If you have had three previous DUI convictions in your criminal record in the last ten years and the police arrest you for a new DUI offense, you face a 4th offense DUI charge. The offense is a felony that attracts harsh penalties. The penalties include extensive jail time and heavy fines.

If you or a close family member is facing a fourth DUI conviction in Chula Vista, you need legal counsel. A criminal defense attorney will help you protect your rights and fight the charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we know the DUI laws and take all necessary precautions to protect your rights.

Understanding California 4th Offense DUI

In California, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is priorable. It means that whenever you face a DUI conviction, the penalties increase. When law enforcement officers arrest you for committing DUI for the fourth time within ten years, you will face a fourth-offense DUI conviction. The crime is a felony offense in California. According to VC 23152, the previous DUI convictions include any of the following:

  • Wet Reckless (VC 23103.5).
  • DUI (VC 23152a).
  • Driving with a BAC level above 0.08% (VC 23152b).
  • Out-of-state convictions are considered convictions for the above crimes.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove in a Fourth Offense DUI in California?

Before you can be found guilty, the prosecution must establish the essential elements of the crime. The prosecutor uses the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and court documents.

Note that the court records all prior DUI convictions for future use. So, the prosecutor can use DMV records to prove you have committed and faced conviction for DUI the previous three times. If your past driving under the influence convictions total three, the prosecution will view your most recent DUI conviction as your fourth crime.

The evidence against you should show that you were operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. For a crime to be considered a fourth DUI offense, ten years must have passed between your third and fourth DUI offenses. The following are the factors the prosecutor must prove:

You were Operating a Vehicle

The prosecution must demonstrate that you were driving the car during the arrest. The statements made to the court by the arresting police are one of the best ways for the prosecutor to prove this element.

A drunk driver runs a significant risk of endangering the safety of passengers and other road users. Only when you are operating a vehicle while intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs can you be charged with DUI.

The prosecution team may consider where you left your car keys and whether or not it was running when you were arrested. It may be possible to tell whether you were driving the car by how close you were to the wheel.

You Have Three Prior DUI Convictions

In California, you must have three prior convictions within ten years to be eligible for a fourth DUI offense. The prosecutor consults the court file to determine whether you meet this condition. The consequences for a fourth DUI conviction are harsh compared to those for a first, second, or third offense. The prosecutor can concentrate on making sure you receive severe punishments.

You Had a BAC Level of 0.08% or Above During Your Stop

The prosecution team must establish that when the police stopped you, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was more than 0.08%. Remember that this group's BAC threshold is low if you are under 21. Be cautious and speak with a lawyer if the police stop you from driving while intoxicated.

Arraignment for DUI Cases in California

A DUI case starts with an arraignment and ends when the court acquits or sentences you. During the arraignment phase, the court gives you the first offer. In this context, a request may involve the prosecutor recommending you plead guilty to the alleged charges.

So, you can plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. When you plead guilty, the court will sentence you to jail, ending the case. Alternatively, if you enter a not-guilty plea, you can assess your case and contest the prosecutor's presentation. Therefore, ensure you work closely with your attorney to help you determine the best deal available for your case.

The Legal Penalties for Fourth-Offense DUI in California

The potential penalties for the fourth DUI offense are more severe than those for the third or second DUI offense. The court considers a fourth DUI Offense a felony offense. Note that the sentences are not fixed, as they change based on the circumstances of your case. The judge considers whether you have mitigating or aggravating factors. The following are the legal penalties for a fourth DUI offense in California:

  • The probation period is between three and five years.
  • 16, 24, or 36-month jail term.
  • Compulsory drug program for up to 18 months.
  • The court designates you as a traffic offender.

If the prosecutor proves aggravating factors in your case, you face enhanced penalties. The following are examples of aggravating factors in a fourth DUI offense:

  • Driving at excessive speed.
  • Extremely high levels of BAC.
  • Causing severe injuries to other road users.
  • Having a child under 14 years of age at the time of your arrest.

When the DUI case results in an accident leading to death, your behavior amounts to manslaughter or Watson's murder. The conviction will result in an additional prison sentence of 16 months, two years, three years, or six years. When the prosecutor files a Watson murder charge against you, you face a jail term of fifteen years or life imprisonment.

Another factor that can increase your sentence is drunk driving causing injuries, as per VC 23153. If your fourth DUI offense results in physical injuries, you face additional penalties for a 2, 3, or 6-year jail term. If the offense involves multiple victims sustaining physical injuries, you will face another 1 to 3 years in jail.

If, during the commission of the offense, you had a passenger under the age of 14 in your vehicle, you will face a three-month sentence enhancement. The court could also inflict charges for child endangerment, punishable by a six-year jail term.

