Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a serious offense in California. You can be arrested and charged with this crime if you drive with a blood alcohol content that exceeds the legal limit or your driving conduct is impaired by alcohol. The penalties accompanying a DUI conviction can be harsh, but a first offender may not serve time in jail. However, if the circumstances of your DUI are aggravated, you may face a lengthy jail sentence, fines, and driver's license suspension.

Several factors could cause your DUI to be aggravated, including DUI with a minor in the car, excessive speed, and excessive blood alcohol content, among others. If you or your loved one is facing charges for aggravated DUI in Bakersfield, CA, you can avoid jail and loss of your driving privileges by contacting a competent DUI attorney. At Bakersfield DUI Attorney, we offer legal guidance and representation to ensure the best possible outcome in your case.

Overview of Aggravated DUI in California

Every year, countless drivers are arrested and charged for drunk driving in California. You commit a DUI crime when you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. If you are driving a car with a commercial driver's license, your BAC should not be 0.04% or more. Also, you can face charges with DUI if your driving conduct is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

In California, having a valid driver's license means that you consent to random alcohol and drug tests. Therefore, you can be stopped on a DUI stop or after an accident and asked to take the Breathalyzer test. If your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you can be arrested and charged for violating California Penal Code 23152.

A conviction for a simple DUI could attract a jail sentence, fines, or even a suspension of your driver's license. The severity of your penalties is based on the circumstances that surround your situation. If you face charges for DUI, it is crucial to consult a competent DUI attorney.

Aggravated DUI means that serious factors cause the court to take your charges more seriously. In California, the aggravating factors of your DUI enhance the penalties you face after a conviction for the crime.

The main difference between a standard DUI and aggravated DUI resonates around the evidence that a prosecutor needs to present. For a standard DUI, the prosecutor must prove that you were operating a vehicle and your BAC exceeded the limit. However, for aggravated DUI, the prosecutor has the burden to prove the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

DUI Aggravating Factors 

Aggravating factors are factors or circumstances that increase the severity of your criminal act. Some of the common factors that aggravate your DUI charges in California include:

DUI Causing Bodily Injury

If you cause an accident that results in injury to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be charged with aggravated DUI under CPC 23153. Even when the accident did not cause serious damage, the court will consider DUI as the reason for the accident and result in harsher penalties for your DUI conviction. 

Causing injuries while intoxicated can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Also, your criminal history may be significant during sentencing.

Drunk Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.2% or higher

Your blood alcohol content is one of the most significant factors that a court considers in a DUI sentencing. You will face DUI charges in California if you operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or more on a standard driver's license. Commercial drivers and minor drivers driving with a BAC of 0.04 and 0.01 could attract DUI charges. Drivers with a high blood alcohol content are assumed to lack the mental and physical capacity to make critical decisions on the road. 

If your BAC is more than 0.2% (two and a half times more than the legal limit), you could face harsher penalties. Even when you are a first-time fender, an excessively high BAC could be an aggravating factor to your DUI charges.

Refusal to Submit to Chemical Tests

Your chemical test results are the most significant piece of evidence used against you in a DUI case. If you are asked to take a blood or breath test, you have the right to decline the tests. If an officer threatens or forces you to take the test, they will violate your rights. However, it is crucial to understand that refusal to submit to chemical tests is aggravating in a DUI case. 

Failure to take the blood tests could be advantageous because the prosecutor will not have solid evidence on your BAC. This can create room for doubt so you can fight your charges. If you face DUI charges with an aggravating factor of failing to take the chemical tests, it is crucial to contact a competent DUI attorney for guidance.

Drunk Driving while on Probation

Driving under the influence while on probation could result in a hearing for violation of probation terms. When you are on probation, you should not drive with a detectable alcohol level in your system. Therefore, if you are arrested for drunk driving while on probation, your DUI charges will be aggravated, and you will face a harsher Penalty.

Excessive Speeding

Driving over the speed limit while under drug or alcohol influence is another aggravating factor in DUI cases. Driving 30MPH more than the legal limit on a highway or driving 20MPH more than the limit on residential streets could aggravate DUI in California.

DUI with a Suspended or Revoked Driver's License

Under California Vehicle Code 12500, you can face arrest and criminal charges for operating a vehicle on the highway, public streets, or an off-street facility without a valid driver's license. If you are drunk driving without a license on a highway, your DUI charges will be aggravated due to a violation of multiple driving laws. There are several reasons why you could be operating without a drivers license, including:

  • You have not applied for a driving license to operate in California, or your license is expired. The penalty of driving without a valid driver's license attracts a penalty of $250. However, if you are arrested for DUI without a license, your charges will be aggravated.
  • Lack of possession of the license at the time of the arrest. Even when you have a valid driver's license but could not produce it at the time of arrest, the court could consider this an aggravating factor for your DUI.
  • Suspension or revocation of your license. Driver's license suspension can be a result of a DUI or other vehicle-related offense. It is unlawful to operate with a suspended or revoked license.

