DUI Sentencing Enhancements

DUI charges are difficult enough to face on their own, but what happens when there are exacerbating circumstances included? Drivers who have children in their car at the time of a DUI arrest are presumed to be endangering the life of not only themselves but the life of a younger individual. This is considered to be an “aggravating” factor in the crime. Aggravating factors can result in stronger sentences, as well as more reason for the jury to stick you with a conviction.

How Does This Affect My Defense?

DUI charges with a child in the car invokes steeper penalties if there is a conviction. There are no defenses to eliminate this factor specifically, meaning it does not matter if you intended to cause harm or if you were not heavily intoxicated. The only circumstances for this increased penalty to affect you are exactly what it sounds like: having a child of less than 14 years old in the car while you were driving under the influence.

Even though there is no direct defense to this enhancement, if you are not found guilty of driving under the influence, then you cannot be found guilty of driving under the influence with a child in the car. Plea bargaining for reduced charges also negate this enhancement as well. However, aggravating circumstances can affect the jury emotionally or make them consider more deeply serving a conviction. On top of this, your actions can put you in a position where you must defend yourself against child endangerment as well. If you happen to be convicted of both DUI and childhood endangerment, you will not face the increased DUI sentencing, but you will face the penalties of child endangerment. Child endangerment is a separate crime that can be at the misdemeanor or felony level. The prosecution may choose to eliminate the DUI charges in favor of pursuing a charge of child endangerment, or could elect to pursue both driving under the influence and child endangerment charges, which can have significant penalties.

Increased Sentencing

If you are convicted of a DUI with a child in the car, not only will you have to serve your sentence for misdemeanor DUI but also an additional sentence for having a passenger under 14 years old in the car. For a first DUI the law requires an additional 48 hours in county jail. A second offense will result in an additional 10 days in county jail. Third time convictions will add another 30 days in jail. Finally, for fourth and up convictions, provided that they stay at the misdemeanor level at this point, an additional 90 days will be added on. Since fourth DUI convictions can be either at the felony or misdemeanor level, the sentencing enhancement will only apply to the misdemeanor level.

In cases of DUI and child endangerment, it is critical to have an experienced DUI attorney who can present mitigating factors to the court. If you are facing these charges, please contact us today.

Speed

A DUI charge can have certain aggravating, or sentence-enhancing circumstances to it. One of these factors is reckless driving, or a severe breach (20+ mph over) of the speed limit. This is commonly called an Excessive Speeding DUI. These laws were created because the state legislature felt excessive speeds show a driver’s lack of concern for others on the road, and coupled with a DUI offense, could mean serious consequences after an arrest.

How Does It Affect My Defense?

If an officer pulls you over for a DUI and you have been traveling at a speed well over the posted limit, this will exacerbate the charges against you. Not only can the sentencing be more severe, but it will affect your defense as well. The prosecution, if they wish to pursue this higher charge, will want to show that you drove 20-30 miles over the speed limit and that you drove in a reckless manner. Your defense will have to now show that you were not driving recklessly, in addition to defending the DUI charges that you are already facing. Your lawyer may go the route of questioning the validity of the speed monitoring equipment used, in line with questioning the equipment used for a breath test. He or she may also want to question the validity of the assumption of recklessness just because of speeding. Recklessness is most often considered as behavior that is “likely” to injure or harm someone. This is very different from behavior that could “possibly” harm someone. However, reckless behavior does not always require intent, meaning you may not have been trying to hurt anyone while driving the way you did, but it is likely that your driving could likely have caused harm to someone. Remember that high speed and recklessness must be proven for the sentencing to increase.

The jury however, may be affected by knowledge of your speed or the manner you were driving. High speeds, and other reckless driving actions can cause the jury to believe these actions to either be in your character, or as a result of being under the influence. If this happens they may want to provide a guilty verdict, after all, reckless behavior is associated with intoxication.

What Can Happen to Me if I am Convicted?

If you are convicted with an Excessive Speeding DUI your sentencing will increase. If your high speed and recklessness are both proven and you are found guilty of an Excessive Speeding DUI you will face:

  • a possible 60 day jail term in addition to your regular DUI sentence
  • a possible enrollment in an alcohol rehabilitation program

This does not take into account punishments you may face from the California DMV. Remember that if you are not found guilty of a DUI, you cannot be found guilty of an Excessive Speed DUI. It is important remember that being charged with a crime is not the same as a conviction. An experienced attorney with a strong defense can be a critical difference when facing enhanced sentencing guidelines.

Traffic Accidents & Traffic Accidents Reconstruction Experts

Suppose you are involved in a DUI that was associated with a car accident. While a simple DUI involving a traffic stop can a serious impact on an individual, imagine the consequences for a DUI driver who caused an accident, or even death. Causing an accident, or having a DUI involved with an accident can cause you to suffer increased sentencing, possibly even elevating the original crime to the felony level, if the circumstances are serious enough.

Traffic Accidents Affecting DUI Sentencing

In most cases, if your DUI caused an accident, you may find yourself charged with a DUI causing injury. Depending on the severity of the damage or injury caused, this CAN be a felony. The prosecution will factor in things like prior DUI convictions, as well as any other criminal history you may have. Their case will be based on your level of intoxication, your failure to adhere to traffic regulations, and your behavior contributing to harm or injury caused to another person. If all three of these things can be proven, you will face enhanced sentencing. For misdemeanor offenses this includes:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • Up to $5000 in fines
  • An alcohol or drug education program
  • Court appointed and decided restitutions

For felonies you can face:

  • Up to four years in California State Prison, with additional consecutive sentencing added if great bodily harm was inflicted
  • Additional sentencing for each person injured
  • Revocation of your license for up to five years
  • Court appointed DUI re-education
  • Status as a habitual traffic offender

Your attorney will have to have a strong defense for these cases, as the sentencing is incredibly harsh. You will need to structure your defense around rejecting the claims that your actions caused the accident, and as usual the best defense against enhanced DUI sentencing is to avoid the DUI conviction itself.

Traffic Accident Reconstruction Experts

A traffic accident reconstruction expert is an expert witness that either the defense or prosecution can call to the stand in order to give the jury an accurate and educated opinion on the events of the the accident. These people are usually privately available to be called to review a case, and also oftentimes have background experience in vehicles, traffic, or the physical elements of car accidents.

Having an expert witness can be incredibly helpful with a good defense attorney at your side. The goal of introducing an expert witness into the courtroom is to strengthen your case and cause the jury to doubt the account of the accident as put forth by the prosecution. Your attorney will be able to use the knowledge of the expert witness in a way that can alleviate you from direct causation of the accident, and hopefully away from being found guilty. The expert witness will review the accident and determine the factors that contributed to it, which can then be used in court.