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People often want to know what the difference is between a DUI and an “aggravated DUI.” These terms are often thrown around interchangeably and can be confusing to those who have been charged with a DUI offense.
An aggravated DUI is a driving under the influence offense in which certain underlying factors exist that make the crime more severe or more serious. Some of these factors are specifically recognized by statute and will increase the penalties imposed on any DUI offense. Other factors may be considered informal aggravating factors that may affect the type of offer that a prosecutor is willing to make.
One of the most common aggravating factors that is recognized by the law is whether the defendant had prior DUI convictions within the previous ten years. Any prior conviction occurring within a ten year lookback period will enhance the penalties on the current offense. Statutory law requires that a defendant be sentenced to jail if he or she has a prior DUI conviction or convictions. For a second offense, the sentence must include a minimum of 96 hours in jail. However, many counties such as Orange, Ventura and Riverside typically impose significantly longer jail sentences for defendants convicted of a second time DUI. On a person’s third DUI conviction, the law requires at least 120 days in jail. A fourth DUI is a felony that can result in a lengthy prison sentence. In addition, a defendant with prior DUI convictions would have to take a longer drug and alcohol education class and would face a longer driver’s license suspension.
Another factor that would turn a DUI into an aggravated DUI is the driver’s refusal to comply with chemical testing when asked by the arresting officer. Under the law, all drivers on the road must submit to chemical testing if lawfully arrested for DUI. Drivers are given the option of taking a test, however refusing to submit to either breath or blood testing will result in the defendant being charged with DUI along with a refusal allegation. This refusal allegation can significantly increase the penalties that are ultimately imposed in court. In addition, a DUI refusal will result in a minimum one year driver’s license suspension during which the driver would be ineligible for a restricted license.
Being involved in a traffic collision is also considered an aggravating factor when dealing with DUI charges. Judges and prosecutors are very concerned about impaired drivers who are involved in collisions, as these accidents can often be fatal. DUI drivers who were involved in traffic collisions can be sentenced to a longer drug and alcohol education class, required community service or community labor hours, potential jail time, fines and various other conditions of probation. In addition, the defendant would be required to pay restitution to the victim for any damages that may have been caused. This would be considered a condition of probation and a willful failure to make payments can result in the defendant having his or her probation revoked.