In California, driving under the influence is considered a serious offense and the consequences to such a crime reflect just how serious it is. The consequences are set up so that it impacts one's life in such a way as to deter the offense from happening again. However, there are those who do end up with multiple DUI's, and with each new charge, the consequences become more severe.
While driving under the influence in general are filed as misdemeanors, there are situations where it may be charged as a felony. Among those situations is if you are arrested and charge with a fourth DUI, within a ten-year period of time. As mentioned above, with each new conviction, the consequences become harsher. Four a fourth DUI, the maximum period of sentence for a felony DUI, without any injury to any person, may extend up to three years.
Other circumstances that may cause a DUI to be filed as a felony are: 1) Bodily injury to another person and 2) If you have at least one prior felony DUI on your record.
Prison time can be imposed, but it is not mandatory. Before we get to the sentencing stage, let's take a look at the present arrest for DUI, as well as the priors. A good DUI defense attorney will look carefully at the priors. For instance, were they all within a ten-year period? This is crucial because if even one of the priors was more than ten years ago, it could make the difference in a misdemeanor filing and a felony filing. Also, taking a look at each individual prior to ensure that they were proper convictions is important. If there is any way to take a prior out of the situation, your attorney should pursue this aggressively.
The new DUI should of course be looked at very carefully. Making sure that all law enforcement procedures were followed correctly, the blood or breath tests administered properly, the initial stop was a legal stop, and that the report is accurate. Taking a look at the calibration of the machines used and the blood draw procedures and tests must also be reviewed, looking for any errors or discrepancies. Any errors, inconsistencies or questionable procedures may be enough to get the case dismissed.
However, if it appears that all procedures have been properly followed, and a conviction imminent, we must then turn our focus on alternative sentencing. The maximum sentence for a felony DUI, as mentioned above, may extend up to three years and while prison can be imposed, it is not mandatory. A lot will depend upon the circumstances surrounding the new conviction.
A fourth conviction for DUI is very serious and the prosecution will pursue jail or prison time. An aggressive DUI defense attorney will try to convince the District Attorney and Judge to allow alternative sentencing. But, it depends upon many factors. For example, what was the blood alcohol, how long has it been since your last conviction, what steps have you taken to remain sober and what is happening in your personal life. IN other words, are you married with children? Do you have a job? Are you the sole support of your family? These are all things that will come into play when trying to convince the judge and district attorney to allow alternative sentencing.
Alternative sentencing includes the following:
1) Electronic Monitoring
2) Work Release or Work Furlough
3) City Jail
4) Alcohol or Drug Rehabilitation
5) Sober Living
All of these options should be explored in an effort to avoid going to jail or prison. These types of alternatives will allow you to work or go to school, and allow you to still have some form of regular contact with your family.
Convincing the District Attorney and the Judge that these options are much better solutions than jail or prison, especially when the problem is more than likely addiction, is the best option for you. These options allow the individual to work on their sobriety without loosing everything important to them.