Driving under the influence is a serious offense that authorities treat with a lot of seriousness. Even those charged with DUI for the first time may be required to pay hefty fines and court-ordered penalties, as well as adhere to harsh probation terms, or even face time behind bars.
A fourth DUI conviction can lead to the heftiest of fines and penalties, the most stringent probation terms, as well as the longest time behind bars. If you or someone you know is fighting charges for a 4th offense DUI, you should consult a proficient DUI defense lawyer.
At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we can offer top-notch defense services if you are facing 4th offense DUI charges. Don't jeopardize your image by trying to defend yourself in court since it’s challenging to fight these charges if you don’t have a legal background. If you do not seek legal advice, you run the risk of compromising your rights throughout the trial, and the court could penalize you with the most severe penalties possible.
What Constitutes a Felony Fourth Offense DUI?
The prosecution often charges 4th offense DUI as a felony. In other cases, you could be charged with a misdemeanor for a fourth offense DUI. If the prosecution has the belief that your lawyer will readily refute the evidence demonstrating that you had 3 or more previous convictions, particularly if the earlier offenses were charged out-of-state, they may choose to file misdemeanor charges for the 4th offense of DUI against you. Misdemeanor 4th offense DUI charges are far less severe than felony 4th offense DUI charges.
According to California's criminal statutes, a felony is considered a crime for which the judge can sentence you to time in jail for more than one year. If the prosecutor finds evidence that you had 3 or more previous DUI offenses or another DUI-related violation within the last 10 years, you will be charged with 4th offense DUI as a felony. This could involve the following convictions:
- Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, as defined by Vehicle Code 23152 (a)
- Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater, as defined by Vehicle Code 23152 (b)
- A violation of Vehicle Code 23152 (e) which prohibits anyone who holds a commercial driver's license (CDL) from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or higher
- Wet reckless charge, as defined by VC 23103.5
- Driving while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol, as defined by Vehicle Code 23152 (f)
- Any charge for DUI/DUI-related offense that has already been erased
- Any charges for DUI/DUI-related offenses in a different state
How a Driver’s BAC Leads to DUI Charges
To begin with, DUI convictions in California are among the most severe in the country. It could be so given the startling statistics from a 2010 study, which revealed that more than twenty thousand traffic-related incidents were directly connected to blood alcohol levels. In addition, about 2,000 lives were lost in the same year as a result of DUI-related charges. For such reasons, law enforcement officers are permitted to pull you over even if they merely have suspicions of DUI. If officers suspect you have consumed too much alcohol, they may conduct a roadside test.
Because such tests are required by California's current law, if a person does not pass a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test, they'll be charged with DUI. If a person has had three prior DUI offenses in the previous ten years, they will be charged with a 4th offense DUI.
According to the California DMV, there are several violations of law in which an individual cannot operate a car. They include:
- Blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 percent or higher in adults aged 21 or older
- Blood alcohol concentrations of 0.01% for minors under the age of 21
- Blood alcohol content levels of 0.01 percent for people of all age groups who are under a probationary period for DUI
- Drivers of automobiles possessing a commercial driver's license with a blood alcohol level of 0.04%
Law enforcement officers are qualified to carry out a series of procedures to determine whether someone is operating a vehicle while intoxicated. BAC can be tested directly through someone's blood or breath using specialized testing devices. While you have the option to refuse the tests, all California motorists are supposed to automatically submit to alcohol and drug testing when an officer has suspicions that they are driving while intoxicated. If you choose not to take the test, the DMV will promptly suspend your driving license.
A breathalyzer, which detects the alcohol amount in a motorist's breath, is the most commonly used equipment by law enforcement officers to quantify BAC. As blood flows through the lungs every time you take a breath, it forces alcoholic particles to be exhaled. The breathalyzer then detects the particles and calculates the amount of alcohol you have in your system. However, this test has some flaws. Breathalyzers don't take into account the motorist’s body weight, body chemistry, height, or metabolism.
How the Prosecutors Can Prove a 4th Offense DUI
For the prosecution to establish a fourth offense DUI beyond a shadow of a doubt, they must produce convincing evidence showing:
- You were operating an automobile
- You were impaired by drugs or alcohol
- You've been convicted of three or even more DUI/DUI-related charges in the past
Here's a quick rundown of every one of these 3 components:
You Were Driving
The prosecutors have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you had been operating an automobile. Although this element appears to be simple, it's a common source of controversy in most DUI court cases.
According to California's DUI rules, the prosecution must show that you had been driving or physically operating the automobile. You may be able to get acquitted or dismissed if you had been dozing off or browsing on your phone when the law enforcement officer approached you.
Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
The prosecution has two options for proving that you had been impaired by drugs or alcohol. They include showing:
- That you had been physically impaired to operate the automobile
- And that you had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more
It's easier to prove BAC than it is to prove impairment. Prosecutors often try to persuade jurors that the defendant had been impaired by arguing that you displayed certain indicators, like bloodshot eyes, a flushed face, or slurred speech. However, your defense counsel can cast doubt on this information by offering other plausible explanations for your stated 'physically impaired look.'
Using the findings from the blood or breath tests, the prosecution can show that you had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or above. You can counter these allegations by stating that the tests were administered inappropriately. If not, your defense team can employ experts to show the court that the findings exhibited erroneously high positives.
The prosecution is likely to pursue two separate counts of fourth offense DUI, the first founded on a high blood alcohol content and the second claiming physical impairment. This increases their prospects of winning the case.
The prosecution must present solid evidence that you had 3 or more previous convictions for DUI/DUI-related charges to charge you with 4th offense DUI. These past convictions should have occurred within the last ten years.
Prosecutors in California typically rely on documents from the DMV documents to confirm evidence of previous charges. They could also choose to use your DUI educational program fulfillment certifications or attendance documents. Keep in mind that a DUI charge that has been expunged also qualifies as a previous conviction.
Penalties for a Fourth Offense DUI
In California, there are no predetermined consequences for a fourth-offense DUI. The penalties you may face if you are convicted will be determined by the specific conditions of the case.
For a fourth offense DUI, the following punishments are often imposed:
- A 180-day sentence in the county jail
- Sixteen months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
- Fines that can range from $390 to $1,000
- 30-month drugs and alcohol rehabilitation program
- A three- to a five-year probation period
- Extra therapy, such as a drug and alcohol addiction program
Sentence enhancements can be triggered by several aggravating elements. The following are examples of the exacerbating factors:
- You will face a prison sentence increment of at least 16 months and up to 6 years if you are found guilty of having caused another person to die. You could potentially be charged with Watson's murder, and receive a life sentence
- If you cause another person to suffer great bodily injury, you'll incur a further two-year state prison sentence, which could be increased to 6 years when you cause someone else to suffer great bodily harm
- Having a minor under the age of fourteen in your automobile carries an extra state prison sentence or a 90-day jail sentence. The prosecution may also choose to prosecute you with child endangerment charges, which bears a maximum sentence of 6 years in California state prison if convicted
- Excessive speeding carries an extra 60-day jail sentence
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test carries an extra 18-day sentence
DUI 4th Offense Administrative Penalties
When you are arrested for a fourth offense DUI, the law enforcement officer will take your driving permit away from you. Then he or she will give you a seven-day temporary permit.
To save your driver's license, you can seek a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest. When you don't, the driving license may be revoked for up to 4 years by the DMV.
You could apply for another license after the 4 years are up. You'll have to pass the driver's test and pay the license registration fee again. The DMV may also ask for documentation of completion of a DUI educational program, an alcoholism treatment, or a court-ordered probation period. Even though you receive another license, the Department of motor vehicles will need you to have an IID installed in your car. Keep in mind that the price of installing and maintaining the IID will fall solely on your shoulders.
Furthermore, if you are arrested for a fourth offense DUI, the Department of motor vehicles may classify you as a Habitual Traffic Offender. For 3 years, you will need to live with this status. People who've been labeled as HTOs as a result of a DUI are required to have an IID put in their cars. They may be detained and face even severe fines if they operate without an Ignition Interlock Device.
4th Offense DUI Legal Defenses
The defenses for a fourth DUI are the same as for any prior DUI offense. However, since every case is different, not all arguments will work for you. Your attorney's defense strategy will be determined by the details of your situation.
Attempting to discredit the prosecutor's proof or questioning the techniques used to collect the evidence might lead to an acquittal or dismissal. The following are the most generally applicable defenses to a fourth DUI charge:
There were No Reasonable Grounds
For you to be arrested for DUI, you must have been stopped by a police officer who had probable cause to stop you. He or she would have to have a reasonable reason to believe you had been driving while inebriated or violating a traffic law. If you were, the prosecutor can argue that the law enforcement officer did have a valid reason to stop you if you had been:
- Driving slowly
- Abruptly breaking
- Changing lanes frequently
- Failure to recognize and heed traffic indicators
- Taking a wrong turn
- Driving at night with your car's headlights turned off
Due to the general reasons outlined above, a police officer could order you to stop. He or she could find that you were inebriated while assessing your car and arrest you for DUI.
An attorney could show that a law enforcement officer pulled you over unlawfully in several ways. Many California police officials can stop you merely because they suspect you are inebriated or even because they witnessed you leaving a nightclub or bar. All of them are illegal grounds to arrest you.
