Westminster, CA DUI Second Offense Lawyer
If you have a prior DUI charge on your record, you understand the gravity of this charge and how significantly your life can change due to a conviction. In addition to the administrative and criminal penalties imposed by the court, a DUI conviction also causes a number of devastating, long-lasting effects in nearly every part of your life. With your criminal record disclosed to the public, a conviction can severely undermine your chances of pursuing an education, finding housing, or moving forward in your career.
Compared to a first-time DUI, second offense DUI charges substantially increase the penalties you receive from a conviction, including longer prison sentences and more significant fines. With your freedom, reputation, and livelihood at stake, it is imperative to hire legal representation from a qualified Westminster DUI second offense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann has an impressive record of proven results, helping clients just like you navigate their charges, protect their rights, and safeguard their future.
California’s DUI Laws
In California, state law prohibits motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol. If you operate a vehicle while registering a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the national legal limit of 0.08%, you can receive DUI charges. Commercial drivers are held to a stricter standard and can receive a DUI if their BAC reaches a limit of 0.04%. Because the legal age of consumption is 21 years old, underage individuals can receive DUI charges if caught driving with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.
In other states, charging a driver with a DUI requires that they have physical control of the vehicle, defined as being in possession of a vehicle that can be put into motion. However, California differs from most other states. The burden of proof is higher – an officer must directly witness you driving while under the influence before they can pull you over and arrest you.
Understanding BAC and Implied Consent
DUI law in California includes implied consent, based on the concept that any individual choosing to operate a vehicle on a public roadway implicitly consents to receive a chemical DUI test if an officer believes them to be driving under the influence. The officer must have probable cause to do this, however, or the arrest is unlawful. The law states that before administering a chemical test, the officer must properly inform you that the results of the test may be used against you.
Because of implied consent, any driver an officer detains under suspicion of a DUI must submit to a blood or breath analysis or a urine test if these options are not available at the time. Refusing to submit results in suspension of your driver’s license and a fine of $125. Suspension times increase with each refusal; the first refusal leads to a one-year suspension, the second leads to a two-year suspension, and the third lengthens the suspension to a period of three years.
What Are the Charges for a 2nd DUI?
Many individuals with records containing prior DUI convictions are unaware that the court can use these convictions while sentencing a subsequent DUI offense. A DUI charge is a priorable offense, or an offense the court can consider during sentencing of a later conviction to enhance the penalties it imposes. Each time you receive a conviction for this priorable offense or a similar offense, the court can further enhance the charges beyond those for a first-time DUI offense.
Under California Vehicle Code, a DUI charge is a second offense if it occurs within a period of 10 years after a prior conviction for a DUI or a DUI causing injury. In addition, second DUI offenses can occur within ten years of a “wet reckless,” a reduced charge obtained by your Westminster DUI second offense attorney through a plea bargain. A wet reckless charge is a reckless driving charge instead of a DUI, but it does require that the charging documents include a note that the offense involved the use of alcohol. If the courts reduced your prior DUI charge to a “dry reckless” charge, the record will not contain this note and a subsequent charge is not a second offense DUI.
A DUI not labeled as a second offense typically does not involve mandatory increased jail time, but this charge does feature harsher penalties than the court would normally assess for a first-time offender. The ten-year limit also pertains to third, fourth, and additional offenses. Each new offense includes sentencing according to the number of prior offenses occurring within the ten-year period. The court may also consider DUI convictions you received in other states when determining penalty enhancements.
Second Offense DUI Penalties
The court treats a second offense DUI much differently than a first DUI, imposing harsher penalties. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes any necessary administrative penalties, while the state court must impose any criminal penalties.
