If you have been recently charged with a misdemeanor or felony level driving crime in California, the potential consequences of a conviction could be very severe, depending on the nature of the allegations you are facing. Not only could your license be in danger, but in some cases, you could face heavy fines, long jail terms, probation, mandatory classes, and the creation of a permanent criminal record that can negatively affect your ability to find gainful employment.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have deep experience across a wide range of California driving crimes and are fully familiar with the inner workings of local Pasadena and L.A. Area courts. We have helped many other defendants in situations just like yours to win the best possible outcome to their cases, and we stand ready to assist you as well.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact us anytime 24/7 at 626-689-2277.
California Driving Crimes
A "driving crime" in California can range from minor traffic violations that are mere infractions and do little more than increase your car insurance rates and lead to a ticket, to DUIs and various misdemeanor offenses that are punishable by fines, jail time, and the creation of a criminal record, to felonies that can lead to spending time in state prison. Many driving crimes will lead to a license suspension, and all of them will adversely affect your official driving record.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we can assist with all manner of driving crime charges you may be facing, but here is an overview of some of the most common kinds of driving crimes cases we handle:
Driving under the influence of alcohol is criminalized in California Vehicle Code Section 23152. DUI in California is defined as operating a motor vehicle while having sufficient alcohol in your system so that your driving ability is impaired as compared with a sober driver. However, anyone driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher is automatically consider legally "under the influence" — this is called a per se DUI violation.
Additionally, the limit is .04% for drivers of commercial vehicles, .01% for drivers below the legal drinking age of 21 and for repeat DUI offenders, and any detectable amount (the "no tolerance" rule), for drivers below the age of 18.
The sentence for a DUI conviction will vary based on a number of factors, including: how many previous DUIs (if any) you have had in the last 10 years, whether or not you submitted to the chemical (BAC) test, and whether or not any injuries or deaths were caused by your DUI.
A first-time DUI is punishable by:
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- A maximum fine of $1,000
- A license suspension of up to 10 months
A second DUI is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,800
- A license suspension of up to 2 years
A third DUI is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,800
- A license suspension of 3 years
Additionally, repeat offenses require installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, and DUIs generally require completion of a state-approved DUI School that will last months or even years.
There are many possible defense strategies against a DUI charge, and fighting a DUI is not, as many assume, "impossible." For example, we often get DUI charges defeated or dismissed based on such defenses as:
- Illegal stop, search, or arrest.
- Failure of police to follow Title 17.
- Arrested without being read your Miranda Rights.
- You had a still-rising BAC.
- Mouth alcohol threw off the breath test.
- A medical condition caused a falsely high BAC reading.
- FSTs were failed for other reasons than intoxication.
And where a dismissal/acquittal is not possible, we are often able to get DUI charges reduced to "wet reckless," secure eligibility for a restricted license, get jail time exchanged for community service, and otherwise mitigate the resultant sentence.
Driving under the influence of an intoxicating drug is also prohibited under VC 23152 and is punished much the same way as DUI alcohol. DUI drugs need not involve use of an illegal narcotic, but even if it is a drug for which you have a valid prescription or an over the counter drug, it counts as a DUI so long as the drug impaired your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
However, unlike with DUI alcohol, there is no specific BAC level established for DUI drugs under California law. Instead, any amount of an intoxicating drug found in your system can expose you to a DUI charge, though in practical terms, a conviction will also depend on evidence that you behaved in a manner that demonstrated a diminished ability to safely operate a vehicle.
If you pass the breathalyzer test, which tests only for alcohol, but the officer still suspects you of driving while intoxicated, then a blood test will be administered to test for the presence of drugs in your system. And the California "implied consent" law applies to drug testing as much as to alcohol testing, so that you cannot refuse the blood test without risking enhanced penalties.
The penalties for a DUID conviction are generally the same as for an "ordinary" DUI, and many of the same defenses can be used as well; however, lack of sufficient quantities of a drug to cause intoxication and innocent symptoms "mimicking" the effects of drugs are additional possible defenses.
When negligent driving causes the accidental death of another person, whether or not that negligent act was itself illegal, the at-fault driver can be charged with "vehicular manslaughter."
If, however, you cause the death of another person while in the process of committing a felony, even though the death was accidental, you can still be charged with PC 187 second-degree murder. If the act of negligence went amounted to reckless indifference for the safety of others, the charge can be raised from vehicular manslaughter to gross vehicular manslaughter; and if alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
PC 192c (vehicular manslaughter) can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If a misdemeanor, it can be punished by up to 12 months in jail; if a felony, it can result in 2 to 6 years in prison.
