Law enforcement agencies in California take the offense of driving under the influence extremely seriously. Even first time DUI offenders may be ordered to pay a huge amount of fines and court-imposed penalty assessments, observe restrictive probation conditions, and serve jail time. Since DUI is a priorable offense in the state of California, these penalties increase with each subsequent charge.
A conviction of 4th time DUI will result in the highest amount of fines and penalty assessments, most strict probation conditions, and the longest jail terms. This is why it is paramount for you to hire a DUI defense attorney if you or your loved one is facing charges for 4th offense DUI.
We at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help you avoid these severe penalties. Don’t put your future at risk by attempting to speak out for yourself. If you don't hire an attorney, some of your rights will be compromised during the criminal trial process, and the judge may slap you with the harshest punishments possible.
Over the years, we’ve gathered extensive experience in helping defendants facing 4th offense DUI charges in Los Angeles. Get in touch with us today for professional legal assistance.
Felony 4th Offense DUI
Typically, the California Department of Prosecution charges 4th offense DUI as a felony. However, in some situations, you may be charged with 4th offense DUI as a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can opt to charge you with misdemeanor 4th offense DUI if he/she believes that your attorney can easily discredit the evidence showing that you had three or more previous convictions, especially in situations where the prior convictions were out-of-state. The penalties for misdemeanor 4th offense DUI are less severe than those for felony 4th offense DUI.
As per California’s criminal laws, the term ‘felony’ can be defined as a criminal offense where the court can impose a state prison or jail term that exceeds one year as punishment. The prosecution will charge you with felony 4th offense DUI if he/she has proof that you have three or more prior DUI convictions or any other DUI related offense within ten years. This may include the convictions listed below:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as per VC 23152(a)
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, as per VC 23152(b)
- Holder of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) driving with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, as per VC 23152(e)
- Driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs, as per VC 23152(f)
- Wet reckless, as per VC 23103.5
- Any DUI or DUI-related conviction that has been expunged
- Any DUI or DUI-related conviction in another state in the USA
How the Prosecution can Prove a 4th Offense DUI Charge
For the prosecutor to prove a 4th offense DUI charge, he/she must present strong evidence showing that:
- You were driving
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- You have three or more prior convictions for DUI or DUI-related offenses
Here is a brief discussion of each of these three elements:
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving. Though this element seems to be straightforward, it is a subject of contention in many DUI criminal court trials.
As per California’s DUI laws, the prosecutor must illustrate that you operated the motor vehicle, or you were physically controlling it. If you were sleeping or browsing your smartphone when the law enforcement officer flagged you down, you might obtain an acquittal or a dismissal.
2. Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
The prosecutor can prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs using two methods:
- Showing that you were physically impaired
- Showing that you had a BAC of 0.08% or higher
It is quite easier to prove BAC than showing physical impairment. Usually, prosecutors attempt to convince the jury that you were physically impaired by alluding that you exhibited certain signs and symptoms, such as red, bloodshot eyes, flushed face, and incoherent speech. Your defense attorney can discredit this evidence by giving other reasonable explanations to your alleged 'physically impaired appearance.'
A prosecutor can illustrate that you had a BAC of 0.08% or higher by using the results of chemical breath or blood tests. If these tests were conducted improperly, then you will have a good defense. Otherwise, your defense attorney can hire experts to demonstrate to the jury that the results indicated falsely high positives.
It is quite common for a prosecutor to file two distinct charges of 4th offense DUI, one that is based on high BAC and another one alleging physical impairment. This way, he/she maximizes his/her chances of winning the case.
3. Prior Convictions
For you to be convicted of 4th offense DUI, the prosecutor must show sufficient proof that you have three or more prior convictions of DUI or DUI-related offenses. These previous convictions should be within a ten-year timeframe.
Californian prosecutors usually rely on DMV documents to show records of past convictions. They can also utilize completion certificates or attendance records from DUI educational programs.
