Since DUIs qualify as a priorable offense in California, the penalties for each successive DUI offense increase once convicted. A third offense DUI conviction carries more severe consequences when compared to a first or second offense DUI. Hiring the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney when arrested for a 3rd offense DUI is among the best decisions you can make. Through our extensive experience operating in Los Angeles, CA, we can help you get the best possible outcome in your case. In the following, we address all the aspects of a 3rd offense DUI in this article.

What is a 3rd Offense DUI in California?

The State of California prohibits drivers from operating motor vehicles when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your DUI charge can only qualify as a third offense DUI if you allegedly committed it ten years after a second offense DUI. Your DUI lawyer may help you negotiate for a charge reduction. In this case, your 3rd offense DUI charge may be reduced to a less severe offense such as exhibition of speed, dry reckless or wet reckless.

The prosecution will spend time and resources showing that you were driving a car while drugged or drunk. They will also prove you had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of 0.08 percent or more at the time you were driving. Expect the prosecutor to present evidence showing the following:

  • Your urine, blood or breath test indicating a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher
  • You showed symptoms of intoxication including alcohol odor, an unsteady walk, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes
  • Your driving patterns suggesting that you were under the influence
  • You failed the standardized field sobriety tests including the one-leg stand test, the walk, and turn test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test

A third-time DUI qualifies as a misdemeanor in California. With a misdemeanor charge, you have a right to request a jury trial if your goal is to beat the criminal conviction. The State of California also allows you to schedule and attend a DMV hearing for a license suspension or revocation.

What Penalties Does a 3rd Offense DUI Attract in California?

The unique circumstances surrounding your case will determine the penalties you face for a third offense DUI charge. A California court will impose its own penalties separate from those imposed by the DMV. The court imposed penalties are as follows:

  • Serving three to five years of misdemeanor (informal) probation
  • County jail sentence of 120 days to one year
  • IID installation in your motor vehicle for up to two years
  • Fines ($2,500 to $3,000) together with penalty assessments
  • Completing a court-certified DUI education program for 30 months
  • The DMV revoking your California driver’s license for three years

A California judge may sentence you to harsher penalties and punishments based on various aggravating factors. These aggravating factors are known to increase state prison or county jail sentences. They are as follows:

  • Causing a car accident
  • Being below 21 years of age at the time you committed the DUI offense
  • Child endangerment (having children below 14 years in the vehicle)
  • Refusing to take a breath or blood test
  • Having a BAC of 0.15 or more

The enhanced penalties for any aggravating factor may depend on your criminal history with a large focus on your previous DUI charges. A judge may also rely on the exact circumstances related to your DUI arrest. Having two prior convictions for a DUI offense combined with any of these aggravating factors may increase your chances of going to jail.

A third offense DUI conviction attracts standard sentences, which vary with the court in your county. The standard sentences may have varying conditions of probation imposed by the court. A third-time DUI conviction may attract the following conditions of probation:

  • You should agree to not committing any additional crimes
  • Not driving with any measurable alcohol amount in your system
  • You should always submit to a chemical breath or blood test following a subsequent DUI arrest
  • Restitution to the victims in the event that someone else was injured due while you drove under the influence
  • Participating in Victim Impact Programs such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • Attending Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholic Anonymous meetings

Will a Third DUI Conviction Give You a Permanent Criminal Record?

Through an expungement, it is possible to have a 3rd offense DUI conviction completely erased from your criminal record. The conditions for expunging a DUI conviction include being placed on probation and successful completion of the probation. Your attorney should file a petition to the court for the judge to review it. If a California judge grants you the expungement, you may enter a new plea of “not guilty” to have your case dismissed.

Does a 3rd Offense DUI Make You Lose Your Driving Privileges in California?

The California DMV usually imposes a lengthier suspension of licenses belonging to third-time DUI offenders. You will also face the threat of an HTO (habitual traffic offender) designation by the DMV. While these two penalties are imminent, you have a chance of getting a restricted license provided you install an IID in your vehicle. Losing a DMV hearing or facing a DUI conviction in court may result in your license being suspended following a third offense DUI arrest.

