In California, most individuals charged with driving under the influence (DUI) as a first offense face a number of short- and long-term penalties. These can include:
- Hefty fines and fees
- Up to six months imprisonment
- Three to five years of probation
- Alcohol and drug education courses
- Community service
- Driver’s license suspension
In addition to these penalties, there are also a range of collateral consequences drivers can face, such as difficulties finding employment, transportation issues, higher insurance rates, and more. As the consequences make clear, even a first-time DUI can create a host of problems for conceited individuals.
While California already takes a tough stance on DUI offenders convicted of standard misdemeanors, it takes an even tougher stance when there are aggravating circumstances present in a case. When these aggravating circumstances are present, charges and penalties can be elevated substantially. Examples of aggravating circumstances in a DUI case include:
- Multiple DUI – Being arrested for driving under the influence with a previous DUI conviction, or convictions, within the past 10 years can result in more severe penalties, including longer and mandatory jail sentences. Four DUI convictions within a 10-year time frame is a felony in the state of California – as is any new DUI charge with a felony DUI on one’s record at any time in the past.
- Child passenger – Having a minor in your vehicle when pulled over under suspicion for DUI is grounds for elevated penalties. Courts do not look favorably upon drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired and transporting kids, which in turn makes it an aggravating circumstance that can expose defendants to greater fines, longer terms of imprisonment, and other more serious penalties.
- High BAC and refused chemical tests – Like other jurisdictions throughout California, Ventura County considers high BAC levels to be an aggravating factor that warrants elevated penalties. Having a BAC more than twice the legal limit (.16), for example, is grounds for additional punishment. Refusing a breath or chemical test may also result in more serious penalties, including an automatic driver’s license suspension.
- Open container – Having an open container in one’s vehicle may not be the most aggravating circumstance when compared to other situations that can arise during DUI arrests, but it is certainly grounds for elevated charges and penalties.
- Accidents – Accidents are among the most serious aggravating circumstance in any DUI case, as they put the lives of others in danger. When drivers cause accidents that result in injuries or death, they can face felony charges, including felony charges for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or even murder if they have been convicted of a DUI in the past. These felony DUI cases demand the immediate attention of a seasoned defense lawyer.
- Hit and run – Fleeing the scene of an accident is against the law in California, which means that drivers who do so while under the influence can face additional charges and penalties when apprehended. This included hit and run charges and charges relating to evading arrest when officers initiate a pursuit.
DUI cases are always unique, and there are many ways that prosecutors can choose to focus on aggravating circumstances in their pursuit of convictions and serious penalties. As such, it becomes important for anyone facing these charges to work with proven lawyers like those at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP. Our Ventura DUI lawyers are standing by to help you learn more about your rights, defense, and how we can help. Contact us for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Southern California.