DUI offenders.
Standard DUIs involve a grown-up driving a regular vehicle intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. The first three DUIs, as earlier stated, are prosecuted as misdemeanors as long as no aggravating factors exist. For every repeat offense in ten years, the penalties increase from the previous ones. The penalties or standard misdemeanor DUIs are:
- Fines and other penalty assessment costs ranging from $390 to $18,000
- County jail sentencing from two days to 365 days
- Driver’s license suspension by the court for six months to three years. This is besides the suspension by the DMV
- Probation sentence for three to five years
- Attending a DUI school for a minimum of three months to a maximum of thirty months.
- Fitting your vehicle with an IID gadget
These punishments are not as easy as they may seem, making it essential to avoid a conviction by fighting the allegations.
When the evidence for drunk driving is overwhelming against you, your Harrison Park DUI Attorney will fight to have you sentenced to misdemeanor probation. Although you will still get a record, a probation sentence is one of the best outcomes in a DUI case. When sentenced to probation, it means you continue with your life as you were before without disruptions of a jail sentence.
However, a probation sentence comes with various conditions that must be adhered to. If your probation officer reports that you violated any of the terms of your probation, you risk jail time when the probation gets revoked. Some of the conditions for a probation sentence are:
- Attending a DUI school and completing it
- Not to drive with any amount of detectable alcohol in your system
- Not to commit any other crime while on probation
- If you are to drive, you must have installed your vehicle with an IID and have a restricted license. If found driving a car without an IID, you violate the probation terms.
These conditions, among others, must be adhered to. If you violate any of them, your probation officer will report to the court, and a probation hearing is scheduled. This hearing is critical because you can get your probation revoked and a prison sentenced given in its place. During the trial, your Harrison Park DUI Attorney will argue your case to the judge not to cancel the probation.
After listening to the prosecutor’s and your lawyer’s argument, the judge will make a ruling to:
- Revoke the probation and issue a prison sentence
- Increase the probation terms to become harsher or
- Allow you to finish your probation under the same conditions.
When facing DUI charges for the fourth time in ten years, you will be prosecuted on felony charges. A conviction on the offense will earn you the punishments below:
- Fines and penalty assessment expenses ranging from $390 to $18,000
- State incarceration for sixteen to thirty-six months
- Suspension of your license for four years or less and a possibility of its permanent revocation
- Gain a convicted felon title
DUI Resulting in Injuries
When a defendant is charged with drunk driving that leads to an accident resulting in injuries, the offense becomes a wobbler. One can be charged with a misdemeanor if they have no criminal record or a prior DUI, and the injuries are not severe. On the other hand, when the injuries are significant with a record, the offense becomes a felony. The punishments for a felony conviction are:
- Fines and penalty assessment fees that range from $390 and not over $18,000
- Paying restitution to the victims that sustained injuries
- State incarceration for sixteen to thirty-six months
- Suspension of your license for four years or total revocation
- Earning a strike
Factors that Increase Your Punishment
Even with the above-discussed penalties, some elements, when present during the arrest on a DUI offense, can increase the sentence you receive. These factors enhance your sentence irrespective of whether it is your first or fourth offense within ten years. Some common factors are:
- When your BAC is found to be at or over 0.15%
- When a defendant declined to agree to a chemical test
- When the defendant caused an accident while drunk driving
- When the defendant was moving at high speeds beyond the legal limit
- When the defendant had a minor below 14 years in the car as he or she was arrested for the DUI
- When you are underage and arrested for drunk driving
When the above elements or factors are present during your arrest, the penalties are more stringent. Hiring a Harrison Park DUI Attorney to represent you and fight to avoid the steep penalties is beneficial to you.
Commercial drivers are held at higher regard compared to their regular counterparts. Obtaining a commercial driver’s license takes more training than standard drivers. When a person gets this license, it means they want to work as common carrier drivers. It, therefore, means driving is not for running errands or going from one place to another, but it is their source of livelihood. With this in mind, they must protect their license from any punishment against it as much as they can.
A commercial driver must never operate their commercial vehicle when their BAC level is at 0.04% or higher. According to the regulations, a commercial driver cannot refuse to take a chemical test to determine their BAC levels. If they do, it means they admit to being guilty of drunk driving.
When a commercial driver is charged with a first DUI offense, they are prosecuted on misdemeanor charges just like a first standard DUI offense. Aside from the penalties equivalent to those of a standard DUI offender, a commercial driver gets their license suspended for a year when found guilty.
For a repeat offense, however, the penalties are steeper. When charged with a second DUI as a commercial driver, your license will be permanently revoked. This means that you will not work as a commercial vehicle driver again.
Unfortunately for a commercial driver, one does not enjoy restricted driving, and your employer is informed of the conviction in thirty days.