- Administrative Penalties – While non-DUI charges require administrative penalties only after the court achieves a conviction, California law stipulates that sentencing must include these penalties for any lawful DUI arrest, regardless of the case outcome. Second offense DUI administrative penalties include:
- Driver’s license suspension for a minimum of one year (refusal to agree to a chemical test extends this suspension to two years)
- $390 in fines that the court can increase up to $2,000 by imposing additional penalty assessments
- Criminal Penalties – The courts treat a second offense DUI as a misdemeanor charge, and California courts and the DMV will assess the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum term in county jail for 96 hours, with a maximum of one year (some counties in California impose longer jail sentences of 30 to 60 days depending on the offense circumstances)
- Summary probation for three to five years
- Completion of 18 months of DUI School sponsored by the state
In some cases, the court can order the installation of a restricted ignition interlock device (IID) or may allow you to apply for one if you meet certain criteria. IID devices prevent driving while under the influence by inhibiting the ignition until you provide a breath sample that proves no alcohol exists in your system. It must remain on your vehicle for at least one full year, or two years if your DUI resulted in an injury. Attempting to bypass, remove, or otherwise tamper with the device results in the immediate suspension of all driving privileges.
Penalty Enhancements for Aggravating Factors
California law considers a second offense DUI an aggravated DUI if you were driving recklessly or in any manner that endangers the public and creates a greater risk of harm. The court can order penalty enhancements to increase your jail sentence beyond the minimum if your offense involved any of these aggravating factors:
- BAC registering 0.15% or higher
- Driving without a valid license
- Operating your vehicle at excessive speeds (20-30 mph over the posted speed limit)
- Causing an accident, especially one that results in bodily injury or death
- Being under 21 years old while driving under the influence
- Having children younger than 14 years of age as a passenger (child endangerment)
The court imposes penalty enhancements depending on the exact circumstances surrounding your arrest as well as the convictions listed on your criminal record. The presence of aggravating factors can cause the court to classify a second offense DUI as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. In three specific cases, the court will charge this offense as a felony:
- The driver has three or more prior convictions for DUI charges
- The driver has a prior felony DUI
- The driver causes an accident that directly leads to another person’s serious bodily injury or death
Why You Need an Attorney
When faced with a second offense DUI charge, many people desire to avoid court appearances at all costs, along with accepting the minimum possible penalties. These factors, along with an ignorance of the law, persuade many individuals to enter guilty pleas without retaining the services of a lawyer who may have won the case or at least improved the outcome. If you have received second offense DUI charges, keep in mind that you possess the constitutional right to defend yourself in court. Pleading guilty without qualified assistance from a defense attorney effectively concedes your case without considering your options for dismissal, reduced penalties, or other positive results.
As soon as you receive DUI charges against you, contact an experienced Westminster DUI second offense lawyer right away to discuss your charges and your legal options for fighting them. A defense attorney with a history of representing clients with DUI charges possesses the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to help you navigate your case. An attorney will examine the various factors involved in your arrest and thoroughly inspect any chemical test results the prosecution will use to pursue a conviction. Common defenses for a DUI charge often focus on the officer’s conduct during your arrest and the validity of your breath or blood test results.
Investigate Arrest Circumstances
A comprehensive investigation of the circumstances surrounding your arrest allows your Westminster DUI second offense attorney to consider whether the traffic stop occurred lawfully. Pulling you over without probable cause makes your arrest unlawful, and any evidence gathered against you nullified as a violation of your rights. Before initiating an interrogation, the law requires the officer to sufficiently inform you of your rights, including the right to remain silent. When an officer fails to follow this procedure, your lawyer can argue that any statements you disclosed were involuntary and that the courts should dismiss any evidence discovered during your arrest.
Before asking you to submit to a chemical BAC test, the officer will order you to perform a set of field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration approves such tests for assessing a driver’s balance, coordination, and capacity to direct attention to more than one task at a time. Alcohol severely impairs each of these factors. If the officer did not provide adequate instruction before you participated in field sobriety tests, your attorney has legal grounds to challenge them. Your attorney can also evaluate other potential reasons for failing these tests, such as advanced age, injury, disability, medical conditions, or medications that can cause impairment.
