Although California DUI laws forbid drivers from operating or controlling vehicles while impaired, many still drink and drive. If found drunk driving, you may end up paying huge fines, remaining behind bars, and adhering to restrictive probation terms and conditions. A 4th DUI conviction may result in hefty fines and harsh penalties. This is the main reason why you want to work with a DUI lawyer when you or your family member face a 4th DUI charge. The attorney will evaluate the circumstances of your case and offer the best legal help.
Apart from hiring a defense lawyer, you want to learn about the whole process to clear any confusion. Making a mistake in the legal process might have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Below, we outline what you should expect when you face a DUI charge for 4th time in Los Angeles.
Understanding A Fourth DUI Offense
In California, the courts consider a fourth DUI offense as a felony. However, in a few situations, the department of prosecution in California may charge you with a fourth time Driving Under Influence offense, a misdemeanor. The prosecution may only consider your case a misdemeanor when they believe your defense attorney can discredit pieces of evidence showing you had previous DUI convictions, especially when you had out-of-state convictions. Penalties for 4th offense driving under influence misdemeanor are lighter than those for 4th DUI offense DUI felony.
According to California criminal laws, a 4th DUI felony is a criminal crime where the criminal court imposes a state jail or imprisonment exceeding one-year punishment. First, second, third, and fourth DUI offenses may also be charged as a felony when bodily injury or death resulted from the DUI offense. Again, the prosecution charges you for a 4th DUI offense when they prove you faced three prior DUI convictions in the state within ten years before the fourth DUI arrest. The convictions include;
- Driving while influenced by alcohol or drugs
- Any previous DUI-related conviction has been expunged.
- You were operating a commercial vehicle with your BAC at 0.04 percent or more.
The Potential Penalties You Would Face For a Fourth DUI
You have to note that penalties for first-time DUI are the lightest, and they become harsher with each additional DUI. Therefore, the fourth DUI offense carries severe penalties than the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time DUI. Other factors which affect your specific sentence are:
- Having a child below 14 years in your vehicle during a suspicious DUI arrest.
- When another person was killed or injured during the DUI incident.
- The circumstances which surrounded your three previous DUI cases.
- Whether when operating your car while impaired, you put other people at imminent risk of injury or death. The people could be nearby pedestrians, drivers on the road, or passengers in your car.
- The highness of your blood alcohol content, if the BAC is higher than 0.8, your sentencing might become more severe.
Administrative Penalties For 4th DUI Offense
When arrested by the police over the 4th DUI offense, the law enforcement officers will confiscate your driver's license. Afterward, they will issue you with a temporary seven-day driver's license. You need to request a DMV hearing within ten days after the police arrest you. This will protect your driving privileges. Note that if you don't, the DMV will revoke your license for four years.
After four years, you can apply for another license. You will have to retake a driving test and pay application fees for the license. The DMV will also require proof you completed DUI education programs or probation terms issued by the Court. After receiving the new license, the DMV will ensure you install an IID inside your car at your costs.
The Following are the Penalties for a Fourth-Time DUI, Whereby There Was no Significant Bodily Injury
- You will be Imprisoned in county jail for two years, three years, or one and a half years.
- Suspension of your drivers for one, two, three, or four years.
- You pay fines between $ 2000 to $3500. There are additional fees that may reach up to $ 18,000.
- Probation of up to 5 years.
- Attendance of DUI classes for 30 months.
- Your name is written in the habitual traffic offenders list, making your jail time and other penalties for other driving crimes tougher.
- Fourth DUI conviction may lead to revocation of your driver's license rather than suspension. Revocation means your license is suspended for an indefinite period.
