When you are convicted of driving crimes in California, the possible penalties of the charges can be extremely severe. Our lawyers at San Diego Criminal Attorney have extensive experience in handling a broad array of driving offenses. We’ve assisted many clients who have been in a situation like yours and battled many types of driving crimes in court. So, we are ready to help you if you have been charged. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about driving crimes and how you can reach us for legal consultation and representation.

Common Driving Crimes in California

Driving violations like speeding and rolling through a stop sign can be frustrating. They will trigger a possible insurance increase and take time for you to handle all the necessary consequences. Nevertheless, other driving offenses are more severe and will not only result in fees and fines but can lead to serious jail/prison time and the formation of a criminal record. Particularly in California, where motorists spend much time on the roads, a slight mistake or delay in judgment can result in an accident, DUI, or other driving offenses that will have a long-lasting impact.

Here are the most common offenses related to driving in California:

  • DUI
  • Vehicle manslaughter
  • DUI on Drugs
  • Hit and run
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Evading a police officer
  • Driving without a license

The consequences of a conviction will always depend on various factors, such as whether a person was injured or killed, or if the defendant has a previous criminal record. The most common penalty for this offense is a temporary driving license suspension. For the majority of people, if they are denied the privilege of driving, they might lose their job, and this can affect their family life and financial resources. If you are arrested for a driving offense, make sure you talk to a San Diego Criminal Attorney. Never plead guilty just because you have been arrested.

In California, a driving offense can range from small traffic offenses that are meager infractions that can only increase your vehicle insurance rates. However, some serious driving crimes like DUI and other misdemeanor offenses are punishable by fees and fines, prison term and leading to a criminal record.

Alcohol-related DUI

Driving under the influence of Alcohol is outlawed under the California Vehicle Code (CVC) 23152. In California, driving under the influence is described as driving a car while having high alcohol content in your body such that your ability to drive is impaired. Nevertheless, any person driving with a 0.08% BAC (blood-alcohol content) or higher is considered legally as driving under the influence. On top of that, the limit for commercial truck drivers is 0.04%, 0.01% for repeat offenders and people below 21 years, which is the legal drinking age.

The consequences for this offense will vary depending on various factors such as how many prior DUIs you have committed in the past ten years. The sentence for this type of crime will also vary depending on whether you agreed to take a substance BAC test and whether there were any deaths or injuries due to your DUI.

The penalties for a first time driving under the influence offense include:

  • A county jail time of a maximum of 6 months
  • A maximum fine of $1000
  • 10-months license suspension

The penalties for a subsequent DUI crime include:

  • Jail time of up to one year
  • A maximum fee/fine of $1800
  • Two years license suspension

Penalties for a third offense include:

  • A maximum jail term of 12 months
  • A maximum fine of $1800
  • Three years license suspension

On top of that, recurring driving crimes require setting up an ignition interlock device on your car and completion of a DUI program from a school approved by the state.

There are several defense strategies against this crime, and battling a DUI crime is not impossible as most people think. For instance, a DUI charge can be dismissed or defeated based on various defenses such as:

  • Police conducting an unlawful stop, search and arrest
  • Police failing to adhere to title 17
  • Being detained without being told their Miranda rights
  • Inaccurate results from the Breathalyzer
  • A health condition that triggers a misleading higher BAC record
  • FSTs were futile for various reasons apart from intoxication
  • You had a rising BAC

In case an acquittal or a dismissal is unsuccessful, we will strive to get the charges reduced and be eligible to get a restricted driving permit, get a prison term swapped for community service or alleviate the subsequent judgment.

DUI Drugs and Other Illegal Substances

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a hallucinogenic substance is also criminalized under VC 23152 and carries the same consequences as a DUI with alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs does not only involve the use of prohibited narcotics but even prescription medication or retail drug. All these are considered as DUI provided the drugs impaired your capability to drive the car safely.

Nevertheless, DUI drugs do not have a specified BAC level like DUI alcohol under California criminal laws. Instead, any quantity of an illegal substance found in the blood system will have you convicted of a DUI crime. However, this charge will also vary based on proof that you acted in a way that validated a weakened capability to drive the car.

When you pass the Breath test that tests alcohol content only, but the police still suspect that you are driving under the influence, the blood test will be done to determine the existence of illegal substances in your body. Note that the California regulation applies to both alcohol and drug testing the same way, so this means you can’t decline to take the blood test without risking heightened consequences.

The consequences for the DUID charge are typically similar to those of a normal DUI, and most of the similar defense strategy can be employed. Nevertheless, the lack of drugs in your system to cause intoxication impacting the effectiveness of the drugs is another potential defense strategy.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Whenever neglectful driving leads to the unintended demise of another individual, the offense is considered illegal. In this case, the driver at fault will be convicted with vehicular manslaughter. However, if your negligence led to the demise of another individual while committing a felony, you might be convicted with manslaughter PC 187, even if it was accidental. If the deed of carelessness leads to careless insignificance, for the well-being of other people, the offense might be elevated from vehicular manslaughter to unrefined vehicular manslaughter. If drugs or alcohol were tangled in the event, you would be convicted with vehicular manslaughter under the influence.

PC 192c can be convicted as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, it attracts a maximum jail term of 12 months, and if charged as a felony, it will attract a prison term of 2 to 6 years. Bear in mind that under VC 13361c, your license will be suspended once convicted for vehicular manslaughter.

The defense that can be used against the crime of vehicular manslaughter comprises, the respondent’s actions didn’t amount to carelessness or gross slackness, although neglectful, the suspect’s actions didn’t lead to an accident, the suspect was in an emergency condition that justified his or her acts.

