When facing any DUI charge in California, nothing should be more important than finding the best legal defense to ensure your release or reduction of your charges. All this starts when you identify a good DUI defense attorney who understands the DUI process and is experienced in handling similar cases to walk with you through the process.  The San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm could be what you are seeking if you are facing a DUI charge in San Jose, California. Our competent and experienced DUI defense attorneys will work on your case and ensure that your rights are respected all through the process.

Understanding the 4th Offense DUI

California State is stringent when it comes to punishing drunk driving offenders. A first DUI offender will still face severe penalties if found guilty of DUI, and a fourth offender will receive more penalties in addition to what the first, second, and third offender can receive. The first three DUI offenses in the state are convicted as misdemeanors, but if the fourth offense is committed within ten years from the time the first offense occurred, then the prosecutor will convict it as a felony. This means that the offense will attract more severe penalties that may include more years of incarceration, heftier penalties, and other mandatory requirements such as IID installation.

In the state of California, a 4th offense DUI occurs if a driver is arrested for drunk driving for the fourth time in 10 years. A regular DUI offender is likely to receive heftier penalties because the court may feel that he/she does not have any regard for road safety. That is why the fourth offense is convicted as a felony in the state. For that reason, it is good to have proper DUI defense by your side, to fight the possible penalties you are likely to receive if found guilty.

To be convicted of any subsequent DUI, the prosecutor has several things that he/she needs to establish:

There must be proof that the accused is indeed the person that was driving the car at the time of the arrest

This is the very first thing the court would want to be sure of before proceeding with the case. The arresting officer will be required to verify that the person they stopped and arrested is indeed the one appearing before the court. If you were wrongly arrested and charged, then this will be your chance to prove to the court that you are innocent of the charges you are facing. Your attorney should be able to demonstrate your innocence to the court.

The offender must be proven guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Anyone that is arrested for drunk driving in California faces two primary charges. The first charge will be that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contrary to Section 23152(a) of the California Vehicle Code. According to this law, it is illegal for any person to operate a vehicle when they are mentally or physically impaired by the influence of alcohol or drugs. The arresting officer must demonstrate to the court that you were not operating the vehicle the same way a sober person would. This charge does not require the prosecutor to establish your BAC levels to be found guilty of DUI.

There should also be proof that your Blood Alcohol Concentration level at the time you had physical control of the car was 0.08% or higher

This is the second charge that anyone facing DUI charges must face in California, by Section 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code. According to this law, it is illegal for anyone in the state to operate a car with a BAC level of 0.08% or higher. The prosecutor will require your BAC test results to charge you with this offense. If you are a commercial vehicle driver or a taxi driver, you will be found guilty of DUI if your Blood Alcohol Concentration level was found to be 0.04% or higher.

There must be proof that the offender has been previously convicted of DUI or DUI-related offenses in the last ten years.

The 4th offense DUI will not be charged and convicted as a felony if you have not been convicted three times for DUI or similar offenses in the last ten years. The period of 10 years used in determining prior DUI offenses is referred to as the look-back period. There are several methods available to a prosecutor that could help them prove that the offender has previous DUI convictions. He/she can, for instance, use records from criminal courts or DMV, which shows if the driver has received any license suspension in the past.

There are records, too, which show if the driver has gone through any court-recommended drug or alcohol education program that may prove an offender's prior DUI convictions. Prosecutors can obtain any court records that are believed to help in the case they are handling at the moment; therefore there is always a chance that your previous convictions will come up in any trial that will come after. Note that the DMV and court records will even show any record of DUI or related convictions that might have occurred in a different state.

Penalties for 4th Offense DUI

Every DUI offense in California can be severely punished, whether it is a first or subsequent offense. That is why anyone arrested and charged with DUI must ensure that they are well defended against the charges so as not to serve long terms in prison or jail. As mentioned above, a 4th offense DUI in the state is a felony, which means that the penalties here can be more severe if you are found guilty.

The kinds of punishments one can get here are life-altering. Other than spending more years in jail, you might lose your driver's license and be required to register as a habitual traffic offender for more than three years by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, even though a fourth DUI charge comes from being sentenced of DUI or DUI-related crimes in the last ten years, punishments an offender gets vary significantly from one person to the other. The prosecutor will consider a few factors, such as the circumstances surrounding your case to charge you. The judge, on the other hand, will consider a few more factors, such as whether your actions put any imminent risk to the members of the public before pronouncing your sentence. 

