Category Archives: DUI Law

Understanding the California DMV Fatality Hearing

A conviction for driving under the influence in California can have serious consequences. You could face jail time and pay high fines. However, causing a DUI accident increases the penalties that you face, especially if the accident results in serious injury or death to another person.

Before your trial in Superior Court on criminal charges, you have to deal with the DMV fatality hearing. These hearings are held after fatal and severe injury drunk driving accidents. The hearing is a legal proceeding that determines if your driving privileges will be revoked for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Even though the administrative hearing is held at the Department of Motor Vehicles before a DMV hearing officer, you need to take the matter very seriously. You have the right to be represented by legal counsel at the hearing and present evidence in your defense.

Most people are unaware of DMV fatality and serious injury hearings. They are unaware that causing a DUI accident results in being labeled as a negligent operator by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Understanding more about the DMV fatality and serious injury hearing is the first step in protecting your driving privileges.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about DMV fatality hearings by our California DUI defense attorney.

What is a DMV Fatality Hearing in California?

After an accident that results in injury or death to another person, the California Department of Motor Vehicles holds a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to determine what actions, if any, should be taken against the at-fault person’s driving privileges. 

The authority to hold these hearings is found in California Vehicle Code §13800. The code section gives the DMV the authority to investigate serious and fatal injury accidents and to take action to suspend or revoke the driving privileges of negligent drivers. 

The DMV has the authority to hold a hearing even if the driver was not entirely responsible for causing the accident. If a driver contributes to the cause of a DUI accident in the slightest way, the DMV can proceed with the hearing. 

What Happens During a DMV Fatality Hearing?

The hearings are held at a DMV Driver Safety Office. A DMV officer presides over the hearing. The officer is an employee of the DMV instead of a judge or lawyer. 

The DMV officer begins the hearing by presenting the Department’s evidence regarding the accident. In other words, the officer lays out the evidence that supports taking action against the person’s driving privileges. Examples of evidence the hearing officer may present include:

  • The accident or crash report completed by the police officers reporting to the accident scene
  • Medical records for the parties who were injured or killed
  • Testimony from witnesses, including law enforcement officers, other people involved in the accident, or eyewitnesses
  • The driving record for the at-fault driver

After the hearing officer presents the Department’s evidence against the driver, the driver has the opportunity to present a defense. The driver may refute the allegations and provide evidence supporting the driver’s claim that they did not cause the accident or the accident did not cause the person’s injury or death.

Examples of evidence the motorist might present include:

  • Evidence of a safe driving record
  • Witness testimony that supports the motorist’s allegations they did not cause the accident
  • The accident report showing that the driver was not charged or “faulted” for causing the accident
  • Medical records showing that the person’s injuries or death were not caused by the traffic accident

It is important to remember that the driver has the right to have an attorney present and represent them during the hearing. It is unwise to believe that you do not need a DUI defense attorney at an administrative hearing. Even though the Department is not represented by a lawyer and there is not a judge present, the results of a DMV fatality hearing can be severe. 

What Are the Possible Results of a DMV Fatality or Serious Injury Hearing?

The hearing officer considers several factors when deciding the outcome of the DMV fatality hearing. First, the officer considers your driving record and attitude. The hearing officer also considers the likelihood that you may repeat the conduct and the possible effect of a sanction on deterring future negligent behavior.

The hearing officer may take any one of the following actions:

Revocation 

The DMV officer may revoke your driving privileges if he finds that you are guilty of committing reckless, flagrant, and aggravated driving acts with a disregard for the safety of other individuals. Examples of driving behavior that can result in revocation of driving privileges include racing, evading law enforcement, and driving under the influence combined with reckless acts that lead to a DUI accident. 

Suspension 

When a driver fails to exercise a reasonable level of care while driving, the DMV may suspend the motorist’s driving privileges. Committing traffic violations that cause or contribute to an accident is an example of failing to exercise reasonable care. Since driving under the influence of alcohol is a traffic violation under California Vehicle Code §23152, causing a DUI accident could result in a suspended driver’s license.

Restrictions 

DMV officers use restrictions on driving privileges when skill level or physical abilities cause traffic accidents. Restrictions are generally used only when the likelihood of the same violation happening again is low. The restrictions are a sufficient and appropriate way to prevent the driver from repeating the error.