The Court Will Hold a DUI Hearing for Your 4th DUI Offense
The court will hold a DUI hearing within ten days from your arrest date. The hearing aims at protecting your driving privileges. DUI hearings are often informal. Although the hearings are informal, you should not risk your driving license by speaking on your own during the hearing. Ensure you hire a competent 4th DUI attorney to provide legal guidance and represent you when possible. Remember, as a defendant, the law ensures you have several legal rights during your DUI hearing. The rights include:
- Cross-examining the available witnesses
- Reviewing and challenging the evidence
- Testifying on your own
The DUI hearing officials consider several issues to determine your case’s outcome. For example, they will analyze the police officer’s evidence and your conduct during the arrest process. It is important to note that the results of the DUI hearing will not influence the outcome of the case during trial. But if you win at the DUI hearing, you and your attorney will have an easy time for a plea bargain and convince the prosecution team to drop your charges.
The Total Cost You Will Spend for Your 4th DUI Offense
Computing the total cost of a 4th DUI offense is challenging. The conviction carries huge fines and penalties of approximately $10,000. Again, for the court to issue back your driver’s license, you should observe the terms and conditions of the probation. Also, you will have to attend a four-week education program, pay your license application fees, and complete a drug and alcohol treatment program. After obtaining your driver’s license, the court will ensure you install an IID device into your car. Remember, you will pay the fee for the IID installation.
Under California laws, a 4th DUI conviction will result in an automatic increase in insurance costs. The conviction may also hinder you from accessing employment opportunities in the future. Most people in Los Angeles believe they can save a lot of money by deciding to defend themselves in court. However, the belief is false. By choosing to defend yourself, you will have a high chance of facing harsh penalties.
What the Prosecution Team Will Prove for Your 4th DUI Charge
When police arrest you over a DUI charge, it doesn’t mean you will face a DUI conviction. To face a 4th DUI conviction, the prosecution team will present strong evidence to prove:
- You have more than three previous convictions for a DUI offense.
- The police arrested you while driving.
- You were intoxicated during the arrest.
Below is the discussion of the three elements which the prosecutor will prove in a 4th DUI offense:
Driving a Car or Commercial Vehicle
The prosecutor must prove you were operating or driving a car/vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they arrested you. Although the element seems straightforward, it becomes a subject of argument in several DUI cases. According to the state’s laws, the prosecution team must show you were operating a vehicle or physical control over the child when the officers arrested you.
Driving While Impaired
In California, the prosecution team must prove two elements of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol:
- Illustrate your BAC was 0.08% or above.
- Show you were driving while physically impaired.
Proving BAC is more straightforward than proving physical impairment. Often, the prosecution team will try to convince the court you exhibited specific symptoms and signs of alcohol like bloodshot eyes, incoherent speech, and red eyes. You may discredit the evidence with a competent attorney by providing reasonable explanations for the alleged physical appearance.
Usually, the prosecution team will illustrate your 0.08% BAC or above by blood test and chemical breath. But, if the police officer conducted the tests improperly, you might challenge the credibility of the results. Otherwise, you may hire an expert to show the results were inaccurate. It’s common for the prosecution team to file two separate charges against you, focusing on a BAC and the other based on the alleged physical impairment. By doing so, the prosecutor maximizes the possibility of winning the case.
Prior DUI Convictions
To face a conviction for the 4th DUI charge, the prosecution team should have enough proof you had more than two previous convictions related to DUI offenses. The three convictions must be within ten years. Generally, the prosecutors rely on the DMV details to show your past criminal records. Again, they may utilize attendance and completion records from the DMV educational program.
Possible Defenses You Might Apply After the 4th DUI Conviction
When facing a 4th DUI conviction, the potential defenses you may apply are the same in other DUI cases. But, not every defense will suit your current case since each crime is unique. Your defense attorney will choose the appropriate defense depending on the circumstance and the facts of your crime. You and your defense attorney may obtain an acquittal or dismissal by discrediting the prosecutor’s evidence. The following are the possible legal defenses you may apply after facing a 4th DUI conviction:
The Arresting Officer Lacked a Probable Cause
The arresting police must have probable cause before pulling you over a suspicious DUI. The officer should have a reason you are driving while impaired by breaking specific traffic laws. The prosecution team must prove the law enforcement officers had a reason to believe you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you were:
- Driving too slowly
- Breaking abruptly
- Illegal turning
- Driving at night time with your headlights off
- Failing to follow roadside signals
After observing the above reasons, the traffic officer may have a reason to move your pull over. While inspecting your car, they may determine you are driving while impaired and place you under DUI arrest. Your defense attorney has several instances where he/she might argue the police pulled you over illegally. Most traffic officers in California may decide to pull you over simply after believing you are impaired, or they observed you exit a nightclub. All these reasons are unlawful ones.
