In California, if you are charged with driving under the influence, whether it is alcohol or drug related, the prosecution could add to the charges what is known as sentence enhancements. These enhancements can substantially increase the severity of the punishments imposed by the Court. Here are some of the more common enhancements:
DUI Sentence Enhancements
1. Prior Convictions – If you have been convicted of a DUI within the last 10 years, the penalties are increased. So this means that the jail time imposed can be increased, the length of the DUI School, and your driver’s license suspension period are both increased. On a first conviction for DUI, a 3 month DUI school is standard, unless your blood alcohol level was very high, and in that case, the class will be six or nine months. Your driver’s license suspension period on a 1st DUI is six months.
2. High Blood Alcohol Content – An enhanced sentence can be imposed if your blood alcohol level is .15 or higher.
3. Test Refusal – The Court will increase the amount of jail time you are ordered to do if you refuse to submit to a chemical test. Further, the Department of Motor Vehicles will impose a one-year suspension of your driver’s license for refusing. The Court proceedings are separate from the DMV proceedings. If it is determined by the DMV that you refused to submit to a chemical test, your license will be suspended for one year. There is no negotiating with the Department of Motor Vehicles when it comes to a refusal.
4. Speeding and/or Reckless Driving – If you were speeding at the time of your arrest for DUI, sentence enhancements can be imposed. If you were on a surface street, you must have been travelling 20 miles over the speed limit and 30 miles over the speed limit on the freeway for enhancements to apply.
5. Minor Passenger – If at the time you are arrested for DUI, you have a minor child, under the age of 14 years, you may be subject to an enhancement charge or the additional charge of child endangerment. If you are convicted of DUI with a minor child in the car, the additional time you may face is as follows: a) 48 hours for a first time DUI; b) 10 days for a second DUI; c) 30 days for a third DUI and d) 90 days for a fourth DUI conviction.
6. Accident – If you are involved in an accident while driving under the influence, sentence enhancements will be imposed. If the accident results in injuries to another, the prosecution can file felony charges. If you are convicted of DUI involving an accident, along with felony DUI for causing injuries, the time you may be facing is an additional 90 days to one year.
The prosecution typically will include as many enhancements in the charges as are applicable. For purposes of a plea bargain, an experienced DUI defense attorney will begin negotiations with the District Attorney, in an effort to get all of some of the enhancements dismissed. This will significantly reduce the jail time exposure, as well as reduce the fines and penalties associated with sentence enhancements.
If you would like to know more about DUI penalty enhancements, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.