A DMV license suspension differs from a court-triggered suspension. A California court may order your license to be suspended for three years following a third DUI conviction. Consequently, the AMV will impose an Administrative Per SE (APS) suspension for one year for a third-time DUI. Either way, you can secure a restricted license if you agreed to take a chemical test and showed proof of an IID installation in your vehicle.

Refusing to take a chemical breath or blood test when arrested for a third-time DUI may make your case worse. You risk facing a 3-year license revocation without the entitlement to a restricted license. Driving with a revoked or suspended license is a punishable crime in the State of California.

What is a Restricted License?

If you are facing a third offense DUI charge, a restricted license is your only hope of being able to drive your car. However, the DMV will only allow you to drive to and from places such as work and a DUI school. Though you may get the license as early as 18 months following your enrollment in an alcohol program, you need to complete at least 12 months of the program. The DMV will also ask you to present an SR22 (proof of insurance certificate), pay $125 as a reissue fee, and have an IID safely installed in your vehicle.

What the Prosecution Has to Prove in a 3rd Offense DUI Case

The prosecution will rely on the elements of a DUI charge to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence while driving/operating a vehicle. Witnesses such as the arresting officer can be summoned to testify why they believed you were driving under the influence. The prosecution can also use your BAC test results against you if you submitted to a chemical test. Discussed below are ways the prosecutor will prove the elements of a third offense DUI charge:

Proving You Were “Under the Influence”

Prosecutors in California usually rely on tests indicating blood alcohol concentration and impairment to prove a motorist was under the influence. Once the prosecution shows you were driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, you may face a DUI conviction. The legal BAC limit in California is below 0.08 percent for adult drivers. If your BAC test results show that your BAC was in this range, the prosecution can conclude that you were intoxicated.

Police officers usually request drivers to take field sobriety tests to measure their levels of impairment. Failing to pass these tests may suggest to the prosecutors that you were impaired when driving a car. Symptoms such as slurred speech, red, watery eyes, and alcohol odor may also suggest impairment.

The “Driving” Element of a DUI Offense

A police officer cannot charge you with DUI if you were not in actual physical control of a vehicle. Factors such as the location of your car keys, your closeness to the steering wheel and whether the vehicle's engine was running help prove this element. Provided you were at the steering wheel of a car whose engine is running while intoxicated; you may face a DUI charge.

Ways a Lawyer Can Help You with Your 3rd Offense DUI Case

The outcomes of your third-time DUI case highly depend on your willingness to hire and cooperate with a DUI attorney. Prior to developing a defense strategy for you, your lawyer will work various angles to help you with the case. Explained below are the ways a legal expert can be valuable to you:

  1. Gathering Valuable Evidence

A reputable DUI attorney will know how to rely on evidence gathering to build legal defenses for your case. The evidence gathering process may include subpoenaing witnesses and obtaining materials such as video or audio recordings of the DUI investigation. For example, if the arresting officer alleges that you were talking on the phone while driving, your lawyer can obtain your call records. Every piece of evidence gathered by your legal counsel helps weaken the prosecution's allegations against you.

  1. Helping with Legal Analysis

You need a lawyer to collect and interpret evidence or your case since these processes require legal skills. The attorney can also base motions filed in support of the case on the evidence. Examples of motions that can be filed in your favor include a Pitchess Motion or Motion to Suppress Evidence. Each instance of legal analysis helps you beat the DUI charge you are facing.

  1. Getting You a Favorable Deal

A DUI attorney is your best hope at negotiating a deal of your choice with the DA (District Attorney). Since most DUI cases do not advance to the trial stage, your lawyer can bargain with the prosecution to get you a fair deal. Instead of facing the penalties for a third-time DUI, you may be punished for a lesser offense such as dry or wet reckless.

