Can You Be Charged with a DUI Months Later?
Getting arrested for driving under the influence (a “DUI”) in California is a stressful and frightening experience.
When police officers pull you over for a suspected DUI, you expect the officers to arrest you on the spot. However, what happens if the police officers do not arrest you? The officers collect evidence at the traffic stop, finish the DUI investigation, and then let you go. What happens next? Contact one of our California DUI Attorneys
DUI Charge the Next Day or Days After the Fact
DUI arrests don’t always take place immediately. If you are pulled over for a DUI, you can be arrested in the days or months following your DUI stop. Sometimes, it could be years before a prosecutor issues criminal charges against you. The amount of time the state has to pursue DUI charges depends on the details of the case and the charges you face.
If officers stopped you for a DUI but did not arrest you, should you call an experienced DUI lawyer? Absolutely! It is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date.
How Do After-the-Fact DUI Arrests Happen?
Law enforcement officers might not believe they have probable cause for an arrest at the traffic stop. Probable cause is the reasonable basis for believing a crime may have been committed. Therefore, police officers might not arrest you immediately if they believe they need additional evidence to prove probable cause.
Therefore, do not assume a DUI arrest after the fact might not occur. If the police officers continue investigating the drunk driving stop, they could find evidence to support probable cause. If so, they could take the evidence to a judge to ask for an arrest warrant. They could also turn the evidence over to the prosecutor, who might seek an indictment for your arrest.
DUI Charges and the California Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing civil or criminal charges. In criminal cases, if the prosecution does not file charges before the deadline in the statute of limitations, the state cannot arrest you and they cannot pursue legal action against you.
The deadline for filing DUI charges depends on the type of charge. In some cases, the statute of limitations depends on the punishment you could receive if you are convicted of drunk driving. Let’s look at some examples of California’s statute of limitations for DUI charges.
How Long Do the Police Have to File Charges of DUI in California?
The general statute of limitations to file DUI charges is one year for misdemeanor DUI offenses that are not punishable by life in prison or imprisonment in state prison.
The general statute of limitations to file felony DUI offenses is three years for charges punishable by incarceration in state prison. However, there are exceptions to these general rules.
California Penal Code §799 states that offenses punishable by death or life in prison have no statute of limitations. Furthermore, California Penal Code §800 places a six year limitation on criminal offenses punishable by eight years or longer in state prison.
Some DUI offenses could result in lengthy prison sentences and/or life in prison. For example, the potential state prison sentence for felony charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is 10 years. Some DUI offenses can carry up to 20 or more years in prison, including life in prison.
Can I Be Charged with a DUI After an Accident in California?
California Vehicle Code §23153 makes it a crime to drive a motor vehicle under the influence and cause an accident that injures another person. Therefore, if the police officers believe you were drinking and driving when you caused the accident, they could arrest you for DUI causing injury.
As a wobbler offense, DUI causing injury is a misdemeanor or felony. The circumstances of the case and the severity of the injuries can impact the prosecutor’s decision whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor charge.
A misdemeanor conviction for DUI causing injury in the state of California is punishable by up to one year in jail. Felony DUI causing injury convictions can carry a state prison sentence of up to four years.
However, in addition to incarceration, you also face other penalties, including probation, fines, assessments, driver’s license suspension or revocation, DUI school, and other punishments.
Furthermore, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you kill someone in a DUI accident. Other charges related to DUI with injury offenses are child endangerment and felony hit and run involving injury or death.
How Long After an Accident Can I Be Charged With a DUI?
As discussed above, it would depend on whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense. For example, if you caused minor injuries with no aggravating factors and a clean criminal record, you might be charged with a misdemeanor offense, which would have a one-year deadline to file charges.
However, if you caused severe injuries or a wrongful death, the deadline to file felony charges could be three years. The deadline could be longer if your offense carries a longer prison sentence.
How Long Is DUI Case Open and Continued in California?