Miranda Rights Violation and Unlawful Interrogation
The law allows you to remain silent during a police arrest. Again, the police officers should read your Miranda rights before your arrest. Usually, the police will cross-examine you before arresting you. Once you have incriminating answers, the officers will use them against you. However, you have to cooperate with them, but it doesn’t mean you have to incriminate yourself. To avoid answering the police questions politely and instead speak with your defense attorney.
If your defense attorney discovers the arresting officers engaged in unlawful interrogation, or they never read you your Miranda rights. In the above case, they can file for a hearing to request dismissal of the illegally acquired evidence. By doing so, the prosecutor will lack enough evidence. Thus the court will dismiss your charges.
Inaccurate BAC Testing
According to California laws, law enforcement officers must adhere to specific precautions when conducting blood tests and alcohol breathalyzer. For example, the blood/urine testing kits should be placed in good condition and be well-calibrated. The reason is due to the fact improper handling of the testing kits may result in inaccurate results.
Other external factors may lead to inaccurate tests. The factors may include residual mouth alcohol, contamination, and radiation. Generally, citing improper alcohol breathalyzer and blood tests would be an effective defense against the 4th DUI offense in Los Angeles. The defense will weaken the prosecutor's evidence, and you will increase the chances for your case's dismissal.
The Field Sobriety Test Were Improperly Conducted
Police officers should follow specific protocols when handling field sobriety tests. Once the officers fail to observe the protocols, the results might be invalid. For instance, the criminal court might consider a car driver with a disability incapable of conducting a sobriety test. Again your lawyer may argue your engagement in the test doesn't necessarily mean you were driving while impaired. Also, if the field sobriety test might have been conducted in poor conditions/environments like heavy snow or rain. In that case, your lawyer might convince the judge the law enforcement officer failed to administer the field sobriety test well.
Violation of Evidence
Specific rules dictate how the prosecution team has to present their evidence and how the presented evidence should be handled and stored in California. Several issues may come up during your 4th DUI trial. For example, the prosecution team might try to alter the evidence. Each recorded evidence presented before the court should be accurate. For instance, pictures of the arrest scene must depict the offender and show the right time and place. In case your lawyer doubts the evidence, the attorney may discredit it.
Can You Still Qualify For Probation After a Conviction For The 4th DUI Offense?
You may assume a fourth DUI offense is an automatic felony, and it requires imprisonment in jail, but this is not the case. Sixty percent of people who previously faced conviction for a 4th DUI in California manage to obtain probation.
In most cases, if the presiding officer is convinced you should be allowed on probation, you may spend six months in jail. Additionally, you may be allowed to participate in alternative sentencing programs, including living at a sober living facility instead of residing in jail. You may also be placed under house arrest equipped with electronics for tracking your whereabouts or wearing a SCRAM around your ankle that checks your sweat for alcohol content and reports the outcome to the relevant authorities.
Other probation conditions include:
- Completing a state-approved education program.
- Doing community service.
- Installing an IID(Ignition Interlock Device) on your vehicle.
The decision on whether to qualify for Probation and jail alternatives depends on the judge handling your case. Therefore, hiring a good DUI defense lawyer will help you know how to obtain these allowances and defend you from facing imprisonment.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If the law enforcement officers have accused you of committing a 4th DUI offense in Los Angeles, you will face a felony or misdemeanor DUI charge. The conviction may result in hectic fines, lengthy jail terms, and strict probation terms and conditions. So you want to work with a defense attorney to help you fight the DUI charges. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we are here to help you fight the charges. Call us today at 310-564-2605, and we will review your arrest, provide legal advice and assist you in building a solid defense to fight your charges.