Factors known as sentencing enhancements can substantially increase court punishment in a California Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases. California sentencing enhancements include speeding, California V.C. Section 23582 - Speeding: Additional Penalty, driving drunk with children in the car, (California Vehicle Code Section 23572 - Minor Passenger: Enhanced Penalty), or being involved in a DUI traffic accident. Consulting with an experienced California DUI defense attorney may help mitigate these enhancements.
Sentencing enhancements can increase every aspect of a DUI criminal court punishment, including higher fines, longer jail sentences, extended driver's license suspensions, greater mandatory DUI education requirements, and more restrictive probation.
Enhancements are usually included when the charges are filed, but they can be added later as long as the case is still pending and the enhancements won't threaten the driver's right to a fair trial. The additional allegations, like the underlying DUI charge, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt or the sentence cannot be enhanced.
Speeding is one the most common sentencing enhancements in a California Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) case (California V.C. Section 23582 - Speeding: Additional Penalty). Drivers accused of traveling 30 mph or more over the freeway speed limit or 20 mph or more over the speed limit on a surface street or highway will face this allegation.
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Prosecutors who include the speeding enhancement, California V.C. Section 23582 - Speeding: Additional Penalty, sometimes also add an enhancement of "reckless driving" (California V.C. Section 23103 - Reckless Driving). If both allegations are found to be true, the motorist faces 60 days in jail in addition to any other punishment handed out. If the prosecutor alleges reckless driving, he or she must prove that the driver had willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property, and wasn't merely driving too fast.
The allegation that there were children in the car at the time the driver was stopped and arrested for a DUI is another sentencing enhancement (California V.C. Section 23572 - Minor Passenger: Enhanced Penalty). If there were children under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the stop, the driver risks a sentencing enhancement and/or a child endangerment charge.
The allegation of driving drunk with children in the car also carries additional jail time - 48 hours for a first offense, 10 days for a second offense, 30 days for a third offense, and 90 days for a fourth offense. This additional jail time is mandatory if the facts establishing child endangerment are proven.
Being involved in a traffic accident in a drunk driving case also brings a sentencing enhancement. Accidents that result in injury to someone other than the driver typically result in a felony charge (California V.C. Section 23153 - Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Causing Injury). If the sentencing enhancement of being involved in an accident is proven in conjunction with a felony DUI conviction, the driver faces an additional 90 days to one year in jail.
Certain other factors can prompt a sentencing enhancement, including prior DUIs (California V.C. Section 23580 - Repeat Offenders: Mandatory Imprisonment) or "wet-reckless" convictions, or drunk driving offenses that involve a death or multiple victims (California V.C. Section 23558 - Multiple Victims: Enhanced Penalty). If proven, these allegations can result in severe punishment.
Some prosecutors are known to "pile on" sentencing enhancements in DUI cases, so it is critical to defend each case aggressively to avoid additional penalties. A California criminal attorney who focuses on DUI defense will develop an aggressive strategy to fight both the underlying charge of drinking and driving and any sentencing enhancements.
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