To determine your punishments, the judge will consider the level of your BAC in each of your prior convictions, to tell how aggravating each of your previous cases was. He/she will also consider your previous DUI convictions out of ten years and the circumstances that led to those convictions. Here are the guidelines that the court will use to sentence a fourth DUI offender:

  • A possible jail term of 16 months, two years or 4 years of incarceration in a state prison
  • A fine of between $390 and $1000, excluding the court charges
  • Mandatory requirement to register as a habitual traffic offender for at least three years by the state's DMV
  • Possible driver's license suspension for four years

Even with your previous DUI convictions, no one is well prepared for a felony conviction. The first three convictions will be misdemeanors, and this means that you will have served a maximum of one year in jail. The dissimilarity between a felony and a misdemeanor is quite significant. A felony will include imprisonment in state prison for a maximum of four years. That is why it is advisable to work with an experienced DUI attorney if you want to increase your chances of having your charges reduced or even dismissed.

Aggravating Factors

In every DUI charge, there is always a possibility of facing heftier penalties if there are aggravating factors surrounding your case. Aggravating factors, in this case, will heighten the charges you are likely to receive for your fourth DUI offense. Some of these are:

  • Driving under the influence and causing an accident that results in injuries or death
  • Driving recklessly or at an excessive speed while under the influence
  • Causing property damage in your drunken or drugged state
  • Refusing to submit to a breath or blood test
  • Operating a car with a BAC of more than 0.15%
  • Driving under the influence with a passenger who is a minor of 14 years and below

With every aggravating factor comes more punishment for a DUI offender. When you are facing a charge for a fourth DUI offense, you may get more years of incarceration if any of the above factors are included in your case. This is another reason why you need to hire the best DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

A felony DUI with injury, for instance, will be punished by up to ten years of incarceration in state prison. In addition to that, the court will give the offender between one and six years on top of their sentence, to be served consecutively, depending on the number of people who have been injured and the nature of their injuries. There is a possibility of getting a strike on your criminal record too, as provided under the state’s Three Strikes Law. The fines will go up too, to a maximum of $5000.

In addition to that, the offender will be required to register in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program for between 18 and 30 months. A felony DUI offender will also be required to install an IID in their car for at least three years if they want to continue driving. Failure to this, their driving privileges will be lost.

Lastly, the offender will be required to pay restitution to all the injured parties.

DMV Hearing for a 4th Offense DUI

A 4th-DUI offender is already familiar with the court processes; therefore, the arrest may not be so stressful for you. However, the possibility of losing your driver's license for four years or more can be quite nerve-racking. Just like in every DUI arrest, an offender is expected to request a DMV hearing once they are arrested and within ten days if they do not want to have their driver's license suspended after a month.

After your arrest, your driver’s license will be confiscated by the arresting officer, and then sent to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, popularly known as the DMV. In addition to that, you will be issued with a temporary license that is only valid for 30 days, after which you may not be allowed to drive until the suspension is lifted. If you send a request for a DMV hearing within ten days after your arrest, the DMV will prepare to hear you out, either in person, through your attorney or over the phone.

The request for a DMV hearing will help delay your driver's license suspension at least until the trial is done and the verdict is determined. If the DMV rules in your favor, you may not lose your driving privileges after all. However, the outcome of your criminal court hearing will affect the DMV's decision. If the court finds you guilty of DUI, you may still get your license suspended for four years.

To decide on whether to delay the suspension of your license or suspend it at once, the officer conducting the DMV hearing will ask you three questions:

  • Whether your arrest was legal or not
  • If the level of your BAC at the time of arrest was 0.08% or higher
  • If the arresting officer had a credible reason to believe that you were driving under the influence, hence his/her reason for stopping you

Offenders have a right to be legally represented both in the criminal court trial and in the DMV hearing. Even though the DMV hearing is not related in any way to your DUI court case, it might help to have a DUI defense attorney by your side. This way, you might have a higher chance of stopping your driver’s license suspension.

What if you lose in your DMV hearing?

