In California, DUIs and wet reckless charges are priorable offenses. This means that each time you are convicted of another DUI or wet reckless offense, the penalties increase in length and severity because of your past offenses. If you are convicted of a fourth DUI, you will most likely be facing a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor.
California Vehicle Code Section 23550 states that a person who is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) within 10 years of three or more separate driving DUI charges resulting in convictions, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than 180 days nor more than one year with a fine of between $390 and $1,0001. Additionally, a person convicted of a fourth offense DUI will be designated as a habitual traffic offender for a period of three years subsequent to the fourth DUI conviction.2
The DMV requires a four-year driver license revocation for when you are convicted of a fourth offense felony DUI3 . Revocation means that your privilege to drive a vehicle is terminated for a period of time, after which a new driver’s license must be obtained before your privilege is reinstated. You will not be eligible for a restricted or temporary drivers license.
The prosecution has to prove two elements to convict you of a felony DUI. The first element is that you were driving the car and were under the influence or had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of above 0.08% ((California Vehicl Code §23152(b)) . The second element is that you were convicted of three DUI and/or wet reckless offenses within the past ten years. In order to prove your past three convictions, the prosecuting attorney can show past court records, DMV records, or certificates of completion or attendance from any court imposed driving under the influence classes.
There are still defenses that an attorney can structure for a fourth DUI offense. Usually, your attorney will challenge the current DUI charge that you are facing by either questioning procedure or evidence. Your attorney will try to first get your charge reduced to a non-priorable offense such as a dry reckless. If the prosecution has a strong case against you and this is not possible, then your attorney will likely try to find an error in one of your past convictions and get one of these convictions tossed out. Since the penalties increase because you are now facing a felony charge, it is important that your attorney know every possible defense that may keep the conviction a misdemeanor or get dismissed altogether.
1. Will a wet reckless and dry reckless appear as priorables on my record?
A wet reckless is considered a prior offense and will increase your penalties as you receive subsequent convictions for either other DUIs or wet reckless offenses. A dry reckless offense is not considered a prior offense in relation to previous DUI convictions because there is no automatic connection between the dry reckless and DUI.
2. What is the difference if my license is revoked instead of suspended?
If you are convicted of a fourth DUI, your license is revoked instead of suspended. A drivers’ license suspension is for a fixed period of time and at the end of that period you can get a license if you can show SR-22 insurance. A revocation is for an indefinite period of time though this does not usually mean forever. To get your license back you have to apply to the DMV at the end of the revocation and they have to reestablish your driving privilege.
It is unlawful for a person whose driving privilege has been suspended or revoked to accumulate a driving record history, which results from driving during the period of suspension or revocation. A person who violates this subdivision is designated an habitual traffic offender.4
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Misdemeanor DUI – The prosecution is most likely going to charge you with a felony DUI upon your fourth offense. It is possible that your attorney can challenge the charge and get it reduced to a misdemeanor charge if there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you. A misdemeanor charge will carry with it less harsh penalties than a felony conviction.
Dry Reckless – A dry reckless charge is usually offered as a plea when the prosecution’s case against you has some weaknesses and the state would rather have a conviction than lose a trial. A dry reckless is not a priorable offense, meaning that it will not count as a previous offense when determining the penalties of your current offense.
Wet Reckless – A wet reckless offense is only offered as a plea when the prosecution believes there is a weakness in your case. It is important to remember that a wet reckless is a priorable offense and will contribute to an increase in your penalties when you have multiple convictions.
Resolute Defense In Your DMV Hearing: Including
- Review of the police report for any shortcomings in the investigation.
- Subpoenaing the records of maintenance and accuracy logs on the specific PAS and/or ECIR machine used to conduct your exam.
- Strategizing any viable defenses to preserve your license, etc.
Zealous Defense In Your Criminal Proceedings: Including
- Extensive review of the police report for possible defenses.
- Subpoeaning the video footage (“dash cameras”) of the traffic stop, if any taken.
- Have any blood drawn retested by an independent facility.
- File any important Pretrial motions (i.e., Motion to Suppress the evidence against you, Pitchess Motion for officer misconduct at arrest, etc.)
- Plea Negotiations with prosecutors to garner a charge reduction.
- Dismissal of the case, if applicable for insufficient evidence.
Dynamic Defense In Your Trial Proceeding: Including
- File pre-trial motions to seek to exlude any non-relevant evidence that prosecutors may try to use in trial.
- Utilize reasearch on demographic set for jury selection
- Cross examine all witnesses including law enforement & governement expert
- Present expert testimony in your favor
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With the state of California having some of nation’s harshest DUI laws, it is extremely important to consult a knowledgeable DUI attorney in Los Angeles or your local area. Because a fourth DUI offense, a felony, carries such severe penalties, it is important that you contact a specialized attorney that will be able to create a defense out of weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. A felony conviction on your record can have long lasting consequences on your life and at the Aizman Law Firm, our experienced DUI attorneys can help you with questions you might have about the entire DUI process. If you need to speak to an attorney about your DUI case, please call our office at: (818) 351-9555.
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- California Vehicle Code 23550(a) – If a person is convicted of a violation of Section 23152 and the offense occurred within 10 years of three or more separate violations of Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, or Section 23152 or 23153, or any combination thereof, that resulted in convictions, that person shall by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code, or in acounty jail for not less than 180 days nor more than one year, and by a fine of not less than three hundred ninety dollars ($390) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000). The person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to paragraph (7) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver’s license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. [↩]
- California Penal Code Section 23550(b) – person convicted of a violation of Section 23152 punishable under this section shall be designated as a habitual traffic offender for a period of three years, subsequent to the conviction. The person shall be advised of this designation pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 13350. [↩]
- California Vehicle Code 13352(a)(7 [↩]
- California Vehicle Code §14601.3(a [↩]