A Guide to Aggravated DUI Charges in California

  • Post last modified:November 25, 2023

What Does Aggravated DUI Mean in California

Criminal charges, whether related to drug crimes, domestic violence, DUI, or other crimes, should always be taken seriously. Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, the outcome of your case can seriously impact your future.

Working with an experienced criminal law attorney to understand your case and all potential mitigating factors can be important. Your attorney can explain how the factors of your case impact your defense and the potential consequences of a conviction, ensuring you can make educated decisions as you move forward.

For example, DUI cases can range from misdemeanors when it’s a first-time charge to more complex and serious matters with severe potential penalties if the charges are aggravated by other factors. In California, aggravated DUI occurs when there are mitigating factors present during the incident or the DUI occurs while the individual is committing another, separate or related, offense.

Does an Aggravated DUI Have Different Penalties Than a DUI

Yes, aggravated offenses can increase penalties. In some cases, mitigating or aggravating factors can mean the difference between a misdemeanor DUI and a felony DUI, for example. Even in cases where the factors don’t lead to crossing that line, mitigating factors are considered by prosecutors when discussing plea deals and by judges when handing down sentences.

In short, if you are convicted of aggravated DUI, you may be more likely to face fines, jail time, or other consequences. You might also face higher fines, more jail or prison time, longer probation, or other consequences than you would in a case involving a basic DUI charge.

What Factors Can Aggravate a DUI Charge?

The scenario around your DUI can include factors that aggravate the charge. They can include:

  • Having a child under the age of 14 in the car when you are driving under the influence. The state considers this child endangerment, and you may face mandatory jail time if you are convicted of the DUI. The jail time can range from a few days to a month for first-time offenders depending on other factors of the case.
  • Causing a motor vehicle accident, especially with injury to another person, while driving under the influence. The issue can be even more aggravated if you engage in a hit-and-run while under the influence. A hit-and-run DUI conviction can result in sentencing that includes years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, depending on the outcome of the accident and other factors related to the case.
  • Refusing to submit to a chemical test in cases where implied consent laws are relevant. In these cases, sentencing becomes mandatory if you are convicted of the DUI, whereas sentencing may not be mandatory in all other DUI cases. This is because, under California law, motorists who are driving in the state give implied consent for chemical tests if an officer has probable cause to arrest them on a DUI charg
  • Having an especially high blood alcohol content. A BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered above the legal limit for individuals age 21 and older. A BAC of 0.15% is considered excessively high, and you can face additional penalties, including requirements for a treatment program, traffic school, and ignition interlock device use. If your BAC is 0.20% or more, those penalties can be even higher.

Some other factors that can aggravate a DUI charge include being on probation for other crimes at the time the DUI occurs, driving recklessly or with excessive speed, having a suspended or expired driver’s license, and previous convictions for DUI within the past 10 years.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors Must Be Proved

Aggravating and mitigating factors are like any other aspect of a criminal charge. Prosecutors must demonstrate that these factors did, in fact, exist, and that means you may also be able to defend against them. You can do this by working with a criminal defense attorney to understand the charges against you and how any factors related to your case may impact it. Your attorney also works with you to create a defense strategy.

One strategy relevant to DUI charges is to dispute the BAC test results. For example, say the results indicated that you had a BAC of 0.15% or higher. You might dispute those results by arguing that the test wasn’t administered correctly, procedures at the lab weren’t followed correctly, or that the testing equipment wasn’t maintained well.

Another strategy is to dispute the legitimacy of the test overall—law enforcement officers must notify you of specific things before requiring you to submit to a chemical test, for example. If you can demonstrate that the officer did not follow proper procedure, the test results might be thrown out.

Get Help Addressing Your DUI Charge

Whether you’re facing aggravated DUI charges or just a first-time basic DUI charge, you should take your situation seriously. The sooner you understand the charges and your options for moving forward, the more able you are to make proactive decisions to protect your future.

Start strong with your criminal defense by choosing an experienced criminal law team. Call the Law Offices of Jerry Nicholson today to find out how we can help. You can reach out by calling 562-205-8499.