Probation

Probation is used in cases involving a low degree of negligence. It is unlikely that a person who causes a DUI accident that results in death or injury would receive probation or restrictions.

No Action

If there is insufficient evidence to prove the motorist contributed to the cause of the accident or the accident caused the person’s injuries or death, the DMV officer takes no action against the motorist’s driving privileges. 

What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for a DMV Fatality and Serious Injury Hearing?

You receive a Notice of Suspension after the DMV deems you to be a negligent operator. If you fail to respond to the notice and attend the DMV fatality hearing, the DMV suspends or revokes your driver’s license for at least one year. 

The suspension or revocation period could be longer depending on your driving records and the facts of the case. A judge in the criminal case could suspend driving privileges for a longer period.

After the revocation or suspension period ends, you must apply to reinstate your driver’s license. You must pay a fine and show proof of SR-22 insurance before your driving privileges can be restored.

Can I Challenge the Ruling of a DMV Officer After a DMV Fatality Hearing?

You can request a DMV hearing to challenge the results of a DMV fatality hearing. However, a person is not entitled to a hearing if the action taken was mandatory according to the law or the person failed to request a hearing after being given appropriate notice of a hearing. 

A DMV hearing officer could set aside revocation or suspension of a driver’s license. In the alternative, the driver could be placed on negligent operator probation. Instead of a suspension of driving privileges being effective immediately, the suspension only becomes effective if the driver causes an accident or commits a traffic violation.

The DMV officer could also order that the suspension stands, but the driver is granted a restricted driver’s license. The officer can also uphold the ruling of the DMV fatality hearing. 

How Can I Prepare for a California DMV Fatality Hearing?

There are many ways to prepare for a California DMV fatality and serious injury hearing. First, you can collect evidence to present at your hearing to support retaining your full driving privileges. The evidence should be organized and contain copies of all originals to present to the court.

You can also contact individuals to testify at the hearing regarding your safe driving history. If eyewitnesses claim that you did not cause the accident, they need to be at the hearing to provide evidence. 

Contact the DMV to obtain copies of your driving record to present at the hearing. The DMV hearing officer may or may not have a copy of your complete driving history. However, your driving record can help you establish that you are a safe driver who is unlikely to cause another accident despite the accident in question. 

Do I Need a California DUI Defense Lawyer for My DMV Hearing?

The best way to prepare for a DMV fatality hearing is to contact a California DUI defense attorney. A DUI attorney has the resources and skills to investigate the DUI accident and gather evidence to defend the allegations against you. Your attorney handles all aspects of the case, including organizing evidence for your DMV hearing. 

Your attorney understands how to present evidence during the DMV fatality hearing and question witnesses. Even though DMV hearing officers are not lawyers, they have significant experience gathering and presenting evidence. Going up against a DMV hearing officer alone often results in a suspension or revocation of driving privileges for negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

California DUI Defense Can I Get My California DUI Expunged?

Under California Penal Code §1203. 4 PC, some individuals can have their criminal conviction expunged from their record. That means that the court wipes out a guilty verdict or guilty plea. Instead, a plea of “Not Guilty” is entered, and the case is dismissed.

In other words, an expunged criminal conviction is set aside as if you were never judged guilty or pled guilty. That is what is meant by “cleaning” your criminal record.

However, the arrest is not erased. Expungement implies that the entire criminal matter is erased from your record. A better term for a California expungement might be “dismissed.” 

The arrest remains on your record, but anyone reviewing your criminal history would only see that you were arrested. After your arrest, the case was dismissed without a guilty verdict.

Not all criminal convictions are eligible for expungement. The good news is that most driving under the influence convictions in California meets the requirements for an expungement.

Who Can Receive a California DUI Expungement?

Individuals convicted of misdemeanors and felonies may be eligible for an expungement in California if they meet the following requirements:

  • Your conviction occurred in state court
  • You were not sentenced to serve time in state prison 
  • You completed probation, or it has been one year since your conviction if you were not ordered to serve probation
  • You met all other sentenced requirements, such as treatment programs, community service, fines, restitution, etc.
  • You did not violate any of the terms of probation
  • You are not currently on probation, serving time for another offense, or charged with another criminal offense

Most of the DUI convictions in California meet the above requirements for a DUI expungement. However, you may want to consult with a California DUI defense lawyer to verify that your drunk driving charge is eligible for expungement.