Commercial drivers can also be jailed when convicted of this offense. The jail time sentence depends on the violation and the circumstances of the crime. These penalties for commercial drivers are steep, and the consequences even worse. Getting a Harrison Park DUI Attorney to fight against a conviction will also save you from these consequences. The possible jail time sentences faced by commercial drivers include:
- If the driver were driving a commercial vehicle carrying hazardous materials at the time of a DUI arrest, they would face a possible three years imprisonment for a first offense
- For a subsequent offense under the same circumstances, the defendant will receive life imprisonment
- Commercial license holders that use their license to carry controlled substances, they will be found guilty of a felony and will receive life imprisonment.
California has a zero-tolerance rule against underage drinking. When a person below the age of 21 gets arrested for drunk driving, they will face charges according to VEH 23136. When arrested, a chemical test is carried out to determine the BAC level. Minors are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.01%.
Any person in violation of VEH 23136 will have their license suspended for a year. If the offender keeps repeating the offense, their license can be suspended for two or more years.
A minor can also face VEH 23140 violations when found driving with a BAC of 0.05% or more. This is what is called underage DUI. When a minor gets stopped, they must submit to field sobriety tests. On failing these, they are arrested, and a chemical test gets administered. When the BAC levels register 0.05%, the minor gets charged with underage DUI.
This violation is an infraction meaning the defendant will not face jail time. However, the defendant will meet the following penalties when found guilty:
- When the offense is their first, their license gets suspended for a year
- A first offense attracts a fine of not more than $100 and
- A compulsory attending of a DUI alcohol program for a minimum of three months.
When a minor is found to have a BAC of 0.08% or over, they will be prosecuted as an adult on standard DUI charges whose penalties were discussed earlier.
DUI Plea Bargains
Plea bargains are essential when faced with a DUI offense. A plea bargain is a negotiated alternative to having a trial. A plea bargain discussion is held between your Harrison Park DUI Attorney and the prosecutor, and it involves:
- Having your sentence reduced or
- Having your charges reduced
For you to have your sentence reduced, you are required to plead no contest or guilty of a DUI offense. In return, you receive the negotiated penalties. This saves you the uncertainty of the sentence that will be imposed on you by the judge if found guilty.
To have your charges reduced, however, it will require you to take a guilty plea for a lesser offense. The negotiation to have your charges reduced is also between the prosecutor and your defense attorney. Usually, the charge will carry lower penalties and stigma compared to a DUI conviction.
Benefits of a Plea Bargain
When your defense attorney negotiates for a plea bargain, you stand to benefit in various ways. Some of the advantages of a plea bargain are:
- You are likely to get a lesser sentence and
- You don’t have to wait to know your punishment because you know it in advance
Getting your charges reduced also has certain benefits such as:
- You will not receive a mandatory suspension of your license
- Your offense is not priorable, meaning it will not be considered when sentencing you for a subsequent DUI offense.
Common Charge Reductions
While negotiating to have your charges reduced, your attorney will ask that you are charged with the following offenses instead:
Wet Reckless VEH 23103
This is the name given to a standard DUI when it gets reduced. This is another name to mean reckless driving. When charged with this offense, your record will include a note indicating the conviction involved the use of drugs or alcohol. This is what differentiates wet reckless from dry reckless charge.
Being charged with wet reckless has various advantages that include:
- Although the DMV can still suspend your license, the court will not order your license to be suspended
- If you are sentenced to jail, the period is shorter ranging from 5 to 90 days
- The fine you are asked to pay is lower ranging from $145 to $1,000
- The probation period when sentenced is shorter normally between a year and two
- Attending DUI school program for a shorter period, usually six weeks
This offense means you plead guilty to reckless driving that does not involve the use of alcohol. This is a better offense to be charged with compared to the standard DUI offense. The penalties, in this case, are also less harsh and they include:
- Being sentenced to misdemeanor probation lasting between one and five years
- County imprisonment for not more than three months
- Fines not exceeding $1,000
A dry reckless is a better plea deal compared to wet reckless because it does not have a note indicating alcohol use. This offense is also not priorable in comparison to wet reckless charge. Your experienced DUI Attorney will work towards getting this plea deal wherever possible.
The advantages of being convicted on a dry reckless charge are:
- When you are a repeat offender, you do not receive a sentence enhancement due to the fact
- Your jail sentence if given is shorter
- You are sentenced to a shorter probation period
- The fine charged is lower
- You do not have to attend a DUI school
- You will not have the court suspend your license
VEH 23109(c) Speed Exhibition
Driving at extremely high speeds that are dangerous to show off or impress someone is a crime. When it comes to DUI offenses, this is a common offense used in plea bargains. Although the crime has nothing to do with drunk driving, it is nevertheless used in DUI plea bargains because it carries lesser penalties and consequences.
Find a Harrison Park DUI Lawyer Near Me
A DUI offense can leave you confused and frustrated when faced with the charges. A conviction means you have a criminal record even when the crime was seemingly minor. A criminal record comes with severe consequences that can have a lasting impact on your life. This makes it critical to fight against these charges when accused of them. A DUI lawyer can help you overcome the charges by representing you during your trial. When arrested in Harrison Park, the San Diego DUI Attorney will aggressively defend you against the allegations to get a favorable outcome. Call us at 619-535-7150 and schedule an appointment with us.