A DUI is a serious criminal offense that can affect your life for years. At Chudnovsky Law, our team of experienced DUI defense attorneys springs into action to defend against drunk driving charges, whether it is a first offense or you have prior convictions on your record.
If you have prior DUI convictions, the penalties for a subsequent conviction become far more severe, and your legal rights will be in even greater jeopardy. You always need to consult with a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after any DUI arrest - especially if you have prior arrests or convictions.
Your legal rights are in jeopardy as soon as a police investigation begins. At Chudnovsky Law, our lawyers can protect you from self-incrimination, evidence obtained without a warrant, and other violations of your constitutional rights. We can also help you protect your administrative rights with the DMV. There is only a short window of time to act to protect your license, so always reach out immediately if officers take your license. Contact us today.
Delays can result in you losing the right to challenge a driver’s license suspension or other actions. Don’t wait to contact our Orange County multiple DUI defense lawyers. The sooner you have an experienced attorney fighting on your side, the sooner we can protect your rights.
Why You Need to Hire Chudnovsky Law’s Orange County Defense Lawyers Immediately After Any DUI Arrest
The constitution provides many important legal rights to anyone under investigation for a crime. The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures. This means that you can keep out of court any evidence the police obtain without a warrant (or a valid exception to the warrant requirement). Unfortunately, the defendant must assert this right. The prosecutor is not there to help you, and they do not have to voluntarily give up inadmissible evidence.
Similarly, the Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. You can fight to keep a confession (or other incriminating statements) out of court in certain circumstances, but the defendant must also take action to assert this right.
You also have protections under the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. You have the right to refuse to answer questions from the police without a lawyer present. These constitutional rights create important legal protection for anyone facing a police investigation. However, without a lawyer on your side, the police or prosecutor can ignore these rights. You must hire a DUI defense lawyer to protect your rights in the criminal court as soon as you can.
In addition to your constitutional rights in the criminal court, you also have administrative rights with the DMV. If your driver's license gets suspended (either because you refused to take a blood or breath test or the field test came back over 0.08 percent), you have the right to request a hearing through the DMV. This hearing gives you a chance to present any available defense to your license suspension.
If, for example, the officer did not advise you of the consequences of refusing an alcohol test, a lawful license suspension cannot happen because of a refusal. This DMV hearing is separate from the criminal case. It happens through the DMV’s administrative offices, and the outcome only affects your driving record (not your criminal record). A DUI lawyer can protect your rights in criminal courts and at the DMV.
However, a driver only has ten days to request this hearing after a license suspension. Always consult with an Orange County DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after your license is in jeopardy. Your lawyer will need time to review your case, determine if there are legal grounds to challenge your driver’s license suspension, and file the formal hearing request with the DMV before this ten-day deadline lapses.
When a DUI Is a Prior
The California Vehicle Code sets a lookback period of ten years for DUI convictions. This means that any DUI conviction in the past ten years can be a “prior conviction” for enhanced DUI sentencing. A prior does not have to occur here in California, as convictions from other states can also count as a prior if they occur within the ten-year lookback period, so long as they contain the same elements as a California DUI.
The prosecutor must prove that the out-of-state conviction can qualify as a DUI under California law. If not, your lawyer can challenge the prior conviction, so the prosecutor cannot use it to charge you as a repeat DUI offender.
DUI convictions are also not the only charge that can count as a prior. In some cases, a conviction for reckless driving can be a prior conviction, but only if the offense involved alcohol. The prosecutor must use the case record from the reckless driving conviction to prove that alcohol was involved.
These charges are sometimes called a wet reckless. A wet reckless is different from a dry reckless, when the driver drove recklessly but not under the influence of alcohol. Dry reckless convictions cannot constitute priors for multiple DUI sentencing.
For this reason, prosecutors are usually very strict about the use of reckless driving plea agreements. Any case that involves alcohol will state it on the court record so that prosecutors can use it as a prior if the defendant has any subsequent DUI arrests in the following ten years.
It is not always clear whether a prior conviction meets the legal requirements to count as a prior for enhanced DUI sentencing. The prosecutor is not on your side, so they are more likely to try to use anything they can - even if your record may not qualify as a prior. In addition to protecting your constitutional rights, your DUI lawyer can also protect you from improper uses of past convictions that do not qualify as priors for enhanced DUI sentencing.
Sentencing For Multiple DUI Convictions
Section 23540 of the Vehicle Code defines the enhanced sentences that courts can impose with one prior conviction in the lookback period. The defendant can be sentenced to jail for 90 days to one year. However, if the court grants probation, a defendant faces less jail time. Section 23542 establishes a jail sentence of either ten days or 96 hours (that you can serve in nonconsecutive 48-hour increments) when the court orders probation.
