Many people in Southern California may not realize that a DUI is a crime, rather just an administrative matter for the DMV. It is important to immediately retain an experienced DUI defense attorney if you have been arrested or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, rather than assuming that you can represent yourself in a life-changing situation. William Weinberg is an Orange County attorney who has defended many different cases and charges, such as repeat DUIs, manslaughter arising out of DUI, murder related to DUI, drug DUIs, and reckless driving charges. Mr. Weinberg works directly with each client and encourages them to call him on his cell phone when they need. He takes the time to investigate the particular facts and circumstances of a driver’s situation so that he can understand how to craft a defense strategy for them. His staff is sympathetic to the anxieties burdening a client. We provide compassionate support that is tailored to your circumstances.
A first DUI is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, the consequences of DUI convictions grow increasingly serious with each repeat DUI conviction during what is known as the “lookback” period, which is 10 years. While a first offense is a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in jail, a second misdemeanor can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail. For a third misdemeanor DUI, you also face the possibility of up to one year in county jail. You can receive an enhanced penalty for any of these offenses if the circumstances involve an aggravating factor. Aggravating factors include a refusal to submit to a chemical test, having a BAC of .15% or higher, speeding while drunk, or having a DUI with a child who is 14 or under at the time. While most drunk driving charges are prosecuted as misdemeanors, an ordinary DUI can be charged as a felony if you have four or more prior DUIs and if injuries resulted. You should consult a knowledgeable DUI lawyer in Orange County to help you try to avoid or minimize these serious consequences.
Whether DUI manslaughter is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the specific facts. DUI manslaughter with ordinary negligence is charged under Penal Code section 191.5(b), and it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony at the prosecutor's discretion. For example, if you had a couple of beers and weaved into a bike lane, where a pedestrian was walking, this could be ordinary negligence. However, DUI manslaughter committed with gross negligence under Penal Code section 191.5(a) is pursued as a felony. For example, if you were driving at 100 mph down a residential road while drunk, this is likely to be viewed as gross negligence and charged as a felony. Gross vehicular manslaughter can be punished by imprisonment in state prison for four, six, or ten years. If you have certain prior convictions, you face potential incarceration for a term of fifteen years to life.Watson Murder Cases
In California, when a defendant pleads guilty to a DUI, they must usually sign a form that states that they understand that driving while drunk is inherently dangerous to human life. Should a defendant commit a later DUI that kills someone, it is considered a "Watson murder." The prosecutor can bring a second-degree murder charge under Penal Code section 187. It is imperative to consult an Orange County DUI lawyer as soon as possible if you are facing this serious situation.
The prosecutor uses the signed form or "Watson admonition" from the prior DUI to establish that the defendant knew that a consequence of drunk driving could be the death of another person. However, when an admonition has not been given, or the death arose, not from a repeat DUI but from a first offense that resulted in death, the prosecutor can charge DUI manslaughter under section 191.5(a) or (b). There have been some prosecutions for murder, though, on a first offense DUI, so having no prior convictions isn’t an absolute guarantee.DUI Court
In Orange County, people who have been charged with second or third DUIs may be able to go to DUI Court. DUI Court is a voluntary, comprehensive, and court-supervised alcohol or drug rehabilitation program for people with repeat DUIs but no violence, drug sales convictions, or gang activity in their personal histories. It has a minimum one-year term, and it can reduce or eliminate incarceration requirements.Drug DUI
In California, a drug DUI charged under Vehicle Code section 23152(e) carries the same penalties that apply to alcohol-related DUI cases. It is usually charged as a misdemeanor in California. Drugs include any legal or illegal substances besides alcohol that affect a driver's nervous system, brain, or muscles. A DUI attorney can explain to Orange County residents which substances are typically covered. The vast majority include commonly-prescribed drugs like Vicodin or Percocet as well as street drugs like PCP or heroin.Marijuana DUI
Although marijuana for medical and recreational purposes is legal in California, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana under Vehicle Code section 23152(e). The prosecutor will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove your car while impaired by marijuana, such that you could not use the ordinary care of a sober driver. Since neither technology nor a common standard have evolved, especially as compared to testing for alcohol, there are often many ways for an attorney to challenge a police officer’s conclusion that a driver was under the influence of drugs. Understand that the officer’s subjective opinion of intoxication and the amount of active THC are the main issues for prosecutors to determine whether to prosecute a driver.Reckless Driving
Prosecutors may be willing to agree to "wet reckless" charges as a plea bargain in some DUI cases where there are problems of proof. Wet reckless charges are brought under Vehicle Code sections 23103 and 23103.5. A driver would be convicted of reckless driving rather than a DUI, but the conviction record would note that alcohol or drugs were involved in your arrest. The advantage of taking this plea bargain is that there is a shorter period of incarceration and lower fines, and you may not have your license suspended. However, a wet reckless is often treated as a DUI by insurers, so your premiums may go up. Additionally, if you are arrested for a DUI during the lookback period after a wet reckless conviction, your next DUI will be treated as a repeat DUI.Consult an Experienced DUI Attorney in Orange County
Never let yourself feel hopeless if you are charged with a repeat DUI, a drug DUI, a felony DUI, or a DUI involving injury or manslaughter, there are strong defenses available. You should NOT assume that you will be convicted. All DUI charges need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and in many cases, it is possible to obtain a dismissal, plea bargain, or acquittal. There may have been violations of your constitutional or procedural rights, such that certain key evidence should be suppressed. For example, if you were subject to an illegal stop, it may be possible to suppress evidence from the stop that suggests that you were under the influence. Orange County DUI attorney William Weinberg represents people who are accused of DUIs in Anaheim, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Diego, Carlsbad, Escondido, and other cities in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. Call us at (949) 474-8008 or complete our online form to set up an appointment.