Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, a DUI conviction has dire consequences, often including mandatory jail time, driver's license suspension, and steep fines. These penalties can become even more severe if the circumstances of your case involve any aggravating factors that would call for a sentencing enhancement.
An enhancement is an additional penalty added to your sentence based on the presence of aggravating factors in your case. In Orange County DUI cases, sentence enhancements are significant, adding penalties like additional time in prison.
If you are facing a DUI charge, knowing the factors that lead to these enhancements can help you better understand how to build your defense and identify any additional penalties you could be vulnerable to. Our attorneys can pinpoint aggravating factors that could potentially be mitigated or negotiated away, so we encourage you to schedule a consultation at your earliest convenience. Our firm is solely dedicated to DUI cases, so you can be sure we know how to negotiate effectively.
To schedule a free initial case consultation, call us at (949) 996-0170.
In California, prior DUI convictions are considered when sentencing a DUI conviction. A person with one or more prior DUI convictions can face harsher penalties, such as longer jail sentences, higher fines, and longer license suspension or revocation.
The number of prior DUI convictions is an essential factor in sentencing, as the punishments become more severe with each additional conviction. For example, a first-offense California DUI could mean 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a driver's license suspension for up to 6 months. On the other hand, if charged with a third or subsequent offense within 10 years, the court will impose harsher penalties, such as a minimum of 120 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 plus pnealty assessments, and a driver's license suspension for up to 3 years.
If charged as a felony, penalties for a fourth DUI conviction could include a prison sentence of 3 years and revocation of your driver's license for 4 years. You will also be designated as a habitual traffic offender for 3 years. As a misdemeanor, you face a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail and the revocation of your license for 4 years.
If you are ever convicted of a felony DUI, any subsequent DUI charges brought against you will be charged felonies as well.
This enhancement is even harder on commercial drivers. If convicted of DUI twice, commercial truck drivers will lose their commercial license and be barred from getting a new one for the rest of their lives.
The minor passenger enhancement increases sentencing for DUI cases in which a minor was present in the vehicle at the time of the offense. Generally, this enhancement results in additional jail time. These harsher punishments are meant to provide a further deterrent for driving with minors while intoxicated and better protect their safety. Depending on prior convictions and other extenuating circumstances, the enhancement adds jail time ranging from 48 hours to 90 days.
Impaired driving with a minor present can also be charged as child endangerment
Refusal to Submit to Chemical Tests
If you are arrested, the refusal to submit to chemical tests enhancement dictates that individuals who refuse a chemical test, such as a breath test or blood test for alcohol and/or drugs, face additional punishments.
These additional penalties include a longer license suspension, higher fines, and more jail time.
Furthermore, refusing to take a chemical sobriety test following an arrest will result in immediate seizure and suspension of your license.
BAC Exceeding 0.20%
The BAC exceeding 0.20% enhancement is outlined in section 23578 of the Penal Code. This enhancement stipulates that individuals with a BAC level of 0.20% or higher at the time of their arrest face harsher punishments.
Increased penalties may include a longer license suspension, higher fines, and more jail time. Further, any individual convicted of DUI with a BAC of 0.20 or higher must also attend alcohol and drug counseling.
The reckless driving enhancement adds a minimum of 60 days of jail time to the sentence of a DUI conviction.
This enhancement applies when all three of the following conditions are met:
- The driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- The driver was driving recklessly
- The driver was driving 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit on a freeway or 20 miles an hour over the posted speed limit on a public street
In addition to the extra jail time, you must enroll in a drug and alcohol counseling program.
DUI in a Construction Zone or Safety Zone
Great Bodily Injury
Great bodily injury is a term that leaves some room for negotiation, as determining what constitutes a "great" bodily injury is subjective. Penal code 12022.7 defines great bodily injury as "a significant or substantial physical injury." Because of this, courts will generally consider factors such as the degree of pain sustained by the victim, whether or not the victim needed medical attention following the incident, and the extent of said medical attention when determining whether or not an injury counts as a great bodily injury.
That said, some injuries are commonly considered great bodily injuries, such as:
- Serious wounds that require stitches
- Fractured bones
- Brain Injuries
- An injury that leads to disfigurement or a disability
- Injuries that leave visible bruises that last for months
Some of these injuries are easier to negotiate away than others. For example, it may be easier to negotiate away excessive and persistent bruising than it would be for something like a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage. That is not to say that excessive and persistent bruising is not serious, only that the range of what can be considered great bodily injury is vast and nonlethal injuries that leave no scarring, disfigurement, or long-term health issues can more reasonably be interpreted as the unfortunate consequences of a mistake rather than something that will complicate the rest of a victim's life.
Penalties for Great Bodily Injury Enhancement
If convicted of felony DUI causing injury, you will face three to six years of consecutive prison time in addition to the penalties associated with your DUI conviction. In this context, the term "consecutive" means that the sentence must be carried out immediately following any prison time you are sentenced to for the underlying felony DUI conviction.
The court will determine the number of additional years to your prison sentence based on the stipulations listed in the penal code:
- Three additional years will be served if your felony involves great bodily injury
- Five additional years will be served if the injury causes the victim to become comatose or if the injury leads to paralysis
- Five additional years will be served if the victim is seventy years of age or older
- Six additional years will be served if the victim is a child under the age of five
If the injury involves more than one of the above stipulations, the prosecution must choose which to charge you with, as penal code 12022.7 PC dictates that "[t]he court shall impose the additional terms of imprisonment under either subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d), but may not impose more than one of those terms for the same offense."
Additionally, the great bodily injury enhancement will put a strike on your record toward California's three-strikes law. According to the law, if you are convicted of a felony and have one strike on your record, your sentence will be doubled. If you are convicted of a serious or violent felony with two strikes on your record, you will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison; however, if you have two strikes on your record and are convicted of a felony that is not considered serious or violent, your sentence will only be doubled.
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If the DUI charges filed against you include any sentencing enhancements, your case will be more complex. Therefore, we encourage you to contact our team as soon as possible. We know how to negotiate with the prosecution in pursuit of more lenient sentences. In some cases, an enhancement can be removed from a charge altogether. We will need to know more about you and your case to determine the best course of action.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an enhanced DUI automatically a felony?
No, it is not. The best example of this would be second and third offenses. While these are considered enhanced sentences, they would not be charged as felonies unless you are charged with felony DUI causing injury, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or second-degree murder (Watson murder).
How can a lawyer help when facing potential DUI enhancement?
A lawyer can help negotiate for more lenient sentencing in some cases. Some enhancements involve subjective interpretation, such as the bodily injury enhancement, which leaves room for the possibility of a more lenient sentence.