Legal Defenses for a 3rd Offense DUI in California

Your lawyer will develop a defense strategy focused on challenging the prosecution’s allegations against you. In this strategy, your attorney can focus on proving you were not intoxicated and that your driving was not impaired. Blaming the arresting officer for not following the correct procedures for a DUI arrest can also work in your favor. The legal defenses for fighting a third-time DUI charges are as follows:

The Officer Based the Probable Cause for Your DUI Arrest on Bad Driving

The prosecution team will focus on your driving pattern while building a DUI case against you. They will also request the arresting officer to allege that your driving pattern was inconsistent. Your attorney can counter these claims by giving reasons why bad driving does not equate to drunk driving. Furthermore, a driver does not have to be intoxicated to commit a traffic violation.

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are Unreliable When Measuring Impairment

Field sobriety test results usually form part of the prosecution’s evidence against a DUI driver. Your DUI defense strategy may involve your lawyer challenging these results by proving that your inability to pass the test was attributed to other factors. It is possible for your clothing, fatigue, flat feet, or your natural physical coordination to affect your performance in FSTs. You can also challenge the experience and training of the officer who administered the tests.

Symptoms of Intoxication Do not Suggest You Were Driving Under the Influence

While physical appearance is crucial in a DUI investigation, exhibiting various symptoms does not necessarily mean you are intoxicated. The arresting officer may be wrong for initiating the DUI arrest since you had a flushed face, red, watery eyes, and slurred speech. You may show these symptoms when suffering from fatigue, a cold, allergies, or eye irritation. The objective symptoms and signs of intoxication are usually printed on a DUI arrest form (Form 5.2.5).

The Arresting Officer Failed to Comply with the DUI Arrest Procedures

Police officers must observe Title 17 regulations and have a probable cause for initiating a traffic stop. They should also read you the Miranda rights before interrogating you. If the arresting officer ignores these procedures, your lawyer can order a suppression hearing meant to find discrepancies in the case. The suppression hearing also helps exclude the prosecution from using illegally-obtained evidence against you.

The Officer Did not Observe Title 17 Regulations on Administering Blood and Breath Tests

Pursuant to Title 17 of California's Code of Regulations, a 15-minute window should be observed before properly administering blood and breath tests. The personnel handling the tests should have proper training and use regularly calibrated and maintained equipment. Your blood or urine samples should also be properly connected, handled, and stored. If the officer failed to observe any of these measures, your lawyer can challenge the accuracy and reliability of the tests altogether.

Your BAC was Above Normal Because of a Various Medical and Physiological Conditions

Consuming a high protein diet may result in your BAC being inflated since your liver will produce chemicals (ketones) that resemble alcohol in the process of burning stored fat. Medical conditions such as diabetes and hypoglycemia can also falsely inflate your BAC. With a falsely inflated BAC, you may exhibit symptoms such as lack of coordination, alcohol odor, or confusion. Your lawyer can ask the court not to consider your BAC results since your blood alcohol was falsely inflated due to these conditions.

Related Offenses

  1. First Offense DUI

A first time DUI charge may be based on you violating Vehicle Code 23152 of the California DUI laws. If convicted, you may face a three to five-year summary or informal probation and spend up to six months locked in county jail. Other potential penalties include enrollment in a court-certified drug and alcohol education program and fines ($390 to $1,000).

  1. Second Offense DUI

The prosecution will charge you with a second offense DUI charge if you commit a DUI offense within ten years of your previous DUI arrest. A 2nd offense DUI conviction attracts fines ($390 - $1,000), mandatory IID installation, and a three to five-year summary probation. You also have to spend 18 to 30 months while enrolled in a court-approved DUI school.

  1. DUI Causing Injury

You may face a “DUI causing injury” charge pursuant to Vehicle Code 23153, which defines the offense as a DUI offense resulting in bodily injury. The prosecution may treat your charge as either a felony or a misdemeanor based on the facts surrounding the case and outcomes of the accident. Potential penalties may include imprisonment and a Habitual Traffic Offender designation for a felony charge, jail time and summary probation for a misdemeanor charge.

Find a Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

Though a third offense DUI conviction charge may bring potentially severe consequences than first and second offense DUI charges, you should not panic when facing it. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney offers clients like you consistent hands-on quality advice and representation throughout the case. We have built a strong presence across Los Angeles while handling many DUI cases, among other related cases. Give us a call at 424-333-0943 for a free, personalized consultation.