How Does DUI Expungement Work in California?

You must complete probation and all conditions required by probation before you apply for DUI expungement. General terms for DUI probation in California include:

  • Fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Alcohol program (DUI school)
  • Time in county jail
  • Three to five years of summary probation
  • Agreement to submit to DUI breath test or DUI blood test if arrested for driving under the influence
  • Zero-tolerance for driving with alcohol in your system
  • No criminal offenses during probation

There could be other conditions for DUI probation based on the drunk driving offense and the facts of the case. However, regardless of the terms of probation, you must complete probation successfully to be eligible for an expungement of a drunk driving charge.

After completing probation, you file a petition for expungement with the court. 

 

Can I Receive a DUI Expungement Earlier?

Because summary or formal probation for a DUI conviction lasts between three to five years, a person could wait a long time to clear a DUI conviction from their criminal record. However, you may be able to have probation terminated early, which would allow you to petition the court for a DUI expungement.

Some individuals could qualify for early probation termination as soon as 18 months after conviction. However, the following circumstances must apply:

  • The person has completed the terms of probation successfully AND
  • Some circumstances justify granting an early termination of probation.

Situations that might qualify as circumstances to justify early probation termination include traveling for work, caring for minor children or sick family members, obtaining a job, or obtaining higher education or training for advancement at work.

The judge has the sole discretion to grant early termination from DUI probation if the person meets the above requirements. However, many judges hesitate to grant early termination of DUI probation. 

One reason could be the zero-tolerance requirement for driving with alcohol in the person’s system. Other judges may hesitate to grant a petition for early termination when specific facts are present in the case, or the person has a subsequent drunk driving or drugged driving offense in their past.

Do I Get My Driver’s License Back if My DUI is Expunged?

For most people, probation generally lasts longer than a suspended driver’s license. However, if you complete your probation before your driver’s license is restored, a DUI expungement will not overturn a driver’s license revocation or suspension. Expungements do not restore driving privileges.

However, there are other benefits of receiving a DUI expungement. For example, you are not legally required to disclose an expunged conviction when applying for a job. 

California’s “ban the box” law prohibits employers from asking about a person’s criminal history before making a conditional employment offer. The employer cannot turn down the applicant for employment because of a conviction revealed after making a conditional employment offer until it completes an individualized assessment. 

However, you would not need to disclose an expunged DUI conviction at all. Expunged DUIs cannot be used to make employment decisions, including hiring or promoting an employee. 

There is an exception for teaching credentials and state licenses. When applying for these licenses, you must disclose all convictions, including expunged DUI convictions. State licensing boards are permitted to use an expunged DUI case when making decisions regarding your license or employment.

Even if you are required to disclose an expunged conviction, an employer may look more favorably at a dismissed DUI case instead of a guilty verdict.

How Does an Expunged DUI Impact Future DUI Arrests?

Even though your DUI conviction was expunged, it can significantly affect penalties for future drunk driving convictions. Drunk driving in California is a “priorable” offense. That means that the DUI penalties increase for each subsequent DUI conviction. 

The increase in penalties applies to convictions within ten years. Therefore, if you are found guilty of drunk driving within ten years of a DUI conviction that was expunged, you can still face harsher penalties, just as if your drunk driving conviction was never expunged.

What Should You Expect After a California DUI Arrest?

If you are arrested for drunk driving, you have two different cases. The Department of Motor Vehicles handles one case, and the other case is your criminal case handled by the Superior Court.

APS Hearing with the DMV

Call the DMV immediately after a DUI arrest regarding your DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) case. You have just ten days from your arrest to request an APS hearing. If you do not request a hearing within those ten days, your driver’s license is automatically suspended. 

Your “pink temporary license” given to you by the police officer is only good for 30 days from the arrest date. After that, if you request an APS hearing, the DMV issues a new temporary license effective when the pink temporary license expires. 

The DMV schedules a hearing to determine whether to suspend your driver’s license. Many people decide to represent themselves at the APS hearing. Unfortunately, they discover too late that representing themselves was a poor decision.

An experienced drunk driving defense lawyer may be able to present one or more defenses that could help you avoid losing your driving privileges. In addition, the attorney may have the chance to cross-examine the arresting officer and review evidence. These steps could help with your APS hearing and your criminal case.

If you have trouble contacting the DMV about an APS hearing, you might want to call a California DUI defense attorney immediately for help. 

