Many first-time DUI offenders face many challenges when navigating the justice system. Therefore, if you face arrest for a third-time DUI violation, you could experience several challenges as you handle the case. The court could impose additional penalties if charged with a third DUI offense, including higher fines and longer jail sentences.
The main reason for such penalties is because DUI crimes are priorable, meaning that subsequent offenses attract more severe consequences. As a result, you will require the services of a well-experienced lawyer who is conversant with DUI legal defenses and negotiations with the prosecutor to ensure you receive the fairest trial.
Working with a lawyer from The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will provide some of the best legal support and representation you can enjoy in Los Angeles, California. We have engaged hundreds of clients in the past and helped them deal with DUI cases without much difficulty and delay. Moreover, we propose providing individualized services to ensure that all your needs and expectations are met sufficiently.
Elements That the Prosecutor Must Prove for a Third Offense DUI
Upon facing a DUI arrest for the third time within the set period, the prosecutor will enter different charges for your case to get you a more severe conviction compared to previous times. Thus, he/she has to gather sufficient evidence to show that you were involved in a DUI offense for the third time, and are therefore guilty of the allegations.
It is necessary to remember that since DUI offenses fall in the criminal branch of law, the burden of proof-primarily lies on the prosecutor to show your guilty intentions and activities. With such information in mind, your lawyer can plan on the appropriate defenses and negotiation deals to work on with the prosecutor, with your best interests in mind. The main elements for the prosecutor to prove in the DUI case include:
Your Blood Alcohol Concentration was Above 0.08% When Operating the Vehicle
The California Vehicle Code limits all motorists operating vehicles within the state to a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration limit, a failure of which attracts DUI charges. As a result, if you drove a car with a higher BAC level than the set limit, the traffic officers handling your case will have sufficient reason to arrest you for further action. Usually, the officers rely on several tests to gauge your blood alcohol level.
For example, you may be subjected to a breathalyzer test, whereby you blow into a small gadget that records the alcohol concentration in your breath. Alternatively, the officers may require you to undergo a urine or blood test to obtain the necessary processing data. If the results of any subject tests indicate a BAC level of over 0.08%, you may qualify for arrest and detention in the police station for booking.
The prosecutor will mostly rely on your BAC tests' police reports and records to prove that you had surpassed the 0.08% limit. Moreover, it is common for the prosecutor to list the arresting officers as witnesses who will provide additional evidence concerning your arrest. If all the sources used to show the judge accepts a surpassed blood alcohol content, the prosecutor would have successfully proven this criminal element.
Your Physical Appearance Indicated Intoxication
On top of proving that you had surpassed the restricted blood alcohol levels, the prosecutor will also show that you displayed physical signs of intoxication. Usually, he/she will gather sufficient evidence, including photographs, video footage, or even audio recordings, and present them as proof of your intoxication.
Depending on the source of proof, the prosecutor can successfully show that your intoxication had caused significant impairment in your judgment. For example, suppose there is surveillance footage showing your loss of balance, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech. In that case, it will serve as evidence against you, as these physical attributes are well-known indicators of excessive alcohol use.
If the arresting officer also detected a pungent alcohol smell after inspecting your vehicle, he/she may record the findings and decide to include them in the police report. Later on, the prosecutor will rely on such details to corroborate the evidence brought forth to prove that there were physical characteristics of intoxication at the time of your arrest.
Moreover, we recommend remaining calm throughout the testing process, as your behavior can also become evidence of your physical impairment caused by drugs or alcohol. For example, you may refuse to follow the police officers' orders or requests at the roadblocks and even resort to insulting them or uttering disapproving statements. While you may have made such remarks in your drunken state, evidence of you engaging in such behavior will attract additional scrutiny to your case. The prosecutor is likely to include it to show your physical state of intoxication.
Intoxicated Driving Patterns Were Evident Before Arrest
Additionally, suppose DUI checkpoints were at strategic points on the highway where there are good surveillance cameras to record your driving behavior before stopping at the roadblock. In that case, the prosecutor will have additional evidence to prove your violation. For example, suppose footage shows your vehicle braking suddenly, bumping into obstacles on the highway's side, or engaging in different speeds. In that case, the prosecutor will have more proof of your DUI violation.
The driving patterns may also include instances where you hit the set roadblocks at the DUI checkpoint because of improper coordination and detection of impending dangers. Moreover, in adverse cases, you may have also been involved in an accident because of the high intoxication levels that reduce your ability to react adequately in dangerous situations. On top of the separate charges you may face for the poor driving coordination that harms others, you will receive additional penalties under the third DUI violation provisions if the prosecutor succeeds in providing all the required details.