If the accident is found to have been orchestrated on purpose for the sake of financial gain, you can get 4 to 10 years in state prison. And if you committed both vehicular manslaughter and hit and run in the same incident, your prison term can be increased by 5 years.
Finally, note that VC 13361c allows for your license to be suspended, usually for 12 months (but the duration will vary based on the facts of the case), upon conviction for vehicular manslaughter.
Defenses we use against the charge of vehicular manslaughter include: the defendant's actions did not amount to negligence or gross negligence, though negligent, the defendant's actions did not cause the accident, and the defendant was in the midst of an emergency situation which justified his/her actions.
Driving with a Suspended License
VC 14601 prohibits driving after your California license has been suspended/revoked. The penalties assigned to a violation depend on why the license was suspended to begin with, but they often include fines, additional suspension time, and jail terms.
Causes of license suspension include: DUI, refusal of a chemical test, reckless driving, being a "habitual traffic offender," and having a physical or mental disability that makes it unsafe for you to drive. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we understand each of the possible underlying causes of suspension as well as the law on suspensions in general, and this gives us the advantage when fighting a driving on a suspended license charge in the courtroom.
Note that it is required that you had knowledge of the fact your license was suspended in order to be guilty of this crime, and lack of such knowledge is a common defense. Other defenses include: that the suspension itself was a mistake or otherwise invalid and that you possessed a restricted license and were using it appropriately.
Driving Without a Valid License
VC 12500 addresses driving in California while not holding a valid California driver's license. This crime does not apply, of course, to those who are exempt from the requirement of holding a California license (as residents of other states who are driving in California).
Driving without a valid license differs from driving with a suspended license and from driving without a license in your immediate possession. The latter is known as "failing to present a driver's license" and is addressed under VC 12951.
Driving without a valid license can be either a misdemeanor or a mere infraction. If the former, it is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000; if the latter, it is punishable by a maximum fine of $250.
If you did not drive on a public highway, moved to California within the last 20 days, or have your primary residence outside the state you can get these charges dismissed.
If you lacked a valid license but obtain one quickly and before your court hearing, a good lawyer may be able to gain you leniency or even get the charge reduced to failure to present a valid license.
Hit and Run
VC 20002 and VC 20003 address hit and run accidents, the former dealing with property damage only cases, which are misdemeanors; and the latter dealing with injury cases, which are felonies.
Whenever you are involved in an accident in California, you are required to stop and assist anyone at the scene in need of medical attention and to give the other driver your contact information. Failure to do so constitutes the accident a hit and run incident.
Misdemeanor hit and run (VC 20002) is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony-level hit and run (VC 20003) is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of from $1,000 to $10,000.
Common defense strategies include:
- Property damage or injury was limited to the defendant him or her self.
- A good faith effort was made to leave contact information when the owner of the damaged property was not present at the time of the accident.
- It was unsafe to stop at the scene of the accident or the defendant was in an emergency situation which forbade him/her to stop at that time.
Evading an Officer
Under PC 2800.1, it is a crime to willfully attempt to evade a pursuing police office, provided the police vehicle's sirens and lights are on and the officer is wearing a "distinctive uniform" that identifies him/her as a police officer.
Evading an officer is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Up to a year in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Impoundment of your vehicle for up to 30 days
However, there are punishment enhancements under VC 2800.2 and VC 2800.3. The former is the crime of reckless evasion of an officer and applies when you drive with reckless disregard for the safety of others while fleeing the police. The latter is evading a police officer causing injury or death.
In defending against the charge of evading a police officer, we will first make sure that the officer had at least one red light flashing, which you did or should have seen; that the siren was sounded; and that he/she wore an official police uniform. If the pursuing officer did not meet these criteria, your case will be dismissed.
The other major type of defense involves the lack of intent on your part to evade the officer. It may be that you did not see or hear him, that you were unable to safely pull over due to traffic, or that you were rushing to the hospital or in the midst of some other emergency.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have the skills necessary to build you a solid defense and maximize your chances of a favorable outcome for a wide variety of California driving crimes. We are here to help you in your hour of need by providing the top-tier legal advice and representation that will make the difference in your case.
For a free consultation with an attorney expert in California driving crimes, contact us 24/7/365 by calling 626-689-2277.