Criminal Proceeds for a California DUI Charge

You may also agree to a plea deal with the prosecutor, seek and agree to a court offer,  or proceed to trial. 

The best way to know what to do is to talk with a lawyer. A lawyer evaluates your case to determine how strong the evidence is against you and what your best options are for defending the charges or avoiding the harshest penalties for a DUI conviction. 

Remember to tell your attorney everything about your case. Do not lie or hold anything back from your lawyer. Your attorney cannot represent you effectively if he does not know everything about your case.

If possible, the goal is to keep your driver’s license and avoid a conviction. If not, the goal is to minimize the penalties you face for a DUI conviction.

Penalties for Fifth-Time DUI Offenses in California

There are no limits to how many DUIs a person can receive in California. However, if you are charged with a fifth DUI within the past ten years, you are likely facing a felony DUI charge. The penalties for felony DUI convictions are much harsher than the penalties for misdemeanor drunk driving convictions.

Understanding your legal rights and your options for defending a fifth-time DUI offense in California is crucial. DUI penalties can have devastating consequences for your immediate life and your future. Below are answers from our California DUI defense lawyer to frequently asked questions about DUI fifth offense.

How Do Judges Decide a Sentence for a Fifth-Time DUI Conviction? 

DUI convictions are “priorable” offenses in California. That means that each DUI conviction within ten years counts toward sentencing for the current DUI conviction. In other words, convictions for drunk driving within the past ten years increase the severity of the criminal penalties for your current drunk driving charge. 

Prior convictions could include the same criminal charges you face now or other related DUI charges. Drunk driving charges that are “priorable” charges for sentencing include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (California Vehicle Code §23152a)
  • Reckless driving under California Vehicle Code §23103.5 (“wet reckless” plea agreement)
  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over .08% (California Vehicle Code §23152b)
  • Causing bodily injury or death while driving under the influence of alcohol (California Vehicle Code §23153)
  • Any convictions for out-of-state offenses that would have been a violation of any one of the priorable California DUI laws

If you have a felony DUI conviction, there is no time limit for using prior convictions for sentencing purposes. Furthermore, expunged drunk driving convictions also count toward the number of DUI convictions for sentencing purposes.

Fighting a fifth-time DUI arrest yourself is risky. Your prior DUIs count against you before you enter the courtroom. Therefore, you are already at a disadvantage. Instead, talk with a DUI lawyer about ways you can avoid a DUI conviction or the possibility of pleading down the charges to avoid the harshest DUI punishments. 

What Are the Penalties for a Fifth DUI Conviction in California?

The penalties for a fifth DUI conviction are severe because you face a felony charge. Many judges view multiple DUI offenses harshly. They assume that the person has not learned their lesson. Therefore, they may be more included to issue the harshest sentence possible this time. 

Penalties that you face when charged with a DUI fifth offense in California include:

  • Up to three years in state prison
  •  A fine of $390-1000 plus penalty assessments 
  • Treatment in a court-approved alcohol treatment program for 30 months
  • Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender 
  • Loss of driving privileges for four years
  • Completion of DUI school
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Informal or formal probation

The sentence for DUI 5th offense depends on many factors. The facts of the case and the BAC level for the driver are just two factors. Along with the prior DUI convictions, aggravating circumstances can enhance your sentence for a fifth-time DUI in California. 

Examples of aggravating circumstances in a drunk driving case include:

  • Driving under the influence while on probation for a DUI conviction
  • Refusing to submit to a BAC test
  • A BAC level of .15% or higher
  • Having a minor under the age of 14 years in the vehicle
  • Speeding and reckless driving
  • Causing an accident while driving under the influence
  • Underage drinking and driving

These aggravating circumstances increase the criminal penalties for a fifth-time DUI conviction. When facing an aggravated DUI charge, you need experienced legal counsel to represent you in court. There could be a defense to the aggravating circumstance or a mitigating circumstance an attorney might argue in court. 

What Related Crimes Could I Face if I Am Arrested for a Fifth DUI in California?

The prosecutor may charge you with additional crimes if you are arrested for drunk driving for the fifth time. The facts of the case determine whether the prosecutor thinks they can prove you committed another crime.

For example, you could be charged with DUI Causing Injury under VC 23153. This criminal charge can be a felony without any prior DUI convictions. All the prosecutor needs to show is that you were driving under the influence when you caused bodily injury to another person.

