Fullerton, CA DUI Second Offense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI) offense in the past, you know the seriousness of this type of charge. The consequences that stem from such a conviction can be devastating. Not only does a DUI conviction bring about administrative and criminal penalties ordered by the court, but it also causes a long-lasting, negative impact on nearly every aspect of your life. Because your criminal record is available for public review, any conviction can severely hinder your ability to pursue an education, obtain housing, or progress in your career. You can lose your job, experience substantial difficulty securing a new position, or even lose essential certifications to work in your industry.
The presence of a prior DUI offense on your record significantly increases the likelihood of receiving harsher penalties from a second offense DUI, including higher fines and longer sentences. Even after fulfilling your legal obligation, a second conviction can undermine opportunities in the future and drastically influence your life for years to come. With so much at stake, it is imperative to immediately seek legal representation from an experienced Fullerton DUI second offense attorney. Learn more about this charge by considering the information below, then contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann today to begin working on your defense.
DUI Law in California
In the state of California, the law prohibits residents from driving under the influence of alcohol. Subsequently, authorities can arrest you for DUI if you are found operating any type of vehicle while you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. BAC thresholds are more severe for certain classes of drivers, with a 0.04% BAC limit for commercial drivers and a 0.01% limit for anyone under the age of 21 years old. Other states consider having physical control of the vehicle to be sufficient grounds for charging an individual with a DUI. However, California law requires proof you are driving the vehicle before authorities can administer a field sobriety test and arrest you on this charge.
BAC and Implied Consent
California law features implied consent, which is based on the idea that all individuals who choose to drive on public roadways implicitly consent to take a chemical DUI test if requested by a law enforcement officer. However, testing is only lawful if the officer has probable cause to suspect you are driving under the influence. The officer must inform you that the test results may be used against you in court, caution you that you have no right to consult with an attorney before taking the test, and explain the penalties of refusing testing.
Any driver detained under suspicion of a DUI must agree to a chemical BAC test. California law typically gives the driver the option of taking a breath or a blood test. If neither of these are available, the officer may use a urine test. Refusal to submit to these tests results in administrative penalties, including a $125 fine and driver’s license suspension. The first refusal results in a suspension of one year, a second refusal results in a two-year suspension, and the third refusal extends the suspension to three years.
What Are the Charges for a 2nd DUI?
Many individuals with previous DUI convictions are not aware that the courts can use these convictions to enhance the penalties incurred in later convictions. California considers DUI a priorable offense, or an offense available for consideration when determining sentencing for a later offense. The court will impose harsher penalties every time you are convicted for the same priorable offense or a similar offense.
California Vehicle Code stipulates that the courts consider a DUI charge a second offense when it occurs within ten years of a prior conviction for driving under the influence or a DUI-causing injury. Second offense DUI charges also apply if you have a prior “wet reckless,” which is a reduced charge that your Fullerton DUI second offense lawyer can obtain through a plea deal. Wet reckless is a reckless driving charge rather than a DUI, but the charging documents will include a note that the crime involved alcohol. If the courts reduce a prior charge to a “dry reckless,” it will not contain this note; a later DUI charge does not earn the label of a second offense DUI.
Even in cases where prior convictions fall outside this ten-year limit and do not generate a second DUI, the court can still impose additional penalties due to the presence of a criminal record with related charges. Mandatory jail time may not occur automatically at sentencing, but the court can choose to impose harsher penalties than it would normally assess for a first-time DUI offense. This ten-year time limit also applies to a third, fourth, or subsequent offense, with new offenses charged according to how many of these prior offenses occurred during the previous ten years. Additionally, California courts can consider DUI convictions received in other states for enhancement purposes.
Penalties for a Second DUI Offense
Significant differences exist between the way the courts treat a first DUI and the way they treat a second DUI, with second offenses incurring harsher penalties. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes administrative penalties, and California state court imposes criminal penalties.
- Administrative Penalties – In contrast to other charges that require formal administrative penalties only after a conviction, California orders that such penalties must occur after a lawful arrest for a DUI. Penalties occur regardless of whether you are eventually convicted of the offense. Administrative penalties for a second DUI include:
- Suspension of driver’s license for a minimum period of one year (refusal to submit to a breath or blood test increases this period to two years)
- $390 fine that can reach up to $2,000 with additional penalty assessments
- Criminal Penalties – The court typically treats a second DUI offense as a misdemeanor, which includes the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum sentence of 96 hours served in county jail. Jail sentences can reach up to a maximum of one year (some California counties require longer jail time that can range from 30 to 60 days based on the circumstances of the offense)
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Completion of a state-sponsored DUI School for a period of 18 months
To travel to and from an educational facility or a workplace, you may apply for installation of a restricted ignition interlock device (IID). This device connects to your vehicle’s ignition and prevents the engine from starting until you provide a breath sample as evidence that no alcohol exists in your system. It must remain installed on your vehicle for a minimum period of one year. Any attempts to tamper with, bypass, or remove the device signify noncompliance and can result in immediate revocation of driving privileges.
Aggravating Factors That Enhance Penalties
If you receive charges for a second DUI offense, the jail time ordered by the court can increase beyond the minimum if your offense involved any of the following:
- BAC of 0.15% or higher
- Driving with a suspended license
- Excessively speeding, defined as driving 20-30 mph over the speed limit
- Causing an accident or bodily injury to another person
- Being under 21 years of age at the time of the offense
- Having children under 14 years of age in the vehicle while driving under the influence (the law considers this child endangerment)
The type and severity of the enhanced penalty the court imposes based on these aggravating factors depends on the exact circumstances of your arrest and your criminal record. In some situations, the court can charge a second DUI offense as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. This includes cases where the driver has received three or more prior DUI convictions, has received a prior felony DUI conviction, or caused an accident that resulted in the serious bodily injury or death of another person.
