One of the potential hazards of a DUI offense is the “Habitual Traffic Offender” designation. Even one DUI combined with other violations within a 12-month period can trigger a habitual traffic offender charge. There are several DUI-related conditions that make a driver a habitual traffic offender:

  • One of the punishments for conviction on a third offense DUIwithin a ten-year period is the habitual traffic offender designation for a period of three years. (Vehicle Code 23546)
  • The same applies to fourth offense DUI (Vehicle Code §23550)
  • Driving on a DUI suspended license and committing two traffic offenses that are assigned a violation point of two (for example, DUI, hit and run, reckless driving, or driving with a suspended license) within a year of the suspension. (Vehicle Code 14601.3(a)(1).)
  • Driving on a DUI suspended licenseand committing three or more traffic offenses that are assigned a violation point of one (certain infractions such as speeding or running a red light.)
  • Any combination of offenses, at-fault accidents (one point), or violations that add up to three or more points on your DMV record.

Even if the driver is allowed to drive following a DUI, for example on a DUI restricted licenseor by installing an ignition interlock device (IID), the driver is still technically driving on a DUI-suspended license and may face these consequences.

The habitual traffic offender law is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment in county jail for 30 days and a $1000 fine for a first offense. A second habitual traffic offender violation within a seven-year period, or three or more DUI offenses within 10 years, is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for 180 days and a fine of $2000.  These punishments are mandatory.

In addition to these punishments, the habitual traffic offender status attaches to the driver’s DMV record for the term prescribed by the offense.  If a driver commits certain driving offenses during this period, the driver will face additional penalties and possible license suspension in addition to the penalties for the underlying offense.

Orange County DUI habitual traffic offender attorney William Weinberg can help you avoid this designation. The statue requires the offender to have knowledge of the suspension. While the statute does not forgive the driver’s ignorance of the suspension if the Notice of Suspension was sent to the driver by the DMV by first class mail, sometimes the defense of no notice is viable. For example, if the driver moved and had informed the DMV of his or her new address but the notice was sent to the driver’s previous address, the driver would have the defense of no notice of the license suspension.

Other defenses might go to the underlying offense that triggers the habitual traffic offender status. If there are available legal challenges to the underlying offense, such as an unlawful traffic stop, or lack of probable cause that the violation occurred, a successful argument for dismissal of the underlying charge will save the driver from the additional allegation of a habitual traffic offender offense.

Even if the underlying charge is not dismissed, an experienced DUI habitual traffic offender attorney may be able to get the charge reduced to a violation that does not trigger the designation. For example, a reckless driving violation (two points) may be reduced to a speeding violation (one point).

Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has defended hundreds of DUI cases under a variety of circumstances. If you face a habitual traffic offender charge in addition to a DUI or because of you were driving on a DUI suspended license, Mr. Weinberg can help. You may contacthim at his Irvine officer by phoning 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.comfor a complimentary consultation regarding you matter.