If you kill someone while driving under the influence, you could be charged with second degree murder, a form of Penal Code 187. The “Watson Murder” charge requires that you have one prior California DUI conviction. However, only one DUI conviction is necessary to charge someone with this crime.

Causing an unreasonable risk of harm to a child could result in child endangerment charges under Penal Code §273a PC. Driving with a child in the vehicle when you are intoxicated might result in this criminal charge.

Each criminal charge you are convicted of related to your DUI could result in additional criminal penalties. Therefore, instead of spending up to three years in prison, you could spend decades in state prison. The fines may increase 

What Defenses Could Help Me Win a Fifth-Time DUI Charge?

A California DUI defense attorney analyzes your case to determine what defenses are available to fight the DUI charges. For example, your attorney may challenge procedures related to the DUI stop or arrest. In addition, the attorney may raise one or more defenses regarding whether you were actually intoxicated at the time of the arrest.

Some of the defenses to a DUI 5th offense charge include:

  • Alleging you were not intoxicated but suffering from a medical condition that mimicked signs of intoxication, such as a brain injury or diabetic episode
  • You have dental work which caused the alcohol to pool in your mouth, resulting in false breathalyzer results
  • Alleging that the police violated your civil rights
  • Contaminated urine or blood samples or failure to maintain the chain of evidence
  • Malfunctioning, defective, or improperly calibrated breathalyzers
  • A medical condition such as acid reflux or GERD caused false breathalyzer results
  • The police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause for an arrest
  • You were given non-standard field sobriety tests that are unreliable, or the officers improperly conducted the standardized field sobriety tests

Having a solid defense for your DUI charges is the best way to avoid harsh penalties. If your attorney can prove that the police violated your legal rights, the evidence collected during your DUI stop and arrest could be thrown out of court. Additionally, attacking the state’s evidence could result in a dismissal of the charges. 

Can I Expunge a 5th DUI Conviction From My Criminal Record?

In most cases, a fifth-time DUI conviction is not eligible for expungement. The requirements for expunging a DUI conviction are:

  • Your conviction was issued by a California state court
  • Your sentence did not include time in a state prison
  • You completed all of the terms of your probation, or it has been at least one year since your conviction if the judge did not order probation
  • You are not currently serving probation for another criminal offense or facing charges for another criminal offense
  • You did not violate any terms of probation
  • You met all other sentencing requirements, such as alcohol treatment programs, paying restitution, community service, etc.

Most people convicted of DUI a fifth time are sentenced to serve at least some time in prison. Therefore, you would not be able to get rid of your DUI conviction even if you meet all of the other criteria for an expungement. 

Do I Need to Hire a California DUI Defense Attorney if I Am Charged with a Fifth DUI Offense?

A DUI conviction can significantly impact your life. For example, time spent in jail could result in job loss and loss of child custody. In addition, a DUI conviction on your criminal record could make it more difficult to get a job when you get out of prison.

After paying expensive fines and fees, you face years of higher insurance premiums to get your driver’s license restored. Personally, a criminal record can affect your relationships with family and friends. 

Consulting a California DUI defense attorney as soon as possible is the best option you have for winning your case. A private defense lawyer has the time and resources to pursue a defense aggressively. Public defenders are often understaffed and lack the time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation. 

If you choose to represent yourself, the court expects you to know and understand the law and court procedures. The judge nor the prosecutor helps you with your case. Remember, the prosecutor’s job is to obtain a guilty verdict.

Another advantage of hiring a DUI attorney is it forces the prosecutor to do their job. An experienced attorney understands DUI law. They know what the state must prove to win the case. An attorney also knows when a prosecutor crosses the line.

If you were arrested for a fifth-time DUI in California, protect your legal rights by seeking legal advice immediately. 

Penalties for Fourth-Time DUI Offenses in California

According to California Vehicle Code §23152, driving under the influence of alcohol is unlawful. Also, it is unlawful to drive a car with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. Driving under the influence in California can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. 

The penalties in either case for a fourth-time DUI can be severe. You could serve up to three years in state prison for a DUI 4th offense in the worst case. In addition, you could lose your driving privileges for several years, pay thousands of dollars in fines, and be labeled as a Habitual Traffic Offender. 