You are a Previous DUI Offender
Lastly, the prosecutor must show that you had engaged in previous DUI offenses that you faced conviction for. In doing so, he/she will establish the correct build-up to charging you with a third offense DUI, based on the records. Typically, the prosecutor does not have a hard time proving this crime element, mainly because he/she works closely with the Department of Justice to collect all relevant criminal records for reference. Upon sourcing the relevant documentary evidence for your case, the prosecutor will present the documents to establish that you qualify for the current charge.
However, you may have a chance of refuting this element of crime by indicating that you did not face a conviction for past DUI arrests, but instead reached settlements with the parties involved. Your criminal defense lawyer should gather all the information you will need to prove your case and show that you were not found guilty of past DUI offenses in court or a DMV hearing.
Penalties for a Third Offense DUI
Once the prosecutor succeeds in proving all the necessary elements of the crime of a third DUI offense, the judge will move towards sentencing you by assessing all the information brought forward and weighing in all the pointers that may weigh in on the verdict. Usually, penalties for a third DUI offense are severe, mainly because you will have violated several restrictions that exist to prevent past offenders from engaging in similar crimes. During sentencing, the presiding judge or DMV officer will check for all past DUI convictions within ten years to ensure that you meet statutory guidelines.
The penalties for a third DUI offense range in severity, depending on your state, and other aggravating factors relevant to your matter. Nevertheless, the following are the prevalent sentencing punishments issued to third-time DUI offenders:
A Jail Sentence
One of the ordinary punishments issued to repeat DUI offenders is a county jail sentence that may range between four months to a year, as the judge will see fit. Your case's facts play a significant role in determining the exact duration your sentence will last, as the judge assesses any outlying circumstances.
Apart from receiving a jail sentence, you may also have to pay some fines for the offenses to act as further punitive measures from the court or the DMV office. Usually, the judge may order you to pay fines ranging between $2,500 to $3000 on top of a $390 base fine depending on the judge or DMV officer's determination. Sometimes, you will also have to pay additional fees as restitution to any injured party. The restitution charges are only relevant if your DUI led to a severe accident that damaged others' property or caused an injury.
Three to Five Years of Probation
A probation sentence is often an alternative for jail terms and penalty sentences that the judge issues to you to encourage reform and rehabilitation. Typically, a probation session for a third time DUI offense may last between three to five years. During this period, the judge or DMV officer who issued the directive will liaise with a probation officer to keep tabs on the orders' engagement. Once an officer is assigned to you, you will have to report to them at an appointed time and provide progress reports for the requirements set.
A probation sentence brings about several directives and restraints to you as the offender and requires you to follow them consistently or risk facing more severe punishment. For example, you should not commit any other criminal offense during your probation period, attracting additional penalties based on your criminal record.
Moreover, you will be obligated to submit to random alcohol and drug tests as directed by your probation officer. The order aims to ensure that you do not take advantage of scheduled tests, which you can easily cheat your way out of. Consequently, you will have to uphold a recurrent habit of staying away from alcohol and drugs throughout the period to reduce the risk of added penalties.
The stringent measures also direct you to avoid driving even with small alcohol traces in your bloodstream, as long as it is measurable in a DUI test. A violation of the probation order will bring about more challenges for you, mainly because you will have additional charges to follow up on your current probation period.
The judge or DMV officer issuing orders may also direct you to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a mandatory duration to aid in rehabilitation. It would be best to partner with your defense attorney to help you keep records of attendance with such institutions. This way, you will have sufficient documentation to present to your probation officer every time you meet for a progress review. At the end of your probation period, the judge may call for a hearing to assess your performance. If you present positive feedback, you will be done with your criminal charges and ready to continue your everyday life.
Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender
Despite completing your jail or probation sentence, you will receive the title of a habitual traffic offender. Such a reputation may result in some inconveniences as you try to get back with your life. For example, since the designation will be in your record, a traffic officer can justifiably place you under additional scrutiny, even in ordinary situations like checking for your license or habitual car stops on the highway. Subsequently, you may find yourself in trouble for minor errors like failure to indicate on time, despite other motorists getting away with a little reprimand from the traffic officers.
Attendance of Mandatory DUI Classes
If the DMV officer or presiding judge determines that you may need additional help and supervision to recover from alcohol and drug addiction, and education on the dangers of driving under the influence, you will attend mandatory DUI classes. The duration may last for up to two and a half years, although you may receive a lower period at the judge's discretion. Each session equips you with information concerning different factors that lead to DUIs and addiction, among other things.
While such classes are beneficial to defendants in need, you may find it challenging to balance your schedule to accommodate the classes. Nevertheless, missing classes or attending will ruin your chances of completing your sentence on time. Thus, we recommend partnering with your lawyer and other supportive family members to help you achieve the mandatory classes on time.
Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
You will also have to install an IID in your vehicle that acts as an alcohol gauge. Essentially, your vehicle's engine will not start until you blow into the breathalyzer connected to the IID system, which measures your blood alcohol levels. With this penalty, you will retain your driving privileges as long as you uphold the trend of driving alcohol-free. In some cases, the installation of an IID is part of the probation process as it helps the probation officer keep track of your alcohol intake. Hence, you are likely to receive the punishment on probation or even after finishing a fine payment.
After violating DUI regulations three times in ten years, you will receive a license revocation as an additional punitive measure. Therefore, you will lose your driving privileges for up to three years, meaning that you cannot drive yourself because of the invalid driver's license. However, you may apply for your revoked license to become a restricted license after one and a half years of license revocation, to provide you some driving allowances with strict restrictions.
Aggravating Factors to Your Sentencing
Sometimes, you could receive the minimum penalty for the Third Offense DUI. However, such an opportunity will not be available if your case has some aggravating factors. When a criminal case has aggravating factors to the facts, it often means that these factors led to severe outcomes not always present in the crime committed. Some aggravating factors in a third DUI offense case include:
You Were Under Twenty-One Years When Facing the Third DUI Charge
The California Penal Code operates under strict administrative per se rules that advocate for zero tolerance on alcohol intake for people under twenty-one years. Consequently, facing DUI charges for driving under the influence of alcohol will attract severe punishment, especially if it is your third time violating the rules. Therefore, you will have little room to justify why you should not receive additional penalties, mainly because the judge may consider your reckless driving under the influence of thrice. Despite this, your criminal defense lawyer will draft persuasive defenses on your behalf to ensure you receive a favorable outcome.
Your BAC Level Was Above 0.15%
Since the standard BAC limit falls at 0.08%, exceeding this margin will become an aggravating factor, primarily if your level goes beyond the 0.15% mark. With such a blood alcohol concentration, you are likely to be severely impaired and could severely damage motorists around you in a car accident. Subsequently, the judge will enhance your sentences depending on the level of alcohol found in the test results.
You Were Driving at High Speeds
On top of driving when drunk, it is a traffic offense to exceed speed limits in certain highway zones. In this case, being intoxicated will not be excusable for the use of high speeds, as the two actions are offenses that pose a plausible danger on the highway. Hence, you may receive additional punishment for using high speed recklessly, on top of being intoxicated.
Refusing to Take a Chemical Test
Moreover, failing to submit to a chemical test counts as an aggravating factor because of the officers' presumably challenges in showing your intoxication levels. The refusal to undergo the tests even after a court order exclusively states that you will also amount to court contempt, as you will have gone against the directives issued. While you may feel like the tests are unfairly subjected to you, we advise you to get in touch with your lawyer or calmly request the reason behind such difficulties. If you remain composed throughout the process, the arresting officers and judge will be less likely to add the refusal as an aggravating factor.
Defenses for the Third Offense DUI
In some instances, the prosecutor may agree to settle on a deal after your lawyer negotiates with him/her. You will not have to prepare defenses because the case does not proceed to trial before a judge. However, it is sometimes difficult to reach a settlement that satisfies you and the prosecutor, primarily because of the severity of a third time DUI offense.
Your lawyer may therefore have to think about preparing defenses to present when the case proceeds to trial. Your criminal defense attorney will go over your case's facts and proceed to gather evidence that includes witnesses, footage, and documents that support your counter-arguments to prevent an unfair conviction. Some of the available defenses include:
Some officers may engage in police misconduct, whereby they alter the accounts entered in the police reports to accuse you falsely. For example, an officer may change your BAC test results to read higher than was recorded. Subsequently, you may suffer the consequences of such misconduct because you will be liable for arrest and prosecution. If your lawyer can provide sufficient proof of such wrongdoing, the defense will be useful in your case.
Collection of Evidence in Illegal Search and Seizure
When arresting officers raid your vehicle for evidence of drunk driving, they may do so without a proper search warrant or with a defective document that does not provide proof they are searching for. Such cases lead to unfair practices that place you in a disadvantaged position because the officers will have infringed your rights. Once your defense attorney develops a persuasive argument backed by admissible evidence sources, the defense will prevent you from improper consequences.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Upon facing the third DUI charge, you may feel overwhelmed by the severe penalties you are likely to receive if found guilty. Despite this, partnering with a skilled criminal defense attorney will reduce the severity of your conviction. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, you can count on us for professional services from highly experienced criminal lawyers who have worked with many clients in Los Angeles, California. We help our clients to achieve the best outcomes for DUI charges. To speak to our attorneys, call us today at 310-564-2605.