This will automatically mean that your driver’s license will be suspended for four years, courtesy for your 4th-offense DUI. Note that the suspension period can be extended if there are aggravating factors surrounding your case. If, for instance, you failed to submit to a breath or blood test, you may lose your driving privileges for a much more extended period.

What is the role of your attorney in your DMV hearing?

In California, the choice to have an attorney represent you in a DMV hearing is personal. Some people will prefer to handle matters by themselves. Unlike in a criminal court, whereby you will be assigned a legal representation if you do not have an attorney to represent you, you do not enjoy these privileges in a DMV hearing. However, it helps to have someone by your side even in such situations when it seems like it is not very important.

  • An experienced attorney will, for instance, help to ensure that your driving privileges are restored as fast as possible.
  • He/she will be able to unmask any transgressions that could have been made by the law enforcement officers during arrest
  • A smart attorney will expose any loopholes in the criminal case leveled against you
  • Your attorney will prepare your defense well, by cross-examining and summoning the arresting officer to help in your case
  • He/she will then gather enough testimony from the arresting officer that could also be used to help in your criminal court case

Note that 4th offense DUI offenders could be allowed to continue driving without any limitation if they agreed to have an IID installed in their cars for a court-ordered period.

An Ignition Interlock Device commonly referred to as IID is a small device that is usually installed in an offender's car. With the device in place, the driver will be required to provide a breath sample every time they want to drive. If there is alcohol present in their breath, the device will not allow the car's engine to start, and so, the driver will not be able to drive in their drunken state again.

The device is among the mandatory conditions a driver facing a felony DUI charge faces if they do not want to lose their driving privileges.

Possible Defenses for 4th Offense DUI

The role of your attorney will be to try as much as he/she can have the judge reduce or dismiss your 4th offense DUI charges. To achieve this, there are several defense strategies that he/she might use to help your case.

To have your case dismissed, your attorney could argue the following.

You were illegally arrested

This could happen if the arresting officer did not observe all the regulations in place for stopping and arresting DUI offenders. This could also happen if you were stopped and arrested in a DUI checkpoint that does not comply with the set standards provided by the law. If for instance you were stopped at a checkpoint whose operation was not made known to the members of the public in advance, the arrest and any evidence gathered from it will not be admissible in court.

Your test results were unreliable

This will happen if there was a chance that the breathalyzer was faulty. There are many instances when breath testing equipment has been proven to provide inaccurate results. If the breathalyzer was not well maintained or calibrated as required by law, the results obtained may not be reliable; thus, it may not be admissible as evidence in a criminal court case.

The BAC test was not administered well

Your BAC results will determine the course of your case will take. That is why your attorney will work hard to prove that the results obtained were not true and hence, inadmissible in court. If the arresting officer did not follow the right procedures for administering the BAC tests, the results could not be seen as reliable.

The arresting officer did not have probable cause to stop and arrest you

There must be an indication that you are driving under the influence for a law enforcement officer to stop and arrest you for DUI. If the officer was merely doing a routine check, then he/she suspected that you were drunk and arrested you, the arrest will have been illegal. With no probable cause for arrest, your charge will be dismissed.

You were not the one driving the vehicle at the time of the arrest

The prosecutor needs to prove to the court that you were the actual driver at the time of arrest for you to be tried for DUI. If someone else was driving the car at that time, or the vehicle was not moving, you may not be found guilty of any DUI offense.

If by any chance your attorney realizes that your chances for having the case dismissed are unlikely, he/she will review your previous DUI convictions to determine their validity. If there is a possibility of one or more of your prior cases to be struck, then the current offense will not be a felony and your charges will be reduced. For this to happen, your attorney will get busy reviewing the prior cases' procedures and evidence to see if there is any mishap that could help your case. He/she may engage the services of professionals who will analyze each of your previous cases in details so that you can get a more lenient charge

Find San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm Near Me

A fourth offense DUI is convicted as a felony in California, and this could mean severe punishments for the offender. There is a chance of spending up to four years in prison and more if there were aggravating factors involved in your case. That is why you need to fight the 4th offense DUI as much as you can. San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm comprises of competent and experienced DUI defense attorneys that are willing and ready to take over your case. Call us today at 408-777-6630 and let us walk with you through the process.