Knowing more about the penalties and potential defenses to DUI charges can help you understand your options for fighting drunk driving charges. Keep reading for answers to frequently asked questions about California DUI 4th charges.

Is a Fourth DUI in California a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Fourth DUI offenses in California are wobblers. A wobbler is a criminal offense that can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the prosecutor pursues a 4th DUI as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on several factors. However, some factors result in an automatic felony DUI charge.

For example, if you have any prior felony DUI convictions, a 4th DUI charge is a felony. Unlike other DUI charges that must be within ten years to impact your current drunk driving charge, felony DUIs do not have a time limit. Therefore, even if your felony DUI occurred 20 years ago, it results in a felony charge for the current DUI offense.

Also, if you caused someone to be killed or sustain a severe injury while driving under the influence, your DUI charge is automatically a felony charge. It does not matter whether this is your first or fourth DUI offense. 

What Are the Penalties for a Fourth-Time DUI Conviction in California?

The penalties for a fourth-time DUI conviction within ten years in California include: 

  • County jail sentence between 180 days and one year if the charge is a misdemeanor
  • State prison sentence between 16 months and three years if the charge is a felony
  • Driver’s license revocation for four years
  • Fines between $390 to $1,000
  • Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) for three years 

It may be possible for a person to obtain driving privileges if they have an ignition interlock device installed for three years. The only way to avoid losing driving privileges would be to win both the
Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the criminal case in Superior Court. 

A judge may also impose other penalties for a DUI 4th conviction. For example, you may be ordered to complete informal probation or a DUI education program. In addition, you could be ordered to pay restitution if your drunk driving offense resulted in harm to another person. 

Furthermore, judges consider other factors when deciding how to punish a fourth-time DUI charge. A prosecutor may argue that you deserve a harsher sentence because your DUI arrest involved aggravating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Causing a DUI accident
  • Driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 years in the vehicle (child endangerment)
  • Speeding
  • Underage DUI
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer or chemical test to determine blood alcohol content
  • Driving with a BAC of .15% or higher

Depending on the circumstances of your DUI arrest, the prosecution could decide to charge you with other criminal offenses. If so, you could also face additional criminal penalties.

How Can I Fight a Fourth DUI Arrest?

A conviction for driving under the influence fourth offense can have a devastating impact on your life. If you serve a lengthy jail or prison sentence, you could lose your job. Not being able to drive affects your family too.

Being arrested for drunk driving does not mean that you are convicted. Instead, the state must prove that you are guilty of the charges. You also have the right to fight the charges by raising one or more defenses and challenging the evidence presented in court.

Defenses to DUI charges could include, but are not limited to:

  • The breathalyzer was malfunctioning, defective, or used incorrectly
  • The police officer did not perform the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) correctly
  • You had a medical condition that made it appear you were intoxicated when you were not
  • The police officer lacked probable cause for your arrest or reasonable suspicion for a DUI stop
  • You had acid reflux, GERD, or dental work that could have caused a false positive on a breathalyzer test
  • The samples for a chemical test were not handled correctly or contaminated
  • You were given non-standard field sobriety tests that are unreliable
  • Your chemical test results were caused by rising blood alcohol 
  • The breathalyzer was not calibrated correctly 

If the police officer or other law enforcement agents violated your legal rights, the evidence in your case could be inadmissible in court. Without evidence, the prosecutor may not have a case, which could result in the DUI charges being dismissed. 

Can I Expunge a 4th DUI Conviction?

Expunging a DUI conviction means that the judge allows you to withdraw your guilty plea or verdict. The DUI case is then dismissed.

Expungement is available for misdemeanor and felony charges if the following conditions are met:

  • The conviction does not result in a prison sentence
  • You complete all terms of your probation 
  • The conviction was from state court
  • You complete all other terms of your sentence, including paying fines, community service, and treatment programs
  • You do not have outstanding criminal charges and are not serving time for another criminal conviction

Expungement does not wipe the DUI charge off your driving record or criminal record. However, it does cause the DUI case to show as “dismissed.” Even though the DUI remains on your record, employers and others often treat a dismissed DUI much more favorably than a DUI conviction. 

What Happens if I Get Another DUI in California?

There are no limits to how many times you can be charged with driving under the influence in California. However, if you are charged with a 5th DUI offense within ten years, a judge may impose the maximum prison sentence. 

