Driving under the influence (DUI) charges aren’t handed out by officers on a whim. Drivers get DUI charges because peace officers have identified them as a potential public safety risk on the road. Impaired driving can raise the risk of a collision, which endangers the safety of the drunk driver, other motorists and pedestrians.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising if drivers face additional DUI penalties for certain aggravating factors that further heighten that safety risk. What are these factors, and why should drivers be concerned?
Normally, a driver charged with DUI will have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and serve months in jail when convicted by a court. Their license will also be suspended for six months, up to four years depending on whether the driver had prior offenses. But aggravating factors may convince a judge to increase these penalties.
Some aggravating factors in a DUI charge include:
- Causing property damage, injuries or death: It’s against the law to drive drunk while causing injury to anyone else other than the driver. If a driver charged with DUI caused an accident that led to damage, injuries, or the death of another person, they could face felony charges instead of misdemeanors when convicted. Fatal accidents can also lead to separate second-degree murder charges.
- Child endangerment: If there was a child passenger when an officer charged the driver with DUI, the driver would face mandatory minimum jail time. This can go up to 30 days minimum jail time on a third offense.
- Prior DUI convictions: If a driver had a DUI conviction within the past 10 years, their prison sentence, license suspension and DUI school requirements increase for their latest DUI conviction. If they have three prior convictions, their latest conviction becomes a felony charge.
- Refusing a chemical or blood test: Drivers who refuse to submit to a test during a traffic stop will face increased prison sentences on conviction and an administrative license suspension.
- Speeding: DUI penalties can increase if an officer pulls over a drunk driver who went more than 30 miles over the posted speed limit.
Drivers who think they’ll only pay a $1,000 fine and spend up to six months in jail after committing any of these aggravating factors are in for a rude awakening. Anyone who drives through California’s highways should remember this to avoid having worse penalties and criminal charges on their record.