Sometimes, a DUI conviction in another state may not be categorized as a previous conviction if the court in that state utilized different standards from what is generally applied in California courts. Also, take note that an expunged DUI conviction still counts as a prior conviction.
Legal Defenses to 4th Offense DUI
The legal defenses to 4th offense DUI are similar to those for any other DUI. However, not all defenses will apply to your situation because each case is unique. The defense strategy that your attorney will utilize will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
You can obtain a dismissal or an acquittal by either discrediting the prosecution’s evidence or challenging the procedures used in acquiring the evidence. Here are the most common legal defenses to 4th offense DUI:
1. No Probable Cause
A law enforcement officer must flag you down with a probable cause. He/she must have a clear reason to suspect that you were driving under the influence, or breaking a particular traffic rule. The prosecution can prove that the police officer had a reasonable cause if you were:
- Driving very slowly
- Breaking abruptly
- Constantly changing lanes
- Failing to respond to roadside signals
- Turning illegally
- Driving during the night with headlights off
A law enforcement officer can motion you to pull over because of the reasons listed above. While in the course of inspecting your vehicle, he/she may determine that you are intoxicated and put you under arrest for DUI.
There are various instances where an attorney can prove that a police officer flagged you down illegally. Most law enforcement officers in California can just decide to flag you down simply because they believe that you are drunk, or they saw you exiting a nightclub or pub. All of these are unlawful reasons.
2. Improper BAC Testing
As per California’s DUI laws, police officers should observe certain precautions while handling alcohol breathalyzer and blood tests. For instance, the testing kits should be well-calibrated and maintained in good working condition. This is because improper handling may result in falsely high positives.
Moreover, several external factors can contribute to inaccurate BAC results. Some of these external factors include radiation, residual mouth alcohol, as well as contamination.
Overall, citing improper BAC testing is one of the most effective defenses to the 4th offense DUI in the state of California. This defense can weaken the prosecution’s evidence and increase the chances of an acquittal or a dismissal.
3. Unlawful Interrogations and Miranda Violations
As per the provisions of the US Constitution, an arrested person can choose to keep quiet during an interrogation by the law enforcement officer. Moreover, the police should read out to you your Miranda rights before putting you under custody.
Generally, law enforcement officers can interrogate you before putting you under arrest. If you provide an incriminating answer, they will use it against you.
Of course, you must cooperate with law enforcement, but this doesn't mean that you should incriminate yourself. We advise you to politely avoid answering any questions asked by a police officer, and instead, contact an attorney.
If your attorney finds out that the law enforcement conducted unlawful interrogations and failed to inform you of your Miranda rights, he/she can apply for a suppression hearing to exclude the evidence acquired illegally. This will make the prosecution have insufficient evidence, resulting in a dismissal.
4. Violations of Procedure and Evidence
There are specific rules that dictate how a prosecutor should present evidence and how evidence should be stored and handled. Various issues can arise during the criminal trial process for 4th offense DUI. For instance, the prosecutor can attempt to adduce hearsay or character evidence, which is inadmissible.
Any recorded evidence that the prosecution presents during the trial must be accurate. For example, a video of the arrest scene should depict the defendant clearly and manifest the right time and date. If there is an element of doubt in any of the prosecution's evidence, your attorney can discredit it.
5. Improper Conduct of Field Sobriety Tests
Law enforcement officers should adhere to certain protocols when carrying out a field sobriety test. If they fail to do so, the test results may be declared invalid. For example, the court will consider a driver who has a medical or disability problem as physically incapable of passing the field sobriety test.
Your defense attorney may also argue that your performance in these tests do not necessarily depict that you were physically impaired. Additionally, if the test was carried out in a poor environment, such as during heavy rains or snow, your defense attorney may convince the jury that the police officer didn’t administer the test fairly.
Criminal Penalties for 4th Offense DUI
There are no fixed penalties for 4th offense DUI in the state of California. The punishments you risk facing upon conviction will depend on the unique facts of your case.
