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Under California law, driving under the influence is what is considered a “priorable” crime. This means that a person’s prior DUI convictions can be used to enhance the penalties on any subsequent DUI offense. In fact, a person’s fourth or subsequent driving under the influence is a felony level crime that can result in prison sentences for those convicted.
The majority of people who are charged with driving under the influence and ultimately convicted of this offense will commit no future DUI offenses. Studies have shown that recidivism rates for DUI offenders have steadily fallen since states began to implement mandatory sentencing provisions and driver’s license suspensions in the early 1980s. In addition, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (“MADD”), whose president David Griffin recently resigned due to DUI arrest, have successfully publicized the dangers of impaired driving which has had an effect on DUI recidivism.
Being charged with a DUI usually serves as a wakeup call for people regarding their conduct, and they are able to correct the underlying behavior that led to the charge. This may involve cutting back on drinking or simply relying on taxis or car-sharing services when going out for a night on the town.
However, a large number of people will be charged with a second DUI offense. It is important to remember that the driving under the influence statute includes a ten year lookback period. This means that a person’s prior DUI offense can be used to enhance the penalties of any subsequent DUI as long as the prior occurred within the previous ten years. Ten years is a long period of time and in many cases a person with an old DUI conviction will be arrested for DUI and will be treated as a second time DUI offender even though the offense occurred nearly a decade earlier.
In California, a person who is convicted of a second DUI will have to serve a mandatory jail sentence of at least 96 hours. In many counties, including Orange and Ventura, judges and prosecutors tend to require lengthy jail sentences for defendants who are convicted of a second DUI offense. In addition, second time DUI offenders would face a minimum one year driver’s license suspension and would be required to take the 18-month SB-38 drug and alcohol education program.
When a person is charged with a second DUI offense while still on probation for the first, he or she will usually face a probation violation that can result in jail time on top of whatever is imposed for the new offense.
Third time DUI offenses are rarer and usually are a sign that the defendant is either unwilling or unable to control his or her drug or alcohol use. In California, a person convicted of a third time DUI offense can be sentenced to serve a minimum of 120 days in jail and will be required to complete the 30-month alcohol education program. A judge may also impose several other conditions of probation. If the defendant picks up a fourth or subsequent DUI within a ten year period, he or she will be charged with felony DUI.