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DUI Fourth Offense

A person arrested in California for driving under the influence who has been convicted of three DUI or driving under the influence related offenses within ten (10) years of a DUI arrest may be charged with fourth offense felony drunk driving. It does not matter whether the DUI convictions occurred in California or in a state other than California. What does matter is the language of the DUI statute which is being used as prior convictions to elevate a driving under the influence charge to a fourth offense.

Following a driving under the influence arrest by a California law enforcement agency, the District Attorney in the county where the DUI arrest occurred will review the police report, the California and out of state driving record (if any), as well as the California and FBI record of arrests and convictions before making a charging decision. If a person has prior felony or misdemeanor driving under the influence arrests or convictions, the prosecutor will order the court records of the prior DUI convictions.

However, the District Attorney's office has the discretion to charge the driver arrested for DUI with felony driving under the influence or misdemeanor driving under the influence by alleging or failing to allege prior drunk driving convictions in the criminal court charging document. As a practical matter, California prosecutors will most often charge the more serious felony DUI. The more serious felony DUI always carries substantially harsher penalties than a misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction.

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Attorneys for the firm represent clients accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit in San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa counties.

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California Vehicle Code section 23550 provides that a person who is convicted of driving under the influence within ten years of three or more separate driving under the influence charges resulting in convictions, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not less than 180 days nor more than one year. Additionally, a person convicted of a fourth offense DUI will be designated as a habitual traffic offender for a period of three years subsequent to the fourth DUI conviction.

To prove a California felony fourth offense driving under the influence case, the District Attorney must prove the prior convictions. If the DUI case is taken to trial, the prosecutor must prove the driving under the influence case and each of the prior convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reaonable doubt is the highest standard of proof in the California legal system. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a driving under the influence case is proof that leaves each juror with an abiding conviction that the charge is true. If the District Attorney fails to prove the new DUI case beyond a reasonable doubt, the driver is entitled to a verdict of not guilty. Similarly, if the prosecuting attorney fails to prove a prior DUI conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury is required to conclude that it did not occur.

California and federal prosecuting attorneys have a great deal of power in the criminal justice system. California Prosecutors have the power to strike a prior DUI conviction, lowering a fourth offense felony DUI case to a third (or even a second) driving under the influence case. Although still serious, a misdemeanor DUI is seldom as serious as a felony DUI conviction. However, as a practical matter, California prosecutors will almost always charge the more serious felony DUI, leaving the possibility of a misdemeanor DUI resolution as a bargaining chip for subsequent plea negotiations with the attorney who represents the driver.

Regardless of whether the DUI is ultimately resolved as a misdemeanor or a felony, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend or revoke the driver license of the person convicted of a second, third or fourth DUI. The length of the driver license suspension imposed by DMV is dependent upon many factors, to include whether the person convicted of driving under the influence has any prior felony DUI convictions. California Vehicle Code section 13352, subdivision (a)(7) requires a four year driver license revocation for a person convicted of a fourth offense DUI.

Because a fourth offense drunk driving conviction carries such serious penalties, it’s critical to have a highly skilled California DUI lawyer who specializes in driving under the influence defense. At the Law Office of Robert Tayac, you are not hiring one lawyer, you are hiring a defense team comprised of DUI lawyers and investigators who handle only California driving under the influence criminal cases and DUI Department of Motor Vehicles cases. That's only one of the reasons why it makes sense to hire this office to represent you.

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