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What Factors Can Cause DUI Charges To Be Enhanced Or Aggravated?


In California, if someone gets a DUI and they have a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher, then they may face additional allegations and additional punishments. This is typically under California Vehicle Code Section 23578. We often see those filed when we have high blood alcohol levels. Other aggravating factors include the involvement of accidents and injuries to another person, whether that person was in the other vehicle or a pedestrian. The other thing that can aggravate DUIs is if someone has previous convictions for DUIs within the past 10 years. Someone who has a prior felony DUI is very likely looking at a new felony if they pick up another DUI, even if it’s something that would normally be a misdemeanor DUI. So, there are many factors that can aggravate cases.

Are DUI Charges Enhanced If Someone Has A BAC Twice Or Thrice The Legal Limit?

The enhancement of charges based on a BAC that is twice or thrice the legal limit is something that is dealt with on a court-by-court basis. The offers that we get from the DAs or from the courts can change depending on which county we’re in. For example, in Marin County (which is in the San Francisco Bay area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge), if someone has above a 0.20 blood alcohol level, the DA’s office very often asks for additional time on the sheriff’s work program or jail. Typically we can avoid jail on a first offense DUI in Marin County.

In Napa County, if someone is at or above a 0.15, then they will usually ask for additional sheriff’s work program time, as well as require an ignition interlock device for a minimum of one year. In other counties, such as San Mateo, they might want an extra couple of days in the sheriff’s work program if a person is at or above 0.20. So, instead of receiving two days in the sheriff’s work program, a person would receive four days. These are all things that the attorney can negotiate, and the outcome will vary depending on each case, each county and the experience of the attorney.

How Are Penalties Enhanced When A Death Or An Accident Occurs In A DUI Scenario?

Cases that involve injury can be misdemeanors, but it usually depends on the severity of the injury. This would be under California Vehicle Code Section 23153 instead of a non-injury, which is 23152. If someone is convicted, their license is typically suspended for a full year instead of a shorter period of time, which would be followed by a restrictive period. In addition, someone can end up getting more jail time, more time in the sheriff’s program, or be required to complete more DUI school. The penalties a person receives will depend on the case and the county.

Cases that involve serious injuries (like broken bones or permanent damage) can be a lot more complicated. Depending on the type of case and the different aspects of it, someone could be facing time in county jail, time in the sheriff’s work program, home detention with an ankle monitor or time in state prison. Some of the factors that can affect that are how the victim in the case and/or their family is dealing with the DA and how much pressure they are putting on the DA to not go easy on the defendant. It’s very tough for judges and prosecutors to negotiate with or be receptive to a defense attorney fighting for their client who has an injury DWI when there is a victim or a victim’s family that is pushing hard. This is where having an experienced DUI attorney can be really helpful.

With cases that involve very serious injuries and death, people are looking at state prison, and it does happen all the time. These are the worst cases, especially when the death of a child is involved. There is nothing worse than a child being killed. These are horrible cases and people are obviously facing many years in prison. Depending on the circumstances, prior convictions and how many different charges are involved, someone may even face life behind bars. There is never a good outcome in these cases; it’s horrible for all sides. Family members, friends, judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors don’t like to deal with these cases, but they do happen and that’s why we have the system that we do.

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Aaron Bortel

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