Hit and Run while Driving Under the Influence

You commit a crime of hit and run when you hit another person or vehicle and flee the scene without taking responsibility for your actions. If you are caught and found to be under the influence, you can be charged with aggravated DUI. If you caused serious injury or death to another person in the hit-and-run accident, you would face harsh penalties after a conviction.

Reckless Driving While under The influence

Reckless driving entails behavior that endangers the lives of other road users. This could mean that you acted with disregard for the safety of others. In California, reckless driving under drug or alcohol influence is an aggravating factor to your DUI charges. Reckless driving is charged as a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to three months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If reckless driving resulted in injuries, you would face a six-month jail sentence and up to $2500 in fines.

Having a Minor in the Vehicle

If you are arrested for driving under the influence and have a passenger below fourteen years, you could be charged with child endangerment alongside DUI. When you are intoxicated, your judgment is impaired, and you may be putting the minor's life in jeopardy. The child endangerment factor in your DUI case is serious since it is considered negligent and child abuse. If you face a conviction for aggravated DUI due to child endangerment, you could face a sentence of up to six years.

Multiple DUI Convictions within Ten Years

California DUI law is stringent on repeat offenders. For a first DUI conviction, you may fail to spend time in jail. However, repeat offenders often receive harsher penalties. If you have a prior felony conviction, all subsequent DUIs will be charged as felonies. Therefore, having multiple DUI convictions within ten years is an aggravating factor that results in harsher penalties for a conviction. If you face aggravated DUI charges in California, competent legal guidance will go a long way for you.

Penalties for Aggravated DUI in California

The penalties that accompany a conviction for DUI are severe, even for the first offense. The above aggravating factors only make your situation worse. A first conviction for drunk driving in California could result in a six-month jail sentence and $2,000 in fines. Also, you could face a suspension of your driver's license. Even though some aggravated DUI cases could be charged as misdemeanors, you can face a felony conviction if your charges are aggravated by an accident, injury, or death of a third party.

If you face a felony DUI conviction, you risk facing a six months jail sentence, fines not exceeding $3,000, and a four years driver's license suspension. Since your motor vehicle insurance provider will learn of the DUI and license suspension, your insurance premiums may increase significantly. Also, you could be required to complete an alcohol education program. A felony conviction in your record could have significant effects on your life. This is because penalties for subsequent crimes may be enhanced as a result of the felony.

Also, finding or keeping a job can be challenging when you have a felony conviction. It is crucial to understand that the severity of the punishments you face for aggravated DUI will depend significantly on the number of aggravating factors in your case.

Legal Defenses for Aggravated DUI

Pursuing a defense for aggravated DUI charges can be challenging since most evidence for the crime is strong and clear enough to secure a conviction. However, you can present defenses for a possible reduction of your punishment and charges or dismissal of your case. With guidance from a competent DUI attorney, you can provoke doubt in the prosecutor's evidence. Also, you can challenge some of the evidence presented against you. Common defenses for aggravated DUI include:

  1. Dispute the Accuracy of the Chemical Test Results

It is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or more in California. Your blood and breath test results are the most crucial piece of evidence in a DUI case. Also, having a BAC of 0.2% is an aggravating factor that results in more serious charges and harsher penalties. The Breathalyzer devices used on the roads are not always accurate. Therefore, you can still dispute the accuracy of the test results.

If you can create doubt in the chemical test results, you may have a chance to fight your charges. Even when you were arrested with a BAC that exceeded the legal limit, you can fight to eliminate the aggravating factor brought about by an excessively high BAC.

  1. Argue a Violation of Legal Procedures by the Police

Under California DUI laws, a police officer must follow all the right procedures when taking the tests and making an arrest. An officer must arrange proper blood-alcohol analysis by a trained phlebotomist. An unreasonable delay could affect the accuracy of your results. 

If you are placed under arrest, the arresting officer must advise you on your rights, including the right to legal representation. If Miranda warnings are not issued, then the police are considered to violate your rights.

Even though there are legal consequences for refusing to take blood and breath tests, you can still decline. If an officer threatens you or forces you to take the tests, then they will be violating your rights. When presenting a defense to your case, you can argue a violation of legal procedures. If you are successful, the evidence obtained during violation of the procedures may be removed from your case.

