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California, as is true with many states, has established a strong public policy regarding the consumption of alcohol and driving a motor vehicle. Potential penalties for even a first time DUI can be significant, and law enforcement efforts to detect and prosecute such cases, particularly in the Los Angeles area, are at an all-time high. Further, if you have been arrested for a DUI and the facts or the evidence may trigger penalty enhancements, you are facing serious legal issues.
What Triggers an Enhancement
Specifics of the present case may provide grounds for an enhancement, as well as a previous conviction of a certain type of crime. It is noteworthy that the allegation of facts providing the basis for the enhanced DUI penalty may be contained in the original complaint, or if evidence or facts arise in a preliminary hearing or trial, for example, the complaint can be amended to conform to the new circumstances.
Prior DUI: the Most Common Reason for a DUI Penalty Enhancement
By far, the greatest number of DUI penalty enhancements is due to a prior DUI. According to statute, there is a 10 year wash-out period for DUI offenses. That is, any DUI conviction 10 years or more before the current charge loses its prior status and cannot be used to enhance the current penalty.
As you may imagine, the penalties for each successive DUI become more severe in terms of fines and fees, potential incarceration time, length of license suspension, length of remedial classes and programs, and length of term of probation.
Among the other factors that may lead to enhancements are:
• Refusal to submit to or complete chemical testing; subsequent to a lawful DUI arrest, the suspect must submit to a chemical test to determine his or her blood alcohol content (BAC). Again, where a refusal is involved, there are more severe penalties if the individual had prior DUI convictions.
• Excessive blood alcohol; enhanced penalties may come in to play where the suspect has a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater.
• Reckless driving; driving in excess of 30 mph above highway speed or in excess of 20 mph above regular roadway speed in a reckless manner can lead to increased mandatory jail time.
• Minor in the vehicle; enhanced penalties are typically sought by prosecutors if a minor, defined for these purposes as a person younger than 14 years of age, is a passenger. Once again, prior DUI convictions prompt further enhancements.
• Bodily injury; if someone other than the suspect is injured in a traffic incident caused by the DUI, increased jail time may be added for each such injury.
• DUI charged as a felony; most DUIs are charged as a misdemeanor, but felony charges are likely to result from one of these circumstances:
o The incident caused serious injuries.
o The incident resulted in the death of another.
o A fourth DUI offense in 10 years.
o A prior DUI felony conviction.
Contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney for Legal Advice
Contrary to what many people believe, a DUI arrest need not automatically result in a DUI conviction. A knowledgeable DUI practitioner will thoroughly investigate your case. Based on the facts and circumstances, different options may be explored to arrive at the best possible solution for your individual circumstances. In addition to the criminal charges, a separate DMV action is proceeding against you. Act today; time is of the essence.