With two prior convictions in the lookback period, the jail term increases to 120 days (up to one year) under Section 23546. At this point, the defendant is a habitual traffic offender. Habitual traffic offenders face additional charges and jail time if they continue to drive on a suspended license.
Three or more prior convictions in ten years increase the jail term to a minimum of 180 days (up to a maximum of one year). The fourth DUI in ten years is also a felony charge, which comes with the loss of certain civil liberties upon conviction. Habitual traffic offender status applies again.
You can see how quickly the penalties become more severe for repeat DUI charges. However, even when a defendant has multiple prior convictions, they may receive probation instead of jail time. Probation gives the State more tools to monitor defendants. A defendant might have to submit to alcohol screening, addiction counseling, community service, ignition interlock devices, ankle monitoring, or other conditions.
Prosecutors can be willing to forego jail time to use these tools, and many defendants prefer to submit to these conditions instead of serving time in jail. Our Orange County multiple DUI defense lawyers know how to work with prosecutors to negotiate a plea deal that works for everyone.
How a Prior DUI Can Hurt Your Case - Even if It Isn’t Allegeable
Sometimes a conviction appears on your criminal record but cannot be a prior for enhanced DUI sentencing. If the offense occurred more than ten years ago or in a state whose statute does not match the California DUI statute, the prosecutor cannot allege it as a prior. However, even prior convictions that are not allegeable can still hurt your DUI case.
A prosecutor who knows about prior offenses is less likely to offer favorable terms in a plea deal. At sentencing, a judge often has discretion in determining the length of a jail sentence. Here, too, the judge is less likely to show leniency if they see a prior criminal history (even if the charges don't qualify as priors). This is why you need to consult our multiple DUI defense lawyers about your case - even if your criminal record does not support an allegeable prior conviction.
FAQs About Multiple DUI Convictions in Orange County
What courts hear DUI cases in Orange County?
The Orange County Superior Court has four locations for its DUI Court:
- Newport Beach
- Santa Ana
The court you are assigned to depends on the jurisdiction where you live. Our Orange County DUI lawyers will thoroughly prepare you for your court appearance so you know where to go, when to arrive, and what will happen at your hearing.
How do I know which DUI lawyer is the best?
A quick internet search for “DUI lawyers near me” will show you many results for attorneys right here in Orange County. Their websites will all say you should hire them - so how do you know who is right for your DUI case?
When looking for an Orange County DUI lawyer, ask:
- Does the attorney have experience handling DUI cases in your local court?
- Does the attorney have experience handling multiple DUI charges (or DUI charges with multiple priors)?
- Is the attorney in good standing with the state bar?
- Does the lawyer have any training or certification specific to DUI?
- Are you comfortable with the attorney’s plan for handling your DUI case?
Remember, you entrust your DUI lawyer with protecting your legal rights. You must trust your attorney's experience and feel comfortable with their abilities. It is okay to interview multiple DUI defense lawyers until you find someone you feel comfortable hiring. It is also okay to hire a different lawyer if you become uncomfortable with how the first one is handling your case.
Is the Breathalyzer always accurate?
No! Like any machine, breath tests are not 100 percent accurate. Most prosecutors accept this margin of error when considering whether to take a DUI case to trial. (For example, if the defendant blew a 0.079, this will not be a strong case at trial because the margin of error can put the defendant’s actual breath alcohol level even further away from 0.08.)
Your defense lawyer has the opportunity to challenge the accuracy of any alcohol testing. They can question the manufacturing of the machine, the technician who operated the machine, the lab that processes alcohol results, or the chain of custody of a blood or urine sample. Errors can happen at any step of the investigative process.
You have the right to hire a lawyer to prove these mistakes to the jury. Remember, the police and prosecutor are trying to get a conviction, so they do not have to voluntarily tell the jury that alcohol tests are not 100 percent accurate every single time.
The Right Orange County DUI Defense Lawyers for Multiple DUI Cases
Facing multiple DUI charges can affect your life for years to come. You don’t have to take on the police and prosecutor by yourself - the experienced Orange County DUI attorneys at Chudnovsky Law are here to help. Our DUI defense attorneys have experience handling the unique issues involved in DUI cases with multiple priors.
We work hard to protect our clients’ legal rights in both the criminal court and at DMV hearings. Contact us at (949) 750-2500 for your free consultation. Don’t wait to get an Orange County DUI lawyer on your side - the sooner you have an attorney fighting for you, the better we can protect your legal rights.