The judge may also increase all other penalties to the maximum level. It would depend on the facts of the case and whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. 

Penalties for driving under the influence increase with each subsequent drunk driving conviction within ten years because DUIs are a priorable offense in California. It does not matter whether the DUIs were in California or another state. 

California DUI offenses that count as priorable DUI convictions for sentencing purposes include:

  • Wet reckless driving under VC §23103.5
  • Driving under the influence under VC §23152a
  • Driving with a BAC of .08% or higher under VC §23152b
  • Drunk driving with injury under VC 23153
  • Any expunged DUI convictions
  • Convictions occurring out-of-state that would result in violation of a California DUI law

Fighting DUI charges is the best way to avoid the negative consequences that a DUI conviction can have on your future. Seeking legal help with your DUI defense gives you the best chance of winning your case.

How Can a California DUI Defense Lawyer Help Me?

Facing a fourth DUI charge in California is a serious matter. You can trust yourself or a public defender to handle the matter, but that is not in your best interest.

Defending yourself means that you are held to the same standards as an attorney. The court nor the prosecutor helps you with your case. It is the prosecutor’s job to get a guilty verdict. The judge is an impartial office of the court.

Therefore, you are responsible for knowing and understanding court procedures and criminal law. Unfortunately, if you do not know all of the laws that apply to your case, you could miss a defense that could help you win your case.

Public defenders may not have the experience or time to handle your case correctly. They do not have the resources of a private lawyer. Because they are overworked and understaffed, public defenders may not work as diligently and aggressively to get you the best possible outcome for your DUI case.

A private California DUI defense attorney thoroughly analyzes each aspect of your case for potential defenses. Then, the lawyer gathers evidence and works to build a solid defense against the DUI charges. 

Because seasoned DUI defense attorneys do not shy away from going to trial, prosecutors may be more willing to negotiate a reasonable plea deal. Public defenders may be encouraged to accept plea deals that are not in your best interest to settle cases. 

Get the Facts About California DUI Cases Now

Before you agree to a plea deal, talk to a DUI defense lawyer near you about your case. Learn about your legal options from a trusted source to ensure you choose the best option to defend yourself against fourth-time DUI charges in California.

California DUI Defense Can I Get My California DUI Expunged?

Under California Penal Code §1203. 4 PC, some individuals can have their criminal conviction expunged from their record. That means that the court wipes out a guilty verdict or guilty plea. Instead, a plea of “Not Guilty” is entered, and the case is dismissed.

In other words, an expunged criminal conviction is set aside as if you were never judged guilty or pled guilty. That is what is meant by “cleaning” your criminal record.

However, the arrest is not erased. Expungement implies that the entire criminal matter is erased from your record. A better term for a California expungement might be “dismissed.” 

The arrest remains on your record, but anyone reviewing your criminal history would only see that you were arrested. After your arrest, the case was dismissed without a guilty verdict.

Not all criminal convictions are eligible for expungement. The good news is that most driving under the influence convictions in California meets the requirements for an expungement.

Who Can Receive a California DUI Expungement?

Individuals convicted of misdemeanors and felonies may be eligible for an expungement in California if they meet the following requirements:

  • Your conviction occurred in state court
  • You were not sentenced to serve time in state prison 
  • You completed probation, or it has been one year since your conviction if you were not ordered to serve probation
  • You met all other sentenced requirements, such as treatment programs, community service, fines, restitution, etc.
  • You did not violate any of the terms of probation
  • You are not currently on probation, serving time for another offense, or charged with another criminal offense

Most of the DUI convictions in California meet the above requirements for a DUI expungement. However, you may want to consult with a California DUI defense lawyer to verify that your drunk driving charge is eligible for expungement.

How Does DUI Expungement Work in California?

You must complete probation and all conditions required by probation before you apply for DUI expungement. General terms for DUI probation in California include:

  • Fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Alcohol program (DUI school)
  • Time in county jail
  • Three to five years of summary probation
  • Agreement to submit to DUI breath test or DUI blood test if arrested for driving under the influence
  • Zero-tolerance for driving with alcohol in your system
  • No criminal offenses during probation

There could be other conditions for DUI probation based on the drunk driving offense and the facts of the case. However, regardless of the terms of probation, you must complete probation successfully to be eligible for an expungement of a drunk driving charge.

After completing probation, you file a petition for expungement with the court. 

