Aggravated DUI Charges in California
In California, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeding .08%. Aggravated DUI charges carry harsher penalties than regular DUI charges. Typically, DUI charges get treated as misdemeanors, but aggravated DUI is a felony.
Getting convicted of aggravated DUI often results in significant penalties. Thus, it’s best to secure representation from an aggravated DUI attorney. At the Silver Law Firm, our aggravated DUI attorneys can help defend your rights and help you navigate this difficult time in your life.
What is Aggravated DUI?
California law defines aggravated DUI as driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing another offense. This is indicated by “aggravating influences” that are either present or occur when the incident happens, resulting in more severe charges. Besides proving the elements of a typical DUI, additional circumstances must also be present.
While the BAC limit for private motorists is .08%, commercial drivers can face aggravated DUI charges if found with a BAC exceeding .04%. Moreover, California has “zero tolerance” laws that bar drivers under 21 years from driving with a BAC exceeding .01%. An aggravated DUI conviction in California requires actual driving.
In some states, you can face DUI charges for being in “physical control” of a motor vehicle while under the influence. In such jurisdictions, actual driving is sufficient evidence but not necessary to get convicted. California law treats DUI charges differently, and you can only get convicted if caught driving rather than being in actual physical control.
How Aggravated DUI Sentencing Works
California law generally outlines sentencing guidelines for motorists convicted of aggravated DUI. A judge can impose a range of penalties when handling aggravated DUI cases. Various circumstances determine the allowable range, including the facts of the case and the defendant’s record. Within this applicable range, courts use aggravating and mitigating factors and circumstances to determine the appropriate sentence. These factors also come into play when plea bargaining with the prosecution.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
Typically, when you get charged for a DUI offense in California, you’ll face a plea bargain. Nonetheless, various aggravating and mitigating factors can result in additional or lesser punishment.
Factors That Contribute to an Aggravated DUI
In California, a first-time DUI charge often gets treated as a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, certain situations can result in enhanced DUI charges and an upgrade of your offense to a felony. The factors that contribute to an aggravated DUI in California include:
- Getting involved in an accident with another car while driving under the influence.
- Getting involved in an accident and injuring someone else.
- Having a BAC exceeding .20%.
- Having children below 14 years while driving with a BAC exceeding .08%.
- Refusing to take a blood or breath test.
- Being on probation for another case.
- Having a suspended or expired driver’s license, or not having a California driver’s license.
- Having prior DUI convictions within a short time.
- Speeding at 20 to 30 mph over the prescribed limit, or driving recklessly.
- Getting involved in a hit-and-run accident while driving under the influence.
Aggravating factors in DUI cases are the circumstances that increase the severity of the charges and your culpability, warranting harsher penalties. The judge and prosecutor can get dissuaded from being lenient with you even if you don’t have prior DUIs but have a significant criminal record for other offenses.
Mitigating Factors for DUI Sentencing
Mitigating factors in California DUI cases are circumstances or facts that lessen your culpability, warranting more lenient sentencing. For instance, aggravated DUI charges can be reduced if you were impaired by a lawfully prescribed medication. Other mitigating factors for DUI sentencing in California include being barely over the legal BAC limit and completing a voluntary substance abuse treatment program after the arrest.
When these circumstances are present, prosecutors and judges may look to factors like whether you’re a good student or gainfully employed. After that, they will decide to offer a plea bargain or a lighter sentence.
Implications of a DUI Charge
Like any criminal conviction, an aggravated DUI conviction has significant implications. The potential penalties of a conviction primarily depend on the number of previous convictions. Aggravated DUI charges typically attract harsher penalties and punishments than typical DUI charges.
An aggravated DUI arrest, regardless of the basis of your conviction, has a range of consequences. These include a driving ban, a fine, and a jail term. If you’re a first-time offender, the court may issue a penalty of $390 to 41,000, alongside a four-month driver’s license suspension. You may also be sentenced to jail, undertake community work, attend DUI school, or have an ignition interlock system installed in your car. The exact punishment you face will depend on the circumstances of your aggravated DUI case.
If you have a prior DUI conviction on your record, an aggravated DUI violation can result in a three to five-year jail term, a one-year driving ban, or a $1,000 fine. Moreover, you will face harsher penalties if you had a significantly high BAC (over 0.15%), were traveling 20 mph or more over the legal speed limit, or had a child below 14 years in the vehicle.
While DUI charges in California typically get tried as misdemeanors, aggravated DUI gets prosecuted as a felony. The repercussions will be far more severe if you get charged with felony DUI. A felony DUI arrest can result in a jail term of up to three years in a California state jail. Furthermore, an arrest that results in probation can necessitate criminal probation and monitoring by a probation officer.
Only three situations allow California prosecutors to prosecute felony DUI. For starters, a California DUI resulting in death or severe harm to the victim can get charged as a felony or vehicular manslaughter in more severe cases. A fourth DUI conviction may result in criminal prosecution, and every future aggravated DUI case may get filed as a felony if you have a prior felony DUI record.
