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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Are the Penalties for Enhanced DUIs Legal?

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Jun 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

Most states, including California, have enhanced drunk driving penalties for higher blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. For most drivers, a BAC of 0.08% is a per se DUI violation. In California, a BAC of 0.15% or higher can lead to increased penalties. However, a court in Wyoming has voided a local municipal ordinance that required jail time for higher BAC levels.

Under California Vehicle Code 23578, “the court shall consider a concentration of alcohol in the person's blood of 0.15 percent or more, by weight, or the refusal of the person to take a chemical test, as a special factor that may justify enhancing the penalties in sentencing, in determining whether to grant probation, and, if probation is granted, in determining additional or enhanced
terms and conditions of probation.”

With enhanced penalties, a judge may determine that a driver is limited where and when they can drive, under what conditions they can get their license, how long they have to have an ignition interlock device, and if they will be required to submit to chemical tests. The judge may base the terms and conditions of probation on the driver's criminal history, the circumstances of the DUI arrest, and if the driver's BAC was 0.15% or higher.

In Wyoming, the state's Supreme Court voided a Laramie municipal ordinance which required jail time for aggravated DUI offenses, which includes BAC levels of 0.15% or greater. A first offense resulted in a minimum of 7 days in jail. A second offense carried a 30-day minimum jail sentence. Under the court's ruling, the local ordinance conflicts with the state law that is intended to be applied consistently and uniformly throughout Wyoming.

The Laramie City Attorney said the impact would only affect the two petitioners who took their case to the Wyoming Supreme Court. They will be resentenced with non-mandatory jail time. However, the judge still has discretion to sentence the two to jail time, which provides for a sentencing range of zero days up to 6 months.

Many people think that a blood alcohol content of 0.15% is extremely high, given the per se limit is almost half of that. However, people are arrested on a regular basis with BAC levels that are double or triple the per se limit. Just this week, a driver in Petaluma crashed his SUV into a house in the middle of the afternoon. Police arrived to find Mitchell Butler, of Sonoma, still sitting in the driver's seat. Initial tests showed his alcohol level to be 0.397%, almost 5 times the legal limit.

At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing drunk driving charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a DUI conviction can affect your future, threaten your job, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a DUI charge, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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