Analyze Breath Test Results
While modern breathalyzers do provide more accurate results than older devices, newer devices still retain a margin of error that can affect the results of your test. Inaccurate results can also occur due to the officer’s failure to adhere to proper procedure during use of the device.
- Margin of Error – A breathalyzer’s results can register a BAC as much as 0.01% over your actual BAC. While this is a seemingly small margin of error, it can prove critical if your results indicated you were just at or above the legal limit. Your attorney can argue that it is impossible to determine the accuracy of your test results due to the device’s margin of error. Therefore, the court cannot prove impairment beyond reasonable doubt from a breathalyzer alone.
- Improper Procedure – Proper use of the breathalyzer measures the concentration of alcohol in your system by analyzing the vapor you expel from your lungs. When used improperly by the arresting officer, the device may register the residual alcohol in your mouth along with the alcohol found in your lung vapor, extracting a tainted sample with an inaccurately high BAC. The officer must observe you for at least fifteen to twenty minutes before they administer the test to avoid such an error. Failure to do so can enable your Westminster DUI second offense lawyer to indicate that error caused unnaturally high readings.
- Certain Medical Conditions – The increased concentration of residual mouth alcohol that can alter a breath sample can result from several conditions besides alcohol consumption. Diabetes, hypoglycemia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and acid reflux can all impact this reading. Your attorney can provide medical records as evidence of these conditions causing inaccuracy in your test results.
Examine Blood Test Results
Blood tests tend to provide more accurate results than breathalyzer tests. However, an experienced Westminster DUI second offense attorney can fight against your charge by disputing these results or requesting that the court exclude them from your case.
- Warrantless Blood Draw – Even though implied consent laws can impose administrative penalties upon you for refusing to agree to a chemical test, the Supreme Court has dictated that an involuntary blood test is so invasive that it constitutes a violation of your constitutional rights. In order to draw blood for a BAC test, the officer must obtain a warrant. If the officer takes a blood sample without a warrant, your attorney can argue the test was unlawful, thus invalidating results evidence in the case against you.
- Rising Blood Alcohol – The human body metabolizes alcohol in a way that causes BAC to rise steadily after consuming alcohol until it reaches a peak, then decreases slowly until returning to baseline. Typically, this peak occurs approximately 30 to 45 minutes after consumption, but it can be influenced by a variety of factors to reach up to two or three hours following consumption.
Because of rising blood alcohol, if hours have passed since you consumed alcohol and you are no longer genuinely impaired, you can still register a BAC at or above the legal limit. Taking a blood test while your body has not finished metabolizing the alcohol in your system can cause your BAC to measure a higher percentage than you possessed while driving. Your attorney will argue this defense by presenting testimony from an expert witness with knowledge of this process and the inaccuracies it produces.
- Improper Sample Handling – One of the most common causes of test result errors is improper handling and storage of your blood sample, which can cause it to become contaminated or to begin the fermentation process. These circumstances increase the alcohol concentration in your sample and result in an artificially high BAC. Officers must follow specific rules when collecting, storing, and testing blood samples, and failure to do so can significantly impact your results. A Westminster DUI second offense lawyer experienced in such cases will know how authorities should handle blood samples and can recognize errors that impact BAC results.
Defend Your Rights and Secure Your Future
If you are facing a second offense DUI, contact The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann today. Long recognized as the premier choice for a Fullerton DUI second offense attorney, Christopher McCann offers the area’s finest legal representation as well a level of commitment unmatched by other criminal defense firms. Unlike other law firms that feature a team of multiple staff members working on their cases, Christopher McCann works directly with each client on an individual basis. He personally handles every case from the very beginning, finding solutions to help you avoid the severe penalties associated with a second DUI conviction.
To schedule a free consultation, contact our office. Christopher McCann will thoroughly investigate your charges, advocate for your rights, construct your defense, and aggressively pursue your case in court. He treats every case with the utmost level of care and compassion and will work diligently to deliver the best possible outcome in your case.