How an Attorney Can Help You
Unfortunately, many individuals charged with a second DUI offense submit guilty pleas without completing adequate research to determine if prevailing in the case is possible. They choose to make this decision for a number of reasons, including the desire to avoid appearing in court, the fear of receiving a prison sentence, or ignorance of the options available to them. If you feel under pressure to accept a guilty plea, you must remember that the Constitution guarantees you the right to argue your case before the court. By pleading guilty without the recommendation of a defense attorney, you surrender the opportunity to have your case dismissed or to reduce your fines, jail time, and other consequences.
Immediately after you receive your second DUI charge, you must contact a Fullerton DUI second offense lawyer to discuss your charges and learn your options for fighting them. An experienced criminal defense attorney has the legal knowledge and extensive resources necessary to comprehensively investigate the circumstances of your arrest. Even more importantly, your attorney can help you gather evidence to create a compelling defense. An attorney will assess the full range of factors surrounding your arrest and the chemical test used to support your DUI charge and may uncover information allowing them to challenge one or both.
Challenging the Arrest
To challenge the arrest itself, your Fullerton DUI second offense attorney must prove the officer made the traffic stop without probable cause or without informing you of your rights. Without probable cause, the arrest is unlawful, and the ensuing investigation is a violation of your constitutional rights. The officer must inform you of your rights before beginning an interrogation, including your right to remain silent. By failing to do so, the court presumes that any statements you made were involuntary, thus dismissing any evidence discovered during the arrest.
Before ordering chemical testing, the officer will require you to participate in field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to assess a driver’s coordination, balance, and ability to focus on more than one task simultaneously. If the officer neglected to provide you with the proper instructions before conducting these tests, your attorney can challenge the results. Additionally, a number of distinct factors besides intoxication could result in failed sobriety tests, such as age, disability, injury, certain medical conditions, and medications you may be taking.
Challenging Breath Test Results
Although they are more accurate than older models, modern breathalyzer tests do feature a margin of error that can impact test results. Similarly, failure to follow proper procedure when using the device can also result in an inaccurate result.
- Device Margin of Error – All breathalyzers feature a margin of error that can alter test results by as much as 0.01%, making your BAC seem higher than it actually is. A driver whose BAC registered at just above the legal limit may be able to argue that it is impossible to determine whether the result is accurate or attributable to the device’s inaccuracy. Thus, the courts cannot prove the test result beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Improper Procedure – Breathalyzers work to measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s system by assessing the vapor expelled from the lungs. However, improper use can combine alcohol from the lungs with residual alcohol in the mouth, resulting in a tainted sample with an artificially high BAC. To avoid this error, the arresting officer must observe a driver suspected of driving under the influence for a period of fifteen to twenty minutes before administering the test. If the officer failed to do this, your Fullerton DUI second offense lawyer can argue that the results were inaccurate.
- Medical Conditions – Increased concentration of alcohol in the mouth can result from several different medical conditions, such as acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diabetes, and hypoglycemia. If you suffer from one of these conditions, your attorney can present medical records to support your claim and request the dismissal of breathalyzer evidence.
Challenging Blood Test Results
In most cases, blood tests offer more accurate results than breath tests, but a skilled Fullerton DUI second offense attorney can challenge a DUI charge by casting doubt on these results. Alternatively, an attorney can make an argument for excluding the results from the case evidence.
- Warrantless Blood Draw – Although implied consent laws enforce administrative penalties for refusal to submit to a chemical DUI test, the Supreme Court has ruled that the invasive nature of blood tests violates the driver’s constitutional rights. This means police typically must receive a warrant to draw a blood sample. If an officer takes your blood without a warrant, your attorney can argue that the results should be disregarded, severely undermining the prosecution’s case.
- Rising Blood Alcohol – Because it takes time for the human body to effectively metabolize the alcohol you consume, your BAC will rise steadily until reaching a peak, then fall slowly back to the baseline. This peak occurs an average of 30 to 45 minutes after you consume alcohol, but a variety of factors such as unique body chemistry can extend this peak as far as two or three hours after consumption.
Due to rising blood alcohol, a driver who has not consumed alcohol in hours and is no longer impaired can still register a BAC over the legal limit. Due to the natural delay between being pulled over and receiving a test, if you experience a traffic stop while your body is still metabolizing the alcohol, your BAC will measure higher than it was while you were driving. To argue this defense, an attorney will seek expert witness testimony from someone with thorough knowledge of the alcohol metabolization process.
- Improper Storage of Sample – Improper storage of blood samples comprise one of the most common reasons for test result errors. California Code of Regulations Title 17 outlines specific rules for collecting, storing, and analyzing blood samples. When authorities improperly store blood, the sample can experience contamination or undergo the process of fermentation, which increases the concentration of alcohol in the sample to produce a misleading BAC measurement. A Fullerton DUI second offense attorney with knowledge of blood testing procedures can identify errors that could have inflated your BAC results.
Protect Your Rights and Preserve Your Future
If you have received a second offense DUI charge, contact The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann today. For the past 15 years, experienced attorney and firm founder Christopher McCann has provided thousands of clients with the highest quality legal representation in Orange County. Our firm understands that facing second DUI charges is often a confusing and overwhelming situation and that a conviction can cause irreparable harm to your reputation and your livelihood. Christopher McCann takes every client’s unique needs into account, offering close, personalized attention while guiding you through every step of the process, so you always know what to expect and what options are available to you.
To schedule a free consultation with The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, contact us via our personalized contact form. A second offense DUI may seem impossible to face, but you do not have to do it alone. Choosing expert attorney services will help you navigate this challenging situation and reach the most favorable outcome possible so you can get your life back on track.