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A drunk driving charge is a serious offense even if it’s your first conviction of any kind. However, if you face a drunk driving charge and it’s not your first offense, your charges can be very serious. In fact, if you have too many drunk driving charges, you can go to prison. This is the case even if you didn’t get in a traffic crash and even if no one is physically hurt.
Drunk driving charges get progressively more serious the more prior offenses you have. If you get four convictions in ten years, you can face a felony charge. In that case, prison is a possibility. Typically, the period that prosecutors look back to charge drunk driving enhancements is ten years.
In other states, the look back period might be different. Other states might not have a time limit at all. In that case, if you have a prior conviction in California and then you get another drunk driving charge in another state, the other state might count your prior conviction even if it occurred twenty or thirty years ago. Each state makes their own rules for determining how to take prior convictions into account.
In addition, even if you’re not charged or convicted of an enhanced charge because of a prior conviction, the court can certainly take the prior conviction into account when they fashion an appropriate sentence. You can expect the court to consider giving you increased jail time, monitoring or treatment for alcohol abuse if you’re in the court for a second or subsequent drunk driving offense.
Law enforcement can simply run your driving record to see if you have any prior offenses. Even though the look back period is ten years, drunk driving convictions stay on your record forever. Especially if your prior offenses happened in California, chances are, law enforcement is going to know about them.
If your prior offenses happened in another state, law enforcement may or may not find out about them. Your prior offenses are something that the prosecutor has to prove if they want to convict you of the enhanced charges. Usually they do this by presenting the court with a certified record of your prior convictions or of your driving record. In some cases, if you reach a plea agreement, you can agree with the prosecutor to acknowledge your prior convictions.
It’s important to work with your Los Angeles DUI lawyers to evaluate what counts as a prior conviction. Even a prior conviction for wet reckless under California Vehicle Code Section 23103/23103.5 VC can count as a prior DUI. Even if you had one of these convictions expunged, it still might count against you for a charging enhancement.
If you’re facing enhanced drunk driving charges in California, you can expect more serious penalties. While a first drunk driving offense at its most basic level doesn’t carry any mandatory jail time, as soon as you face multiple offenses, the court doesn’t have any choice but to sentence you to time in jail. This can range from ninety-six hours in jail to a mandatory minimum sentence of 120 days.
In addition, as you face enhanced charges, you face longer suspension of your driver’s license. You also have to pay a larger fine. Certainly the court is more likely to place you on a longer term of probation with more intense monitoring. It’s important to work with a DUI attorney to evaluate all of your options. They can help you evaluate your case and take the right steps to put yourself in the best possible position given the charges you’re facing.