California has high DUI rates and high rates of DUI recidivism. Legislature, over the years, has led to more DUI laws with more defined and harsher penalties. First time offenders are given a fairly standard sentencing however multiple DUI offenders are punished for their recidivism. While the penalties for a first DUI in California are indeed harsh, they are built to be as manageable as they can be while still reducing recidivism through rehabilitation. California, along with many other states and institutions, see drinking and driving as sings of either alcoholism or of having a problem with alcohol. Because of this, the court system tailors DUI sentencing to a hypothetical perpetrator with a drug or alcohol problem. Court imposed penalties do what they can to prevent you from drinking and driving again and thus become more serious the number of times you fail to rehabilitate. Measures against recidivism may include ordering you to install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car, which makes it impossible for you to drink and drive in your car, ordering you to attend alcohol/DUI education classes to learn about alcoholism and the dangers of drunk driving, sometimes involving scare tactics, and ordering you to attend group and individual counseling sessions and evaluations to prevent drunk driving at the source of the problem. California means business about reducing DUI recidivism and reducing the overall costs of drunk driving on society. Nevertheless, some people really do have problems with alcohol and manage to rack up four or more DUIs within a ten-year period. As you may know, the penalties for DUIs in California become progressively harsher with every offense within a ten-year period. The ten-year period is also called a "look back" period. Beyond this period, more than ten years back, the prosecution cannot consider a DUI as a countable offense for current DUI sentencing. With every DUI, jail or prison time lengthens, fines become higher and you will have to take more and more classes. At your fourth DUI, you are not just considered a recidivist, but a chronic recidivist and a habitual traffic offender. Being viewed like this in the eyes of the court will result in harsh consequences for your criminal record and your driving rights. While your first three DUIs may have resulted in misdemeanor charges, your fourth DUI conviction will be felony. It is important to note that a wet reckless charge in California counts as a DUI on your record if you are being charged with another DUI. Since a wet reckless charge is often used as a plea bargain in DUI cases, you will be viewed as a multiple DUI offender at your second offense, even if it is your first DUI charge. Upon evaluating your case, the prosecution will consider how much time has passed since your first three DUI charges, whether you are on probation for a prior DUI offense currently, the circumstances, including any aggravating factors, of your first three DUI convictions and the circumstances of your current offense, to include your BAC level and any aggravating factors. Sentencing will vary somewhat from case to case but will generally result in a four-year suspension of your driver's license, as little as 180 days and up to four years in prison, between $1,800 and $18,000 in in DUI penalties and fees, a "habitual traffic offender" status for three years and enrollment in a 30 month DUI multiple offender program that will involve intensive educational classes, counseling and ongoing evaluations, all at a cost to you. Causing injury to or killing someone as a result of your driving will change the conviction and increase the sentencing. The consequences of getting four DUIs are harsh and avoiding them will be a challenge. If you are facing your fourth DUI charge, you might want to call upon the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney. An attorney and review the case facts and advise you on any potential defense strategies that might be an option for you. You may be able to get your felony charge lessened by accepting a different but lesser charge but this is rare and requires extensive DUI defense experience along with ideal circumstances.
Are your or a loved one facing a fourth DUI charge? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can best advise you on how to proceed with your case, potentially saving you hefty fines and prison time. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, every client gets the respect they deserve. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss strategic options for your case.