Can I Receive a DUI Expungement Earlier?

Because summary or formal probation for a DUI conviction lasts between three to five years, a person could wait a long time to clear a DUI conviction from their criminal record. However, you may be able to have probation terminated early, which would allow you to petition the court for a DUI expungement.

Some individuals could qualify for early probation termination as soon as 18 months after conviction. However, the following circumstances must apply:

  • The person has completed the terms of probation successfully AND
  • Some circumstances justify granting an early termination of probation.

Situations that might qualify as circumstances to justify early probation termination include traveling for work, caring for minor children or sick family members, obtaining a job, or obtaining higher education or training for advancement at work.

The judge has the sole discretion to grant early termination from DUI probation if the person meets the above requirements. However, many judges hesitate to grant early termination of DUI probation. 

One reason could be the zero-tolerance requirement for driving with alcohol in the person’s system. Other judges may hesitate to grant a petition for early termination when specific facts are present in the case, or the person has a subsequent drunk driving or drugged driving offense in their past.

Do I Get My Driver’s License Back if My DUI is Expunged?

For most people, probation generally lasts longer than a suspended driver’s license. However, if you complete your probation before your driver’s license is restored, a DUI expungement will not overturn a driver’s license revocation or suspension. Expungements do not restore driving privileges.

However, there are other benefits of receiving a DUI expungement. For example, you are not legally required to disclose an expunged conviction when applying for a job. 

California’s “ban the box” law prohibits employers from asking about a person’s criminal history before making a conditional employment offer. The employer cannot turn down the applicant for employment because of a conviction revealed after making a conditional employment offer until it completes an individualized assessment. 

However, you would not need to disclose an expunged DUI conviction at all. Expunged DUIs cannot be used to make employment decisions, including hiring or promoting an employee. 

There is an exception for teaching credentials and state licenses. When applying for these licenses, you must disclose all convictions, including expunged DUI convictions. State licensing boards are permitted to use an expunged DUI case when making decisions regarding your license or employment.

Even if you are required to disclose an expunged conviction, an employer may look more favorably at a dismissed DUI case instead of a guilty verdict.

How Does an Expunged DUI Impact Future DUI Arrests?

Even though your DUI conviction was expunged, it can significantly affect penalties for future drunk driving convictions. Drunk driving in California is a “priorable” offense. That means that the DUI penalties increase for each subsequent DUI conviction. 

The increase in penalties applies to convictions within ten years. Therefore, if you are found guilty of drunk driving within ten years of a DUI conviction that was expunged, you can still face harsher penalties, just as if your drunk driving conviction was never expunged.

What Should You Expect After a California DUI Arrest?

If you are arrested for drunk driving, you have two different cases. The Department of Motor Vehicles handles one case, and the other case is your criminal case handled by the Superior Court.

APS Hearing with the DMV

Call the DMV immediately after a DUI arrest regarding your DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) case. You have just ten days from your arrest to request an APS hearing. If you do not request a hearing within those ten days, your driver’s license is automatically suspended. 

Your “pink temporary license” given to you by the police officer is only good for 30 days from the arrest date. After that, if you request an APS hearing, the DMV issues a new temporary license effective when the pink temporary license expires. 

The DMV schedules a hearing to determine whether to suspend your driver’s license. Many people decide to represent themselves at the APS hearing. Unfortunately, they discover too late that representing themselves was a poor decision.

An experienced drunk driving defense lawyer may be able to present one or more defenses that could help you avoid losing your driving privileges. In addition, the attorney may have the chance to cross-examine the arresting officer and review evidence. These steps could help with your APS hearing and your criminal case.

If you have trouble contacting the DMV about an APS hearing, you might want to call a California DUI defense attorney immediately for help. 

Criminal Proceeds for a California DUI Charge

You may also agree to a plea deal with the prosecutor, seek and agree to a court offer,  or proceed to trial. 

The best way to know what to do is to talk with a lawyer. A lawyer evaluates your case to determine how strong the evidence is against you and what your best options are for defending the charges or avoiding the harshest penalties for a DUI conviction. 

Remember to tell your attorney everything about your case. Do not lie or hold anything back from your lawyer. Your attorney cannot represent you effectively if he does not know everything about your case.

If possible, the goal is to keep your driver’s license and avoid a conviction. If not, the goal is to minimize the penalties you face for a DUI conviction.