Administrative Penalties for Fourth DUI Offense in California

Apart from facing criminal charges, the Department of Motor Vehicles could also inflict administrative penalties. After the apprehending officers arrest you, they confiscate your license and email the DMV. The Department of Motor Vehicles then issues a temporary license for one week.

When you face an arrest for a fourth DUI, requesting a DMV Hearing within ten days is imperative. If you do so, the DMV will revoke your license within one month. The revocation or suspension of your license runs for up to 4 years. You can, however, continue to operate your vehicle with a restricted license. Remember, the restricted license comes with conditions, like installing an IID device.

After 48 months, the law allows you to apply for a new driver's license. You must retake the driving test and pay the application fees. Besides this, the DMV may order you to present certificates of completion or attendance at DUI school.

Obtaining a new driver's license is not the end. The Department of Motor Vehicles will also require you to install an IID device in your car. So, when you face a DUI-related offense in California, immediately speak with your attorney.

Why You Need to Work with a DUI Attorney

The potential outcomes of your DUI case depend on the attorney you choose to work with and the support they offer you. To increase your chances of winning your fourth DUI offense, ensure you work with an experienced DUI attorney.

Developing the best defense strategies to fight the charges requires skills and experience. You want to work with a DUI attorney to facilitate the following:

Collecting Evidence

Collecting Evidence might involve interviewing witnesses and obtaining discovery in your case. The evidence collected during the discovery phase may include audio or video recordings of your investigations. For example, your phone can help show that you were not chatting while driving.

Interpreting Evidence

Interpreting evidence is one of the crucial phases of a criminal case. Your attorney can use the collected evidence to write motions that support your claim. These motions may include a motion to suppress evidence and a pitch motion. The motions can offer a foundation for negotiating a better deal.

Negotiating a Better Plea Deal

Note that not all DUI cases make it to trial. So you can negotiate with the district attorney for a better plea deal. You want to work with an attorney with many years of experience.

The attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor, considering the evidence and facts surrounding your case. Remember, a bargain deal will result in you obtaining a charge reduction. A charge reduction means you will not face severe penalties.

Legal Defenses to Fight a Fourth DUI Offense in California

Working closely with a DUI lawyer with many years of experience in DUI cases is the best way to combat the severe penalties for a fourth DUI charge. To compile sufficient evidence and refute your allegations, a professional DUI lawyer will review your case and carry out independent investigations.

If there is enough evidence, the lawyer can spot a flaw in the prosecutor's case and dismiss the charges. The following are typical legal defense tactics your California DUI lawyer can employ to combat the fourth DUI offense:

You Were not Operating or Driving a Vehicle

The prosecutor must establish that you were operating a motor vehicle when you were stopped for you to be found guilty of DUI. They must show the judge that you controlled the car while intoxicated. Prosecutors frequently use circumstantial evidence to establish this element. 

Therefore, you can claim you never drove if the prosecutor did not see you operate or drive the automobile. The court may dismiss or reduce the charge.

The Police Did Not Have Probable Cause to Stop You

Law enforcement officials must have a valid reason to order you to stop. It indicates that they must have grounds to suspect you of operating a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. For example, law enforcement officials can spot the following to determine whether you are driving while intoxicated or drugged:

  • Speeding.
  • Swerving.
  • Driving while your headlines are off.
  • Immediate braking.
  • Driving too slowly.
  • Repeatedly changing lanes.
  • Executing improper turns.

When law enforcement personnel notice these actions, they may order you to stop your car. They can now identify you as driving while intoxicated during the stop. Police officers may occasionally stop you without a valid reason. For example, if the police see you leaving a nightclub or pub, they may stop you.

If this applies to you, you can object to the police stop. You can use the dashboard camera to demonstrate in court that there was no reason for the police to stop you. The court may dismiss the case.

The Apprehending officers Violated the Laid-Down Procedures

Law enforcement personnel must follow the processes set down by the law. They must read you your Miranda rights. A probable cause must also exist for the law enforcement officers to arrest you.

You have the right to remain silent until your criminal defense attorney speaks. However, you have to cooperate with the police. Always respond to a police query after consulting with your lawyer. Calling your lawyer is an option if you want to avoid responding to inquiries. 

You can apply to suppress the evidence whenever your criminal defense lawyer learns that the police were dishonest. The court will likewise disregard the evidence obtained illegally. When the prosecutor determines the case is weak, a plea bargain is more likely to be offered than a trial.

Inaccurate BAC Results

The results of the BAC test must be correct for the court to accept them. Unfortunately, it is challenging to demonstrate whether or not the test results are accurate. When the equipment maintenance and storage instructions are followed, and law enforcement personnel conduct the test, the court believes the results to be accurate.

For example, police officers need to maintain the accuracy of the testing kits. During the BAC test, the police should ensure you are relaxed. The officers should also notice any physical changes you have undergone.

You can ask the prosecution to produce the equipment's maintenance records if you have a strong suspicion that the calibration or upkeep of the equipment was subpar. Ensure you talk to your lawyer about the BAC test's methodology that the arresting cops administered.

