DUI and DUID
Driving under the influence of Alcohol is defined in two ways under California law. If you have a blood-alcohol content of .08% or higher OR if absent such a BAC you nevertheless are demonstrably impaired in your driving abilities by alcohol, it is a DUI.
DUID, driving under the influence of drugs is punished the same as DUI Alcohol, but there is not threshold comparable to .08 that must be met. Any amount of illegal, prescription, or even over the counter drugs in your system, if it impairs your driving, counts as a DUID.
DUI/DUID can result in months or years long loss of your driving privileges, heavy fines, mandatory DUI class, jail time, probation, mandatory installation of an IID (ignition interlock device), and other serious penalties. It can also make it difficult to hold a good job or even end your career in the case of those with a CDL or who lose their professional license as a result of a DUI conviction.
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we understand the ramifications a DUI conviction can have on your life and livelihood. And we know how to win DUI cases both at the DMV hearing and at the jury trial. Contrary to popular belief, there are in fact many effective ways to challenge a DUI, which can result in dismissal, acquittal, or a lesser charge/sentence.
Driving on a Suspended License OR Without a Valid License
Under PC 14601, it is a crime to drive while your driver's license is under suspension for any reason, including for a DUI. Driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor, but the penalties vary in severity based on the reason for the original suspension.
The prosecution must prove not only that you drove a vehicle while your license was suspended but also that you were aware of the fact that your license was suspended at the time.
Note that driving on a suspended license is a distinct offense from "driving without a license." The latter often happens when someone fails to get a California license in time after moving from another state. Or, it could be that the driver had a "regular" driver's license but not one valid for the type of vehicle they were operating (commercial vehicle or motorcycle, for example.)
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we can often challenge these license-related allegations OR we can present mitigating circumstances that will at least get the charge reduced or the sentence lightened.
Hit & Run Accidents
California law puts the responsibility upon drivers who get into an accident to stop without delay, offer assistance to any injured parties present, and give their contact and other basic information to the other driver. To fail to do this constitutes a "hit and run" incident.
Hit and run, if charged as a misdemeanor, is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in county jail. As a felony, and if another person was injured in the accident, it can be punished by as much as 5 years in state prison.
For the prosecution to gain a conviction on a hit and run charge, it must be shown that you were driving a vehicle that was involved in an accident and that you failed to stop at the scene of the accident and perform one or more of your "duties."
Defenses against hit and run include: you were not the driver, you could not safely stop at the time but called police to report the accident as soon as possible, you left a note on property you damaged when the owner could not be found, you could not stop because of an emergency situation, and you were unaware an accident had occurred.
Under PC 192c, vehicular manslaughter is defined as driving a vehicle in such a way that the death of another person results. This is an accidental death in view here, and there must have been a criminal activity, traffic violation, intentional causing of an accident for the purpose of financial gain, negligence, or gross negligence involved.
To drive in a manner that puts others at high risk of great bodily injury/death, which a reasonable person would know creates such risks, is gross negligence and can enhance the penalty upon a conviction.
As a misdemeanor, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail. As a felony, it is punishable by up to 6 years in state prison.
Defenses include: you were not the one driving (maybe your car was stolen or a friend had borrowed it,) you did not commit any crimes, traffic violations, or engage in negligent or grossly negligent driving, the death of the victim was not caused by the traffic accident, and you acted as any reasonable person would due to an emergency or other situation and the accident was an unfortunate result.
Evading an Officer
Under VC 2800.1, anyone evading or attempting to evade a pursuing police officer while driving a motor vehicle commits a crime. It makes no difference whether the officer is pursuing in a police car, motorcycle, or bicycle.
But the officer must have been distinctively dressed and driving a distinctively marked vehicle that clearly identified him/her as a legitimate officer of the law. And police car sirens and flashing red lights must have been activated and easily visible to the driver being pursued.
If the officer rode on a bike, he must have issued an order to stop (verbal or a hand signal) OR have sounded a horn at least 115 decibels loud.
Evading an officer is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Reckless evading of a police officer (VC 2800.2) and evading a police officer causing injury or death (VC 2800.3) are aggravated forms of evading an officer that carry even stiffer penalties.
Possible defense strategies include: lack of intent to evade, inability to stop due to heavy traffic, an emergency situation forbad stopping immediately, and police were not properly uniformed, had improperly marked vehicles, or did not properly conduct themselves in some way.
VC 23103 criminalizes reckless driving, defining it as operating a motor vehicle with "willful or wanton disregard" for the safety/property of others. This crime must have been committed on a public roadway or in a parking facility.
'Wanton disregard" indicates that someone was aware his/her actions create an undue risk to others but that the perpetrator ignores this fact and drives recklessly anyway.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime, punishable by 5 to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It also adds two points to your driving record, can be used against you on future driving crime charges, and will likely raise your insurance premiums or even cause your insurance policy to be cancelled.
Under VC 23104, if reckless driving causes bodily injury to another person, it will be punished significantly more severely.
Note that the above is "dry reckless" as opposed to "wet reckless." Wet reckless driving is not technically a distinct crime, but when a DUI is plea bargained down to reckless driving, a note is added to the conviction record that alcohol/drugs were a factor in the original arrest. Any reckless driving conviction counts as a prior for DUI purposes just like an actual DUI would, but the penalties for reckless driving are generally less severe than for DUIs.
Possible defense against a reckless driving charge include: you were not the one driving the vehicle (it may have been stolen or loaned out to a friend,) it was an emergency situation that legitimated your actions, and the argument that speeding does not in itself constitute reckless driving.
Speed Contests and Exhibition of Speed
Under VC 23109a, it is a crime to race against another vehicle, or even just "against a clock," on a public roadway or any area publicly maintained and open for public use. You must have been willfully driving at a "high rate" of speed either against other vehicles, a clock, or some other time-counting device.
Note that these types of "speed contests" do not have to be prearranged. They can be "spontaneous," happening on the spur of the moment and even against total strangers. And there is not requirement that the police officer arrest all racing parties in order to "be fair."
Engaging in public speed contests is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 maximum fine, a 6-month license suspension, community service, and impoundment of your vehicle for up to 30 days.
A repeat speed contest offense, however, can lead to 6 months in county jail, and if another driver is injured, it will be a felony charge, punishable by from 16 months to 3 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Under VC 23109c, unlawful exhibition of speed, or "drag racing," you cannot drive at unsafe rates of speed (or even accelerate at an unsafe rate) for the purpose of showing off or making an impression on another person.
In practice, however, there is little need to prove the intent to "show off."
Exhibition of speed is a misdemeanor crime, punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to 90 days in county jail, a license suspension of up to 6 months, community service, and impoundment of your vehicle.
Contact Us Today For Help
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we have a strong track record of success in winning all manner of driving crimes defense cases for our clients. This is not limited to DUI and a couple other practice areas, but covers the full range of possible driving-related criminal charges.
Our team of legal experts will know how to challenge the evidence brought against you by the prosecution as well as find exculpatory and mitigating evidence in your favor. We are experienced at cross-examining witnesses to expose weaknesses in the story being pushed by the prosecutor.
Our attorneys will always fight first and foremost for a dismissal or an acquittal, but we are also well seasoned negotiators who know how to secure a favorable plea deal when that is the best possible outcome.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation on the details of your case, call us anytime 24/7/365 at (562) 308-7807. Or, if you prefer, stop by for a face to face consultation in our local Long Beach office.