While a 3rd DUI offense in California is still a misdemeanor like the first and second, it attracts heftier penalties that would include a longer jail term and heftier fines. You could also lose your driving license to suspension or revocation, depending on the circumstances of your situation. Thus, you must fight your charges if you face a third DUI offense in Riverside today. Our experienced criminal attorneys at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm are ready to walk you through the legal process. We could develop a strong defense against the charges to cause the jury to reduce or dismiss your charges.
The California DUI Process
DUI remains one of the highly prosecuted offenses in California. Alcohol and drugs impact a driver’s ability to drive safely. Thus, several lives are at risk if one or more drivers are allowed to drive while intoxicated. California has been at the forefront in the fight against drunk driving than most states. It has some of the most stringent DUI laws in the country. A conviction for drunk driving will result in numerous repercussions, including serving time behind bars and paying a hefty court fine. A damaging criminal record will affect various aspects of your life, including your efforts to find suitable employment.
You could face arrest for drunk driving in California at any time. Law enforcement officers are always on the lookout and ready to arrest if they suspect anyone of driving while intoxicated. But, most DUI arrests occur after a traffic stop, whether at a random stop on the road or a DUI checkpoint. The police organize the latter to stop and investigate motorists for DUI randomly. An unexpected stop on the road requires the police to have probable cause. You could have committed a traffic infraction or are driving in a manner likely to suggest that you are under drugs or alcohol.
When the police stop you for a DUI investigation, an officer will ask you several questions to gauge how you respond and study your physical appearance and behavior. The officer will make a DUI arrest if he smells alcohol from your breath, your speech is incoherent, or you admit to taking a few drinks before starting the journey. The officer could also ask you to perform some tasks, like taking a few steps along the sidewalk or trying to stand on one leg. You are not obliged to perform these random DUI tests.
You will face arrest if the officer suspects that you are operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The officer will take you to the station, where you must undergo a DUI test. You could take a breath or blood test. A breath test will reveal the presence of alcohol in your breath and provide an approximate amount of alcohol in your blood, or BAC. If the officer suspects that you are on drugs and not alcohol, a breath test will not be necessary. The officer will quickly obtain the required warrant to conduct a blood test.
If you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer would book you and detain you in jail. You will soon face criminal charges for DUI.
The officer will hand over your case to a prosecutor, who then determines your charges and files a case against you in a criminal court. You could face charges for a first, second, third, or fourth DUI, based on how many DUI convictions you have on your criminal record. The outcome of your trial will determine the consequences you will likely face and whether you will have an additional record in your criminal history.
A Third DUI Offense
DUI is a priorable crime in California. If you have been arrested for DUI, your charges and penalties after conviction will depend on the number of DUI charges on your criminal record in ten years. Therefore, a third DUI offense means having two prior DUI charges in ten years. The first three DUIs are misdemeanors in California, even though they attract different penalties after a conviction. Even though they face misdemeanor charges, first offenders will likely face more lenient sentences after conviction than a third offender.
If you are facing 3rd offense DUI charges in California, the prosecutor must prove these elements/facts beyond reasonable doubts for the court to find you guilty:
- You were driving a particular vehicle, whether a personal car, bus, taxi, or truck
- You were doing so while under the effect of drugs or alcohol, a violation of Vehicle Code 23152(a), or
- Your blood-alcohol concentration at the time was at or greater than 0.08%, a violation of Vehicle Code 23152(b)
- You have two previous DUI convictions within ten years in your criminal record
Once the prosecutor can prove these facts, the court will find you guilty, and you will be sentenced to penalties the judge will find fit for your situation.
Having a 3rd DUI conviction on your record is a big deal. Other than the hefty penalties you will likely face, it brings you closer to a felony conviction if you repeat the offense within ten years. A felony conviction comes with even graver penalties, including a possibility of losing your driver’s license to revocation by the DMV.
Thus, you must fight your charges if you face a 3rd DUI charge in California. A competent criminal attorney will use smart defense strategies to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
DMV Administrative Hearing
Your third DUI arrest could follow a hearing by DMV if you wish to keep your driving privileges. DMV is the body responsible for issuing driver’s licenses in California. Anyone who commits an offense requiring a suspension or revocation of their driver’s license must request an administrative hearing by the DMV within ten days of their arrest. The hearing will determine whether you will keep your driver’s license or lose it temporarily or permanently.
A third DUI offense in California could result in your driver’s license suspension for three years. You will not be allowed to drive within this period. But, you can defend your driving privileges by winning the DMV hearing.
