The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from being prosecuted twice for the same crime. However, all sanctions do not qualify under the Double Jeopardy rule. The protections in the U.S. Constitution apply both in federal court and state courts.
Therefore, you can be “punished” by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for driving under the influence and face criminal penalties for a DUI conviction.
Raising Double Jeopardy as a Defense to the DMV Hearing and a DUI Criminal Case
When the DMV suspends your driving privileges for driving under the influence, it is an administrative corrective action. The courts do not consider the DMV suspension a punishment or penalty for criminal charges. Instead, the threat of losing your driving privileges for a DUI arrest is a deterrent to drunk driving.
Double jeopardy does not apply because the DMV action is not a punishment or penalty. Therefore, the prosecution may continue with a criminal case based on the same DUI arrest.
A police officer seizes your driver’s license when he arrests you on drunk driving charges in California. As a result, you receive a Notice of Suspension from the police officer. The Notice of Suspension allows you to continue to drive for 30 days. It also notifies you that you have ten days to request a DMV administrative hearing, or the DMV will suspend your driver’s license.
A DMV hearing officer conducts the administrative hearing. After considering the evidence, the DMV officer may set aside the suspension and reinstate your driving privileges. If the DMV officer allows the suspension to stand, you must wait until the end of the suspension period to reinstate your driver’s license.
An administrative per se hearing to suspend driving privileges is separate from any criminal charges filed by the state. The DMV may act before the prosecutor files criminal charges in some cases. The reason is that a DMV suspension is based on a DUI arrest, not a DUI conviction. Therefore, merely being arrested for drunk driving can result in losing your driver’s license.
How Long Does a DMV Suspension Period Last After a DUI Arrest in California?
The DMV suspension period depends upon whether you took a chemical test and your prior DUI history. For a first offense DUI with a BAC of .08% or higher, the suspension period is four months. If you have a prior DUI conviction on your record, the DMV suspends your driving privileges for one year. In addition, drivers under the age of 21 years with a BAC of .01% or higher lose their driving privileges for one year.
Refusal of a chemical test results in an automatic one-year suspension for a first-time DUI offense and a two-year suspension for a second DUI offense. After three DUI arrests within ten years, the DMV suspends your driver’s license for three years.
What Happens When I Am Charged With Multiple DUI Offenses for a Single DUI Stop?
The primary statute for drunk driving is California Traffic Code §23152. Under this statute, you can be charged with a criminal offense if:
- You operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher
- You drive a motor vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage
- You operate a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04% or higher
- Your BAC level is .04% or higher while driving a motor vehicle when a passenger for hire is in the vehicle
- Your drive a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug or a combination of any alcoholic beverage and drug
It is common for a prosecutor to charge a drunk driver under more than one section of the California drunk driving statute.
Double jeopardy does not prevent the state from prosecuting you for multiple DUI offenses for the same arrest. It also does not prevent you from being found guilty of multiple DUI offenses. However, you cannot face multiple sentences for DUI convictions related to the same DUI stop.
DUI Convictions and California Penal Code Section 654 PC
A prosecutor may charge you with multiple DUI offenses because they believe at least one charge will result in a drunk driving conviction. However, California Penal Code §654 PC prohibits double punishment for the same crime.
However, the prosecution may charge you with multiple DUI offenses in a single case. All offenses may be tried together before a judge or jury. The legal term for this process is joinder.
The code section applies when a person commits one act that leads to multiple criminal charges. While the state can accuse you of multiple criminal offenses, you can only be punished for one.
Generally, the court imposes punishment under the offense with the longest potential imprisonment term. However, the court cannot punish you for both DUI offenses. Furthermore, the code section provides that the court cannot grant probation if any of the criminal offenses prohibit granting probation.
What is the Typical Sentence for a DUI Conviction in California?
Drunk driving convictions are priorable offenses in California. The penalties for subsequent DUI convictions within ten years increase with each conviction. A felony DUI conviction counts against you for the rest of your life.
Assuming that you have no prior DUI convictions or aggravating circumstances, the typical sentence for a first-time DUI conviction in California includes:
- Assessments and a fine of $1,500 to $2,000, depending on the county of arrest
- Up to six months in county jail
- Informal (summary) probation from three to five years
- Attendance at DUI school for three to nine months
- Driver’s license suspension for six months
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for up to six months
The court may sentence you to probation instead of jail time if you have a clean driving history and no factors exist that could enhance the DUI penalties. You will be required to follow all conditions of probation. Violating DUI probation can result in the court revoking probation and reinstating the original DUI sentence. The court may also punish you for the probation violation.
If you refuse a chemical test and are convicted of DUI, you could face mandatory jail time. Likewise, if your DUI involves injury to another person, the penalties for a conviction increase.
A DUI conviction in California results in a criminal record. You might qualify to have the DUI expunged, but that does not remove the DUI arrest from your driving record. It only removes the guilty verdict and dismisses the DUI case. The drunk driving charge would still count as a priorable offense for future DUI convictions.
If the police arrest you for driving under the influence, your best step is to contact a California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. A California DUI attorney can help you prepare to fight DUI charges and assist you with negotiations for favorable terms for a DUI plea agreement.
How Does Double Jeopardy Apply in Criminal Cases in California?
The Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment protects us from:
- Being prosecuted for the same criminal offense after receiving an acquittal for that offense;
- Receiving multiple punishments for the same criminal offense; and,
- Being convicted more than once for the same offense.
California Penal Code §687 adopts the protections of double jeopardy. The code section states that you cannot be prosecuted a second time for a public offense once you have been prosecuted and either convicted or acquitted. Repeatedly prosecuting a person for the same criminal offenses would subject that person to undue expense and time. It could also lead to a wrongful conviction.
Double jeopardy attaches to the criminal offense at specific points during criminal proceedings. Examples of when double jeopardy attaches may include:
- After the trial begins (i.e., the jury members are sworn in or the first witness is sworn in during a trial by judge)
- A mistrial or discharge of the jury without the defendant’s consent after a trial begins
- After the person is acquitted of criminal charges
- After pleading guilty based on a plea agreement
- Upon conviction for a criminal offense
The double jeopardy defense may apply in other situations. However, it is not available in all dismissals, but it could apply if the court discharges the defendant to become a witness for the prosecution in another criminal case. It could also apply in some cases where the prosecutor fails to bring a misdemeanor charge to trial in a timely manner.
Double jeopardy may also be a legal defense if the defendant appeals a conviction, the conviction is reversed, and the appeals court remands the case for a new trial. The prosecution cannot charge the defendant with a more serious offense at the new trial.
Double jeopardy does not prevent the prosecution from proceeding with criminal charges after a civil proceeding on the same facts. It only protects you from being criminally prosecuted for the same criminal offense more than one time. Double jeopardy does not apply to pre-trial proceedings or DMV license suspensions in DUI cases.
The above discussion is not a comprehensive discussion of the double jeopardy defense. Double jeopardy is a complicated legal question that an experienced California criminal defense attorney should address. If you believe the state is prosecuting you for the same DUI offense in violation of your civil rights or state laws, contact a California DUI lawyer immediately to discuss your legal options.