California courts usually impose the following penalties for 4th offense DUI:
- A county jail term of 180 days
- A state prison term of 16 months, two years, or three years
- Fines ranging between $390 - $1,000
- A probation period of 3 – 5 years
- 30-month DUI educational program
- Additional treatment, for instance, an alcohol and drug addiction program
Several aggravating factors can subject you to sentencing enhancements. Some of these aggravating factors include:
- Causing the death of another person – you will receive a state prison sentencing enhancement of a minimum of 16 months to a maximum of six years. You can also be convicted of Watson murder, which carries the risk of life imprisonment
- Causing an individual to incur a bodily injury – you will receive an additional state prison term of two years, which can be lengthened to six years if you made another person sustain a 'great bodily injury.'
- Having a child inside your car who is below 14 years old – an additional state prison or a jail term of 90 days. The prosecution can also opt to charge you with the criminal offense of child endangerment, which carries a state prison term of a maximum of six years upon conviction.
- Driving at excessive speeds – an additional jail term of 60 days
- Refusing to take a BAC test – an additional jail term of 18 days
Administrative Penalties for 4th Offense DUI
Once you are put under arrest for 4th offense DUI, the police officer will confiscate your driver’s license. Then, he/she will issue you with a temporary seven-day license.
You should request a DMV hearing within ten days after arrest to protect your driving privileges. If you don’t, the DMV will revoke your driver’s license for up to four years.
When these four years end, you can apply for a new license. You will be required to retake the driving test, as well as pay the license application fee. The DMV can also request you to show proof of completing a DUI educational program, an alcoholic treatment program, or the court-imposed probation term. If you manage to get a new license, the DMV will still make you install an IID inside your vehicle. Take note that you will be personally responsible for the costs of IID installation and maintenance.
Moreover, the DMV can designate you as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) upon arrest for the 4th offense DUI. You will have to bear the HTO status for three years. Individuals who have been designated as habitual traffic offenders due to DUI cannot drive without having an IID installed in their vehicles. If they drive without an IID, they can be arrested and face more severe penalties.
DMV Hearing for 4th Offense DUI
You should request a DMV hearing within ten days from the date of arrest to protect your driving privileges. DMV hearings are typically informal, and a hearing officer conducts them.
Although DMV hearings are generally informal, you shouldn’t risk losing your driver’s license by attempting to speak out for yourself. Make sure you hire an experienced and reliable DUI defense attorney to represent you.
As the defendant, you have various legal rights during a DMV hearing. Some of these rights include:
- Review and challenge evidence
- Present and subpoena witnesses
- Cross-examine witnesses
- Testify on your own behalf
The hearing officer will consider various issues when determining the outcome of your hearing. For instance, he/she will analyze the credibility of the arresting officer’s evidence and how you conducted yourself during the arrest.
Take note that the outcome of the DMV hearing cannot influence in any way whatsoever, the result of the DUI criminal court trial. However, if you win your DMV hearing, your attorney may find it easier to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor or convince him/her to drop your charges altogether.
The Total Cost of 4th Offense DUI
It can be hard to compute the total cost of a 4th offense DUI. A conviction of 4th offense DUI carries with it hefty fines and penalty assessments, which may be up to $10,000.
Also, for you to get back your driver’s license, you will have to adhere to strict probation terms, including attending a 30-month DUI educational program, paying the license application fee, and completing additional alcohol and drug treatment programs. If you manage to get back your license, you will have to install an IID inside your vehicle. You will be personally responsible for the costs of IID installation and maintenance.
Moreover, upon conviction of 4th offense DUI, your auto insurance costs will automatically rise. You may also be considered eligible to access employment opportunities due to your criminal record.
Most people believe that they can save money by opting to defend themselves instead of hiring an attorney. This belief is false. If you choose to defend yourself, you will have a high chance of being convicted and facing extremely harsh penalties that will hurt your wallet.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Get in touch with us at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney today if you or your loved one has been charged with 4th offense DUI. We will review your arrest details, advise you on proper court procedures, and help you build an excellent defense strategy. Call us today at 424-333-0943.