DMV hearings are not as formal as criminal court proceedings. They are conducted in DMV offices and presided over by a DMV officer. DMV officers do not have the training and experience of criminal court judges. They only make final decisions on matters like these based on the defense you put against your license suspension.
You can have legal representation during a DMV administrative hearing or not. DMV will not appoint an attorney for you if you do not have an attorney and cannot afford one.
You can also opt to attend the administrative hearing in person with your lawyer or have your lawyer attend it on your behalf. Physical appearances in administrative hearings are not a must. You can choose to have the hearing conducted over the phone.
During this hearing, the officer will determine the gravity of your DUI offense to decide whether DMV will suspend your license or allow you to keep driving. Some of the issues the officer could address are:
- If the officer had probable cause to stop and investigate you for DUI
- If the officer had probable cause for your DUI arrest
- If your blood-alcohol concentration was more significant than the standard allowed
- The number of previous DUI convictions or DUI-related convictions in your record.
Having an attorney to defend your license could significantly impact the decision of the DMV officer. For example, your lawyer can convince the DMV officer that the police did not have probable cause for the arrest or that the breath test results can not be relied upon to provide an accurate BAC. If the DMV office accepts your attorney’s arguments, you will keep your driver’s license.
Remember to request an administrative hearing within ten days of your arrest. Failing to do so will result in an automatic suspension of your license after 30 days. When the police arrest you for DUI, the officer confiscates your driver’s license and gives you a provisional license to use for only 30 days. You must defend your license against suspension to avoid losing your driving privilege after 30 days.
If you win the administrative hearing, the DMV officer will set aside the license suspension until the end of your criminal case. The officer’s decision is not always final regarding driver's license suspension or revocation. A criminal conviction for DUI results in license suspension. Thus, you could still lose your license if you lose in the criminal trial. If you win the administrative hearing and are lucky to win the criminal case, you will not worry about losing your driving privilege. That is why you need to work alongside a competent criminal attorney.
Penalties for a Third DUI Offense Criminal Conviction in California
As previously noted, a third conviction for DUI within ten years is a misdemeanor. If the court finds you guilty of a 3rd DUI, you will likely receive the following penalties. Note that this list of penalties is not conclusive. The judge can give you more or less, depending on the circumstances of your situation.
- Misdemeanor/summary probation for three to five years
- One-twenty days to a year in jail
- Court fines and penalty assessments could range from $2,500 to $3,000
- A requirement to install an IID for at least two years
- Completion of a DUI rehabilitation program for 30 months
- Suspension of your driver’s license for at least three years
You will be able to convert the suspended license to a restricted driver’s license after eighteen months. A restricted license allows you to drive to specific places, like work and school.
The judge will lift the license suspension if you agree to have an IID installed in your vehicle right away. An IID will collect your breath sample from time to time. If you have consumed even the least amount of alcohol, the car will not start. Installation of an IID device should be in all the vehicles you drive.
Misdemeanor probation allows you to serve part or your entire jail term out of incarceration. However, you will be given strict probation conditions that you must abide by. Some of the conditions the judge could set for you include:
- You must not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol or drugs in your system
- You must submit to regular DUI testing throughout the probation period
- You must not commit any crime while out on probation
Under specific circumstances, you could be required to:
- Join a rehabilitation program like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to help with your addition
- Participate in particular campaigns against drunk or drugged driving, like Mothers Against DUI
- Pay restitution to victims of a crime you committed while operating under the influence
Penalties for a 3rd DUI offense will be graver if there are aggravating circumstances in your case. Aggravating circumstances will increase the severity or culpability of your criminal actions. Examples include:
- Having an excessively high BAC of up to .15% or higher
- Declining to take a chemical test after a DUI arrest
- Causing an accident while operating under the influence
- Having a minor of under 14 in the vehicle as a passenger while you are drunk driving
- Being an underage driver and driving under the influence
- Speeding while driving while intoxicated
Each aggravating circumstance carries additional penalties that you should serve consecutively with penalties for the underlying offense. For instance, drunk driving with a minor under 14 could cause additional charges for child endangerment. If found guilty of both third DUI and child endangerment, you will face separate penalties that you must serve consecutively.
