California DUI - Sentencing Enhancements

Convicted drunk drivers face severe consequences that include license suspension, jail time, high fines, and mandatory alcohol-education programs.  In California, in addition to the driving under the influence (DUI) charge, drivers can incur several “enhancements” that directly influence the severity of consequences imposed during sentencing.  The enhancements include drinking and driving with (1) prior DUI convictions, (2) high blood-alcohol (BAC) levels -- .15% or more, (3) excessive speeding, (4) chemical test refusals, (5) accident involvement, (6) injury or death related to the DUI, (7) children in the vehicle, and (8) age-related violations.

 

Sentencing enhancements can result in longer jail time, increased fines, lengthier license suspensions, lengthier attendance requirements in alcohol-education programs, and other more restrictive probation.  Sentencing enhancements are generally included at the time charges are filed.  However, in some instances they can be added later so long as they do not unfairly endanger a DUI defendant’s right to a fair trial.  As with the actual DUI charge, enhancements must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt, before they can be applied to sentencing.  Some of the enhancement penalties in California include:

 

  • Prior DUI Conviction - If the driver has a prior DUI conviction within 10 years, both the minimum jail term and license suspension period are increased.  Multiple offenses (three-time’s or more) result in a felony DUI charge which is punishable by state prison time.

 

  • Speeding/Reckless Driving - One of the more common enhancements stemming from the DUI defendant’s driving with a .08% or higher BAC at 30mph or more over the freeway speed limit or 20mph or more over the speed limit on a highway or surface street results in an additional 60 days in jail. 

 

  • Child Endangerment - This enhancement is imposed when it is proven that a child 14 years or younger was in the vehicle at the time the offense occurred.  Enhanced penalties include 48 hours more in jail for first-time offenders, 10 days more in jail for a second-offense, 30 days more for a third offense, and 90 days more for a fourth offense.