  1. Argue a Lack of Probable Cause for Arrest

A traffic officer cannot stop your vehicle without a reasonable belief that you violated the law or at a DUI checkpoint. Some of the factors that could cause an officer to stop you for alleged drunk driving may include:

  • Over speeding.
  • Swerving from lane to lane.
  • Avoiding red lights.

After you stop, the officer must perform a field sobriety test then perform the breathalyzer test to check the alcohol content in your breath. If the Breathalyzer test results show an alcohol content of 0.08% or more in your breath, you will be arrested and taken to the police station. If an officer did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle or arrest you, you could present this argument as a defense to your aggravated DUI charges.

  1. Rising Blood Alcohol Content

Your BAC at the time of arrest is a significant piece of evidence in your DUI case. If your BAC is 0.08% or more, you can be arrested and charged with a simple DUI. However, if you operate with a BAC exceeding 0.2%, you can face charges for aggravated DUI. When you consume an alcoholic drink, the alcohol is absorbed into your body gradually. 

Therefore, you could be arrested with a low blood alcohol content from the breathalyze,r and by the time you arrive at the police station for a blood test, the BAC has increased to a point where the charges will be aggravated. You can claim that your BAC was rising as a defense to your case. A rising BAC defense can make a significant difference between a conviction and freedom.

  1. Challenging the Evidence of Aggravating Factors to be Removed from the Case

After a conviction for aggravated DUI, the penalties you face are more severe than those you face for a simple DUI. Therefore, if the prosecutor has a strong DUI case against you, you can eliminate the aggravating factors to face lesser penalties. This defense would be more applicable if your DUI case does not have multiple aggravating factors. With guidance from your DUI defense attorney, you can gather evidence to counter the aggravating factors. This could cause your charges to be reduced from aggravated DUI to simple DUI.

Offenses Related to Aggravated DUI

Aggravated DUI is related to most driving offenses, especially those that involve drunk driving. Most of these offenses are charged as felonies and could be charged alongside or instead of aggravated DUI. Some of the Crimes Related to Aggravated DUI in California Include:

Watson Murder

DUI murder is a second-degree murder charge you can face when you have a prior DUI and you cause the death of another person while drunk driving. Causing serious injury or death of another person when driving under drug or alcohol influence is a DUI aggravating factor. Therefore, you can be charged with Watson murder instead of aggravated DUI. Before you face a conviction for DUI murder, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You committed an intentional act that caused the death of another person. Since Watson murder is considered a second-degree murder, an intention to kill is not necessary to secure a conviction.
  • The natural consequences of your drunk driving behavior were risky to human life.
  • You knowingly acted in disregard to human life.

You are more likely to be charged with Watson murder if you have an excessively high BAC or have multiple prior DUI convictions. Under CPC 187, Watson murder is a felony that attracts:

  • A fifteen years prison sentence.
  • Fines not exceeding $10,000.
  • A strike on your record under Three Strikes law.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated 

California Penal Code 191.5(b) defines vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as a crime that occurs when an individual driving under the influence of alcohol causes the death of another person. When you face charges for violating this statute, the prosecutor has the burden to prove that:

  • You drive a vehicle while under drug or alcohol influence. Driving under the influence could be evident by your conduct or your BAC.
  • While doing so, you committed another offense that was a risk to human life. 
  • You committed a misdemeanor or infraction with ordinary negligence.
  • The victim's death was a direct consequence of your negligence.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The court considers your criminal history and other factors of your case when deciding on the nature of your charges. When charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by a four-year prison sentence and fines of up to $10,000.

On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction will attract a one-year jail sentence, summary probation, and fines that do not exceed $1,000. If you are arrested for DUI where you caused the death of another person, the court may convict you for aggravated DUI or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Find an Aggravated DUI Attorney Near Me

The State of California has some of the most stringent DUI laws in the United States. If you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% and 0.01% or more for adult and underage drivers,aggravates respectively, you can be arrested and charged with DUI. The penalties you face for a DUI conviction significantly depend on the circumstances of your case. Several factors such as drunk driving with a suspended license, DUI hit and run, or refusal to submit to chemical tests could cause your DUI to be aggravated. 

Aggravated DUI convictions attract significant punishments, especially when your offense involves several aggravating factors. Fortunately, facing DUI chances does not always mean you will be convicted. With the guidance of a Bakersfield DUI attorney, you can build a strong defense against the charges. If you face charges for aggravated DUI charges in Bakersfield, CA, we invite you to contact us today at 661-215-5660 and allow us to guide you through the situation.