Possible Defense Strategies for a California Third Offense DUI Charge
A 3rd DUI charge carries severe penalties upon conviction. Luckily, you can fight your charges using some legal strategies. Having an attorney to put up a fight against your charges in court could make a whole lot of difference. You should convince the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges with the right legal strategies. Some strategies you can use in your situation are:
No Probable Cause for Your Arrest
As previously mentioned, California law requires police officers to have probable cause for pulling a motorist over and making a DUI arrest. If you believe that the police randomly stopped and investigated you for DUI without probable cause, your attorney could convince the jury to dismiss your charges.
If you were stopped at a DUI checkpoint, there should have been clear criteria that officers were using to stop vehicles. If you believe that the officers did not follow it the night of your arrest, you can use that to have your charges dismissed.
For instance, it could be that the officers at the checkpoint were stopping every fifth vehicle at random. But you were stopped even though you did not fall on the criteria, maybe because of your physical appearance.
After a DUI investigation, officers needed probable cause to make a DUI arrest. If you feel that they did not have any reason to make that arrest, then you can have the judge dismiss your charges.
The Police Failed to Administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Correctly
The police administer field sobriety tests immediately after stopping a motorist on suspicion of DUI. They include a series of mental and physical exercises that enable the officers to determine if you are operating under the influence. The police rely on these tests to decide whether to arrest a motorist for DUI. If you perform poorly in these tests, it could signify intoxication.
However, field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Officers must administer them correctly for the best results. Adverse conditions could make it difficult for the officers to administer these tests. The law requires the police to ensure that certain conditions are suitable whenever they conduct these tests.
For instance, if the police require you to walk a few meters, they must ensure that the surface is okay and that you are not in danger of falling. The walking surface must be dry, level, hard and non-slippery. If walking is uncomfortable, you could fail the test even though you are not under the influence.
Officers should also ensure that the surface is well-lit. You should see the officers and the ground you are walking on clearly. It is a challenge to complete a sobriety test when it is dark, even when you are sober.
You Had a Medical Issue
Medical-related issues could make it difficult for a sober person to drive. Thus, if the police stopped you because of how you were driving, it does not necessarily mean you were operating under the influence.
For instance, it could be that you started feeling dizzy in the middle of the road and were only looking for a safe place to stop before the police pulled you over. Or, you could be on medication that made it difficult for you to drive as a sober person would. Some drugs can impair a person's ability to drive and even perform some field sobriety tests.
In that case, your attorney will prove that you were indeed unwell and that your illness was misconstrued as impairment. That could compel the judge to dismiss your charges.
The Breathalyzer Delivered Inaccurate Results
The police commonly use breathalyzers to test motorists for intoxication and provide an approximate BAC result. However, they are not always accurate and could provide misleading information. If you believe that the breathalyzer used to determine your BAC was faulty, you can fight the results in court to have the judge dismiss your DUI charges.
Breathalyzers must be calibrated throughout to ensure accurate results. Over time, they stop working how they should, and calibration fixes that. If the police fail to calibrate these machines, they could result in incorrect BAC results. Your attorney can find which device was used to test your BAC, the manufacturer’s calibration requirement, and the police maintenance records. That should provide the court with the evidence needed to have your BAC results thrown out of the court.
Sometimes breathalyzers give incorrect BAC results due to programming issues. These machines have software and hardware, just like other devices. If they are not correctly programmed, they could produce incorrect results.
You Had Rising Blood Alcohol
A person’s BAC continues to rise even after they have stopped drinking. When you start drinking, the level of alcohol in your blood increases rapidly. It continues to increase until it reaches a level where it remains the same for 30 minutes to two hours. You could be driving with a relatively low BAC, only for it to shoot by the time you are taking a DUI test. It does not mean you were driving with a high BAC to begin with.
Rising blood alcohol is a very common defense strategy for people facing DUI charges in California. The police do not administer DUI tests on suspects immediately after arrest. They administer them after arresting the driver and taking him/her to the station.
DUI tests are considered valid if they are administered within three hours of an arrest. Some people’s BAC will still be rising or at the peak by the time they are taking the test.
An experienced criminal attorney can use this defense to have your BAC results thrown out of court.
Find a Competent Criminal Lawyer Near Me
It could be the most challenging period if you face a 3rd DUI charge in Riverside. A third DUI offense is a big deal, even though it is still a misdemeanor. It carries severe penalties, including time in jail, hefty fines, and a possibility of losing your driver’s license. But, a competent criminal attorney can develop a strong defense against the charges to have them dropped or dismissed. Our team of skilled and experienced attorneys at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm is willing to handle your case. We have handled cases like these before. Thus, we have the strategies needed to produce a favorable outcome for your vase. Contact us at 951-946-6366 for more information and legal guidance.