As with other criminal matters, felony DUI cases often get plea-bargained down. Prosecutors may start a prosecution by submitting criminal charges. Nonetheless, after pinpointing evidence flaws and negotiating with the defendant’s attorneys, prosecutors can lower the accusation to a misdemeanor while considering a guilty or no-contest statement.
DUIs With Fatalities
Aggravated DUI offenders who cause another person’s death get prosecuted under California’s murder or vehicular manslaughter laws. Defendants in this situation can be charged with:
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence.
- Negligent vehicular manslaughter while under the influence.
- Second-degree murder.
Penalties for DUI vehicular manslaughter can vary significantly. A misdemeanor negligent vehicular manslaughter while under the influence can result in a maximum jail term of one year and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. Conversely, a second-degree murder conviction is regarded as a felony and is punishable by a 15-year jail term.
DUI Child Endangerment in California
Under California law, if caught driving under the influence with a child under 14 years in your car, you will be charged under Penal Code 273 (a). Also known as the child endangerment statute, driving with a child below 14 years can be added to your DUI conviction.
Based on the circumstances of your aggravated DUI indictment, including your driving pattern, you may face a maximum jail term of six years. If convicted, you can lose custody of your children. Nonetheless, it’s best to remember that these are essentially the punishments for child endangerment. You will get punished for your initial DUI charges besides the child endangerment charges.
Get Help for Aggravated DUI
California has some of the most complicated DUI laws. A conviction can lead to harsh penalties. Depending on your prior arrest and conviction record, a conviction for aggravated DUI can lead to a maximum sentence, administratively and criminally. The acquittal rate for a driver’s license revocation in California is impossible and could be a result of a history of multiple DUI arrests and convictions.
In aggravated DUI cases, California considers previous arrest and conviction records. Thus, you can expect harsher penalties if you’ve had prior convictions for both DUI categories. In addition, the criminal and administrative penalties for repeat DUI offenders who cause significant property damage or inflict property damage are often higher.
How to Avoid a Conviction
An aggravated DUI conviction can turn your life upside-down. The most significant aspect of your defense is hiring an experienced attorney to defend your aggravated DUI charges. The attorneys at the Silver Law Firm have a deep understanding of California’s DUI laws governing conviction, appeal, plea bargaining, and sentencing.
If you or a loved one is facing aggravated DUI charges in California, you may feel unsure of what to do. These charges can have a significant impact on various aspects of your life. Finding an aggressive DUI defense attorney is critical to working towards a favorable outcome in your case. Here’s why you need an attorney when facing aggravated DUI charges in California:
They Provide Legal Counsel
A lot will run through your mind when you get arrested for an aggravated DUI offense. The police will undoubtedly want to speak to you, but that has its downsides. Your statement can be used against you, so it’s best to speak to an attorney before you record a police statement.
A DUI defense attorney from our law firm can provide valuable advice that helps you navigate your case. They will answer all your questions and be present when you provide the police statement. An attorney can make a difference in determining the outcome of your DUI case.
A Conviction Jeopardizes Your Reputation, Freedom, and Future
Aggravated DUI is a felony. A first-time conviction can result in a significant jail term, hefty fines, and a driver’s license suspension. A conviction also stays on your criminal record, which can impact your school and employment opportunities. In addition, a conviction can impact professional licenses.
An Attorney Can Help Reduce or Dismiss Your Charges
Thanks to the complexities of aggravated DUI cases, any oversight can lead to a conviction. There’s no better way to lessen or quash your charges than having a California DUI attorney. At Silver Law Firm, each case gets assigned to aggressive DUI attorneys who will pursue your case to the bitter end.
We will assess the circumstances of your case to determine whether the police made procedural errors. We can also pinpoint gaps in the evidence or sobriety tests to have your charges lessened or dismissed. Aggravated DUI charges may also involve additional charges involving illegal possession, thus the need to hire a California DUI attorney to handle your case.
You Could Qualify for an ARD Program
If you’re a first-time offender, you could qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. After completing the program successfully, you can petition the court to dismiss your charges. Even so, it’s best to remember that ARD isn’t always an excellent solution. You’re better off taking your chances at trial if the prosecutor’s case is flimsy. Our attorneys can advise you on the best course of action and help you apply for ARD if you’re eligible.
An Attorney Will Explain Your Options
Navigating the California court system can be nerve-wracking. Pleading guilty right away may be tempting. For most people, it is the easiest option to conclude their case. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t plead guilty before you speak to an attorney.
With an attorney, it will be easy to explore your legal options and make an informed decision. An attorney from Silver Law Firm can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to help lessen the impact of your aggravated DUI charges on your life. If the case goes to trial, your attorney will prepare a foolproof defense strategy that secures a favorable verdict.
Contact a California DUI Attorney
Contacting a DUI attorney from the Silver Law Firm is your best bet against jail term or spending a chink of your savings on court fines. We are familiar with the technicalities of aggravated DUI cases and can help defend your charges and secure a favorable outcome.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an aggravated DUI and is facing charges, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to representing you and securing the best possible outcome.