Multiple DUI Charges

Multiple DUI Charges

If you or a loved one are facing multiple DUI charges in California, you may feel frightened and overwhelmed. This can be a scary situation, and you may not have all the legal information you need to defend yourself. Here’s an overview of how the law views multiple DUI offenses in California and why it’s so important to seek the help of an experienced DUI attorney like Ezquerro Law Group in San Diego.

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California Felony DUI — Multiple Prior Convictions

In the state of California, prior convictions for DUI (driving under the influence) are considered “priorable” offenses. This means that multiple DUI offenses accumulate, making the current offense more serious and increasing potential incarceration time (time spent in jail or prison).

If you are arrested in California for drunk driving and you already have three prior convictions in the last 10 years, you will probably be charged with a felony DUI according to California Vehicle Code section 23152 VC. Any convictions for vehicle code violations below can count as “prior convictions.”

Vehicle Code 23152a VC (driving under the influence)

This code prohibits drunk driving, AKA driving under the influence. When a motorist’s physical and/or mental abilities are impaired, they can no longer safely operate a motor vehicle.

When arrested for DUI, a California driver must submit to a breath or blood test. Being over the legal limit of 0.08% BAC (blood alcohol content) can cause additional charges (see Vehicle Code 23152b VC, below). However, it is important to know that you can be convicted of a DUI even if you are within the legal BAC limit if it’s proven that both:

  • You were driving the motor vehicle in question at the time of arrest.
  • You were under the influence of alcohol at that time.

How do prosecutors show that you were driving impaired, even if your BAC was below the legal limit? You might have been driving erratically, swerving, speeding, or driving far below the speed limit. You might smell of alcohol or have slurred speech. You may have trouble walking or fail the field sobriety test. (Note: California drivers are not required to take a field sobriety test as you may fail the vision, walking, and balancing segments for reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption.)

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Vehicle Code 23152b VC (driving with excessive BAC)

This statute makes it illegal to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content) over 0.08%. It doesn’t matter if you are actually intoxicated or if your driving is impaired. Your BAC is determined by a breath or blood test.

Typically, this crime is charged in conjunction with Vehicle Code 23152a VC (driving under the influence) as described above. If you are convicted of both, however, it counts as one DUI conviction.

Vehicle Code 23153 (DUI with injury)

Violating this code means you have been charged with driving under the influence and caused bodily injury through an unlawful act or negligence in the process. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Driving under the influence can mean:

  • Driving under the influence by virtue of circumstantial evidence
  • Driving under the influence as evidenced by a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or above (or 0.04% or above if operating a commercial vehicle)
  • Driving under the influence of drugs

Vehicle Code 23103.5 (a California “wet reckless“)

This is the name for the crime you can be charged with if you make a plea agreement and plead guilty or no contest. “Wet reckless” really means reckless driving, Vehicle Code 23103 in this instance, and the more serious DUI charge is dropped. Your criminal record retains the information about the involvement of alcohol or drugs in the incident. Therefore, a wet reckless is still considered a priorable offense.

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing for a California Felony DUI with Multiple Prior Convictions

Violating Vehicle Code 23152a VC (driving under the influence) is punishable with a wide range of consequences, from probation to jail time, depending on prior DUIs and the county where the defendant is charged. Consequences may include fines, DUI school, and license suspension as well. Penalties can increase with what are known as aggravating circumstances, such as speeding while under the influence, having a BAC of 0.015% or higher, or having a child under age 14 in the vehicle at the time.

Violating Vehicle Code 23152b VC (driving with excessive BAC) may be also punished by a range of penalties, including:

  • Probation
  • Fines
  • DUI school
  • Suspended license
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Jail time
  • Work release

A conviction for violating Vehicle Code 23153 (DUI with injury) can result in a wide range of possible consequences, depending on the individual case, your history of DUI incidents, and whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Possible penalties include:

  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Jail time or state prison time, with additional sentences for great bodily injury or multiple people injured
  • DUI school
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation
  • Strike on your record
  • Restitution to injured parties

If you make a plea agreement to a wet reckless charge, you may still be subject to legal penalties similar to those listed above. You are, however, likely to receive less jail time, lower fines, shorter probation and DUI school, and no court-ordered license suspension. As a reminder, a wet reckless charge still counts as a priorable offense, which can make you a repeat offender if you have another DUI. 

Also remember, with multiple DUI California convictions, the more severe the consequences can be. Penalties increase with your first, second, third, and fourth offense. 

How Does a Prosecutor Prove That I Have Multiple DUI Charges?

Your criminal and DMV records provide evidence of multiple DUI arrests, as well as convictions or “priorables.” When you are charged with a DUI offense, the prosecution has to make a case that you are guilty before you can be convicted. Often they will file two charges, based on your level of impairment and based on the amount of alcohol or drugs in your body (AKA “per se” DUI).

To get a conviction, the prosecutor will prove you were operating the motor vehicle (the motor was running, the keys were in the ignition, you were in the driver’s seat, etc.) and you were impaired. To prove impairment, they may use a breath or blood test for alcohol, a field sobriety test, or documentation of impaired driving. With dash cameras these days, it’s a lot easier to show how the driver was operating the vehicle and that they were indeed the driver.

Defending a California DUI with Priors

There are many strategies an attorney can take to defend you if you are charged with a DUI in California and have priors. First, we make sure the prosecutor can make the case that you were driving under the influence, as described above. We also ensure your rights were respected if you were arrested.

Next, we can try to get the charge reduced. We can also try to challenge prior convictions so they’re less consequential on your record. Striking one previous conviction, for example, means your sentence may be reduced, even if you are found guilty of the current offense.

Protect Your Rights with Ezquerro, a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer!

Have you or a loved one been charged with a DUI in the San Diego area? It’s essential to protect your rights and fight back, especially if you have multiple DUI offenses in San Diego. Ezquerro is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can help you. Call our offices at +1 619-485-8150, or reach out online to schedule a consultation today.

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