It depends on the facts of the case and the specific DUI charges. Once the police arrest you for DUI, your case begins moving through the court system. If you plead innocent, your case is placed on the docket for a trial. A DUI trial could take months or more than a year to begin. Again, it depends on the case and the court’s schedule.
If you plead guilty, your case is scheduled for a hearing with the judge for sentencing. That could take just a few weeks to occur. On the other hand, if you hire a criminal defense lawyer and negotiate a plea deal, it could take a few months to be sentenced for DUI. It depends on how long your lawyer takes to complete their investigation and negotiate a fair plea agreement with the prosecutor.
In any of the above situations, hiring a California DUI attorney gives you the best chance of resolving your drunk driving charges in the best way possible and as quickly as possible. Conversely, handling the charges on your own could negatively impact the timeline to resolve the case and the outcome you receive.
Reasons Why the Prosecution May Wait to file Criminal Charges for a Charge of DUI
Why does it take some prosecutors longer to decide to file DUI charges? In most cases, the prosecutors must wait until law enforcement officers and the prosecutor’s investigators complete the DUI investigation. Then, they must gather evidence to determine whether they have sufficient evidence to prove the legal elements of a DUI charge.
In some cases, the prosecutor must wait for the results of the BAC tests from your blood test or urine test. Completing chemical tests could take time, depending on the lab’s workload and schedule. If the lab is backed up, it could take several weeks for the results to be available.
Get Legal Help Handling Delayed DUI Charges and a DUI Arrest in California
The prosecution can wait until the last day before the statute of limitations expires to file criminal charges against you. However, that does not mean you should wait to get help handling delayed DUI charges in California.
First, you need a DUI attorney to quickly help you with the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s administrative license suspension hearing. You have just 10 days to request an ALS hearing. An experienced California DUI lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing to fight losing your driving privileges.
Also, hiring a California DUI attorney sooner rather than later gives your lawyer more time to investigate the potential DUI charges against you while the evidence is still fresh. The longer you wait to begin an investigation and gather evidence, the more chance there is that critical pieces of evidence that could win a DUI case could be lost or destroyed.
What Are the Elements of a DUI Offense?
California Vehicle Code §23152 is the primary DUI law in California. The code states that it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor vehicle when:
- They are under the influence of any alcoholic beverage;
- Their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit;
- They are under the influence of any drug;
- They are addicted to the use of any drug; or
- They are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
It is important to note other DUI laws in California have lower legal limits for underage drivers and individuals currently serving probation.
To prove you were guilty of drunk driving, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were operating a vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit or that your driving abilities were impaired by the amount of alcohol and/or drugs in your system.
Your California DUI criminal defense lawyer has several defenses they can raise to challenge each of the legal elements.
What Are Some Defenses to an After-the-Fact DUI Charge a DUI Lawyer May Use?
Some of the potential DUI defenses your lawyer might use include:
- You were not driving the motor vehicle;
- The police lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion;
- Inaccuracy of field sobriety tests;
- Rising alcohol levels;
- Violations of Title 17 regulations for collecting, storing, and testing samples;
- Improperly conducted blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests;
- Violations of your Constitutional rights; or
- Medical reasons or environmental reasons for falsely high BAC levels.
There could be additional DUI defenses your attorney may use. Contact a DUI lawyer now for a free consultation.
What Are the Potential DUI Penalties for a DUI Conviction?
The potential punishments you could receive for a DUI conviction include:
- Jail or prison time;
- Fines and assessments;
- Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender;
- A strike on the Three Strikes Law;
- Installation of ignition interlock system (“IID”);
- DUI school;
- Restitution; or
- Revocation or suspension of your driver’s license.
There could be other punishments depending on the charges. Additionally, the punishments increase in severity based on your prior DUIs, criminal history, and aggravating factors. Again, this is why it is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may be charged or arrested for a DUI. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date. Reach out to one of our experienced California DUI Attorneys today here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!