While driving under the influence (DUI) is a common charge in the State of California, the vast majority of those arrested are first-time offenders. According to figures provided by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, approximately four percent of those arrested for DUI were repeat offenders in 2017. The distinction between a first and subsequent DUI is important because the punishment for each violation scales depending on any prior convictions. If you have been charged with your third DUI under California law, contact an experienced Sonoma County DUI lawyer right away.
In California, a prosecutor has two different theories they can choose from when attempting to convict you of driving under the influence. It is possible that you could be charged under one or both theories, as they are not mutually exclusive. The first theory, “per se” DUI, relates entirely to your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time you were behind the wheel. The second theory requires the prosecutor to prove that you were intoxicated by an alcoholic beverage while driving regardless of what your BAC was at the time.
Most drivers are familiar with the concept of BAC: it goes up as your bloodstream absorbs alcohol and goes down as your body expels it. For most people, the higher the blood alcohol concentration you have the more affected your motor skills will be. In California, it is illegal to operate a vehicle on a public road with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Intoxication DUI is far more broad than per se DUI, and that is by design. It is designed to catch those who either don’t submit to a chemical test or were intoxicated despite being under the BAC limit. According to the California Vehicle Code 23152 (a):
It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
Although that sentence is short, there is a lot to unpack. There has been litigation to determine what exactly qualifies as “under the influence,” “drive,” and even “vehicle.” To prove that you were under the influence the prosecutor must show that the alcohol in your system has affected your ability to drive safely. The California Model Jury Instructions define “under the influence” as:
A person is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage when as a result of drinking such alcoholic beverage, his or her physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he or she no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same conditions.
Additionally, the prosecutor must also prove that you were operating a motor vehicle public in order to obtain a conviction. It is not enough to simply be intoxicated in a motor vehicle; California law requires a “slight movement” of the vehicle in order to warrant a conviction for DUI.
Your third DUI conviction under California law is considered a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, you face a minimum jail sentence of 120 days and a maximum of up to 1 year. A third conviction also carries a maximum penalty of $1,000, plus over double that amount in county court fees, mandatory, lengthy DUI school, and a license suspension of 3 years.
Every DUI case is different. They each present different strengths and weaknesses from a defense standpoint. An experienced Sonoma County DUI lawyer will carefully review your case and determine the strongest defenses available to you. The experienced DUI defense attorneys at the Wilber Law Offices, P.C. rely on a wide range of defenses at trial. Some of the legal defenses that have led to favorable results for their clients are below.
If you are facing a charge of DUI third offense in Sonoma County, California, contact the Wilber Law Offices, P.C. today.