Rising BAC

Psychological factors like eating and hydration might cause your blood alcohol concentration to rise. During your arrest, your blood alcohol content may have been lower than usual. Also, the rise in BAC may vary depending on how much alcohol you drank before driving. As a result, you can use this defense to increase your chances of estimating the BAC level that law enforcement officials have determined.

Alternative Sentencing and Probation Conditions for a Fourth DUI Offense

A fourth DUI Offense can include probation with several conditions you must adhere to. For example, the court can order you to drive your vehicle with a specific alcohol content limit. You also agree to submit to a BAC test in the event of a subsequent arrest.

Also, you agree to avoid committing any other crime during the time you are serving your probation. Other terms the court can impose on your probation include restitution and attending DUI classes.

Other Related Offenses

In California, the fourth DUI Offense is among the priorable offenses. The crime is closely related to 1st-time DUI, 2nd-time DUI, and 3rd-time DUI. Below is a discussion of these crimes charged alongside a fourth DUI Offense in California:

  1. First DUI Offense

It is possible to face first-time DUI charges in California. The state does not have one charge used to prosecute drivers facing first-time DUI charges. Instead, the law focuses on the following charges to convict you:

  • Your status and age.
  • Your blood alcohol content level.
  • Whether you are accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Whether you lead to injuries and deaths.

The Legal Penalties

In California, the law considers first-time DUI offenses a misdemeanor. The possible penalties include:

  • DUI probation for up to five years.
  • License restriction for six months.
  • Jail term for six months.

DUi is priorable in California, meaning the criminal record will remain in your criminal history for up to ten years. Every subsequent conviction within ten years will attract increased penalties.

The Legal Defenses

With the help of an attorney with many years of experience, you can fight the charges. The following are the potential Defenses your attorney can employ to Fight the charges:

  • Lack of probable cause to stop you.
  • You were not driving at the time of your arrest.
  • Rising BAC.
  • Inaccurate BAc results.
  1. Second DUI Offense

You face a second-time DUI conviction when the police suspect you of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and you have a previous conviction for a similar crime. The offense must have occurred within California's allowed look-back period. Know that a prior conviction would increase your penalties.

If your second-time DUI offense has any of the following within ten years, you face severe penalties for violating the following statutes:

  • Wet reckless (VC 23103).
  • DUI with injury (VC 23153).
  • Charges involving infringement of VC 23152.

The Legal Penalties

A second DUI offense carries severe penalties compared to a first-time DUI offense. The possible penalties include:

  • Inserting an interlock device in your vehicle.
  • Attending an alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • Serving a 96-hour mandatory jail term.
  • It will take a minimum of ten years to remove your criminal record.

The DMV will only suspend your driver's license if you request a court hearing within ten days after the court issues a suspension letter. The Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driving license for 12 months.

The legal Defenses

After facing a second DUI charge, your DUI attorney can use any of the following Defenses to Fight your charge:

  • Lack of probable cause.
  • Rising blood alcohol level.
  • Misconduct during Field Sobreity tests.
  1. Third DUI Offense

Note that DUI in California is prioritized, meaning the gravity of the charges depends on the number of your previous DUI convictions. A first DUI offense means you have never been arrested for any DUI offense; a second DUI offense means you have one prior DUI conviction; and a third DUI offense means you have two previous DUI convictions within ten years.

The third offense of DUI in California is a misdemeanor unless you have aggravating factors like death and injuries. The third DUI conviction attracts more severe penalties than the first and second DUI convictions.

The Legal Penalties

The judge has the discretion to determine the type of sentence that suits you. Since your third offense is a DUI, you will serve a jail term of up to 12 months. Also, the court will more likely order you to attend a mandatory DUI treatment program for up to 30 months. The court might also order you to serve probation rather than a jail term. The court will also suspend your driving license for up to 36 months.

The Potential Defenses

Third-offense DUI penalties are grave. Besides losing your driving privileges, you also pay hefty fines and spend extensive time behind bars. With the help of a competent DUI attorney, you can fight the charges. The attorney can use the following Defenses:

  • Lack of probable cause to make an arrest.
  • Rising BAC.
  • Inaccurate BAC levels.
  • Failure to read your Miranda rights.

Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

If you are accused of a fourth DUI arrest in California, you may be concerned about losing your driving privileges. It is not over yet. Even severe charges, license suspensions, and lengthy jail terms are possible outcomes. So, as soon as you are arrested, you should obtain legal counsel from a qualified DUI attorney.

At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we can assist you in defending against the Fourth DUI offense accusations. We have a track record of successfully defending clients accused of drunk driving. We are here for you if the police charge you with a fourth DUI and you ask for legal assistance in Chula Vista. Call us at 619-877-6894 to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable DUI lawyers.