Inaccurate BAC Testing
According to California's DUI statutes, officers must take particular measures when administering alcohol breathalyzer as well as blood tests. The screening tests, for example, need to be kept in excellent working order and well-calibrated. This is due to the possibility of erroneously high positives if the data is handled incorrectly.
Furthermore, several extrinsic factors could influence BAC readings. Radiation, residue mouth alcohol, and contamination are examples of these extrinsic variables.
Generally, among the most successful defense strategies to a fourth offense DUI in California is claiming inaccurate BAC testing. This defense has the potential to undermine the prosecution's case and improve the odds of a dismissal or acquittal.
Miranda Violations and Illegal Interrogations
An arrested individual can opt to remain silent during an interview by a police officer, according to the protections of the United States Constitution. Generally, before placing you under arrest, the arresting officer needs to remind you of your Miranda rights.
In most cases, law enforcement personnel can question you before arresting you. They can use every inculpatory answer you give against you.
You should work cooperatively with police officers, but that still doesn't imply you need to incriminate yourself. We recommend that you respectfully decline any law enforcement officer's queries and instead call an attorney.
If your lawyer discovers that police conducted illegal interrogations without informing you of your constitutional Miranda rights, he or she might request a suppression proceeding to have the evidence obtained illegally dismissed. As a result, the prosecutors will have inadequate evidence, and the case will be dismissed.
Procedure and Evidence Violations
Certain regulations govern how the prosecution presents evidence as well as how evidence is preserved and handled. During the prosecution procedure for a fourth offense DUI, a variety of complications can emerge. For example, the prosecution may try to introduce character evidence or hearsay, both of which are inadmissible in court.
Any documented evidence presented by the prosecutor during the hearing should be authentic. A recording of the scene of the arrest, for instance, should clearly show the accused and show the correct date and time. Your counsel can invalidate the prosecutor's evidence when there is reasonable doubt about it.
Improper Field Sobriety Testing
When administering field sobriety tests, law enforcement officials should follow particular procedures. If they don't, the test findings could be ruled invalid. A driver with a health or disability issue, for instance, will be considered physically unable to complete the field sobriety tests by the court.
Your defense counsel could also claim that the results of these tests may not always indicate that you had been physically incapacitated. Furthermore, if the testing was done in an unfavorable environment, like amid severe storms, your defense lawyer could be able to persuade the jurors that the officer did not conduct the test properly.
The DMV Hearing
To hold your driver's license, you need to seek a DMV hearing 10 days following your arrest. Hearings at the DMV are usually informal, and they are conducted by a hearing officer.
Even though DMV proceedings are often informal, speaking up for yourself could result in you jeopardizing your driving privileges. Ensure you pick a knowledgeable and trustworthy lawyer to defend you.
During the DMV hearing, you have several legal rights. Among these are:
- Examine and dispute evidence
- Subpoena and present witnesses
- Examine witnesses in depth
- Make a personal statement
When deciding on the results of your case, the hearing officer should take into account several factors. For example, he or she will assess the trustworthiness of the police officer's proof as well as your conduct during the encounter.
Keep in mind that the decision made at the DMV hearing has no bearing on the results of the DUI trial. Nevertheless, when you're successful after the DMV hearing sessions, your lawyer might find it harder to reach a plea deal with the prosecution or persuade him or her to withdraw your charges entirely.
The Overall Cost of a DUI for a Fourth Offense
Calculating the overall cost of a fourth DUI offense could be challenging. A fourth DUI offense charge brings significant penalties and fine assessments, which can reach $10,000. You must also satisfy severe probation conditions to get back your driver's permit, which includes completing a DUI educational course for 30 months, settling your license application fees, and undergoing subsequent drug and alcohol treatment courses.
If you are successful in getting back your permit, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. You will be solely accountable for the charges of the IID installations and maintenance. Again, if you are convicted of a fourth offense DUI, the auto insurance premiums will immediately increase.
Most people feel that defending themselves rather than engaging an attorney will save them from incurring legal fees. This is a misguided belief. If you opt to represent yourself in court, you run the risk of being found guilty and suffering severe penalties that could drain your bank account.
Find a Riverside Attorney Who Specializes in DUI Cases Near Me
DUI attorneys can and often win cases involving a fourth DUI. Even if you are unable to entirely beat the charges, your lawyer can be able to assist you in avoiding time in prison or have the DUI reduced to lesser charges. If it is your 4th DUI, you should contact the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm right away. You can't waste any more time wondering how you can beat these charges. The earlier you contact us, the sooner we can put up an aggressive fight to defend your rights. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days to professionally resolve your legal issues. Call us today at 951-946-6366.