Driving with a Suspended License

VC 14601 criminalizes driving when your permit has been revoked or suspended. The consequences allocated to a crime will depend on the reasons that lead to license suspension. They include fees, prison time, and added suspension time.

Your license might be revoked due to various reasons. They include DUI, careless driving, refusing to take a substance test, being a usual traffic lawbreaker, and suffering from a mental or physical incapacity that will make it risky to operate a car. At San Diego criminal attorney, our lawyers are familiar with all the underlying causes of revocation and also the laws regarding the suspension. This becomes helpful to us when battling different cases like driving on a revoked or suspended license crime in a court of law.

Bear in mind that you must have the knowledge that the license was revoked or suspended for you be liable of this charge, and the absence of such acquaintance is a usual defense. Other effective defense strategies include: a  revocation was a blunder or otherwise illegal and that you obtained a restricted permit that you were using as required during the time of the arrest.

Driving with an Invalid License

Under VC 12500, it is an offense to drive with an invalid driving license. This offense doesn’t apply to those motorists who are excused from the requirements of having a driving license like residents from other regions driving in any part of California.

Driving with an invalid license is different from having a suspended permit and from operating a car with no permit in your instantaneous possession. Driving with an invalid license might be a minor infraction or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor can be punishable by a fee of up to $1000 and a maximum jail time of 6 months while a small violation can be punishable with a fine of up to $250.

Provided you were not driving on a highway, relocated to California in the past 20 days, or maybe you are not a permanent resident in California, all the charges might be dropped.

If you didn’t have a valid permit but acquired immediately before your hearing, an experienced attorney will obtain leniency or even make the charges reduced for failure to have a functional permit. 

What the prosecution department should prove for driving with an invalid license conviction

For the accused to be charged with driving with an invalid license, the prosecutor must prove the following facts of the offense. They include: the accused was driving on the highway or street while they didn’t have a valid license. 

Under the California vehicle laws, a driving permit doesn’t necessarily have to be issued by the DMV to be termed as valid. A valid license should be:

  • Validly and currently given out by another state or country
  • Should match the model of vehicle
  • Doesn’t constrain the drive to obtain a license in California

In driving with an invalid license offense, the tactic to the burden to provide evidence is rare. For any person convicted with VC 12500, a prosecuting attorney doesn’t have to prove that the defendant was driving with an invalid license, all they have to do is charge the same. However, the accused will be required to prove he or she was authentically licensed. The concept behind this strategy is that it’s easy for the accused to prove the existence of a license than for a prosecuting lawyer to prove the absence of the license.

Hit and Run Crime

VC 20003 and VC 20002 deals with hit and run crimes, whereby VC 20002 addresses property damage cases, which are misdemeanors while VC 20003 deals with injury incidents that are a felony. Note that violation of hit and run charges are punishable by a maximum of half a year in prison and a maximum fine of $1000. A felony hit and run offense is punishable by a maximum jail term of 12 months and a fee ranging from $1000 to$10000.

Some of the viable defense strategies comprise:

  • Injury or property damage was restricted to the offender
  • The defendant made an effort to give contact details when the holder of the smashed asset was not available at the event of an incident.
  • It was not safe to stop the car at the place of the incident, or the offender was in a disastrous condition that prevented him or her to pull over

Evading a Police Officer

PC 2800.1, evading a pursuing police officer is considered an offense. Provided the police van’s lights and sirens are on, and a police officer is on a distinguishing police attire that recognizes him or her as an officer.

Escaping a law enforcer is a criminal crime that has various penalties like:

  • A maximum of one-year county jail term
  • A maximum fine of $1000
  • Your can will be impounded for a maximum of 30 days

Nevertheless, there is also a punishment enhancement in VC 2800.3 and VC 2800.2. VC 2800.3 is an offense of careless evasion of traffic police and will apply when driving with careless contempt for the well-being of other road users while trying to evade the police. VC 2800.2 is fleeing the officer, causing death or injury.

When defending against a crime of evading an officer, the lawyer will ensure that the law enforcers had even a single red light flash that you must have seen, that the distress signal was sounded, and the police were in attire. If the pursuing police didn’t meet all these standards, your charges would be dropped.

The other common form of defense strategy comprises the absence of intention to avoid the police officer. Maybe you didn’t hear or see him, and you couldn't stop because of traffic flow, or maybe you were in the middle of an emergency

Reckless Driving Crime

As per VC 23103, it is illegal to drive with malicious disregard for the safety of the property of other people. Consequences for reckless driving tend to vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime. VC 23103 would be treated as a California misdemeanor if no person was injured. Its penalties include jail time of up to 90 days and a fee ranging from $145 to $1000.  However, jail time and fines will increase if the driver injured someone.

If reckless driving crime leads to minor injuries to another person, the consequences under Vehicle Code 23013 will increase to a jail term of 30 days to 12 months or a fine amounting to $220-$1000. Bear in mind that this crime can be charged as a felony. For instance, when an individual apart from the driver is severely injured, reckless driving turns into a California wobbler crime that can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

If convicted as felonies, the crime attracts possible consequences of a maximum fine of $10000 or a maximum jail term of 3 years. When another person is killed due to reckless driving, the prosecution might opt to charge a VC 23104(b) or VC 23105.

The legal defense strategy for reckless driving is many. For instance, the San Diego criminal attorney will have to prove that the accused didn’t drive carelessly. Careless driving requires more than just irresponsible driving or negligence. To be guilty of reckless driving, the accused must have deliberately committed something. This could be a deliberate lack of regard concerning the safety of other people or with the knowledge that severe injuries will be the probable outcome. Note that even gross negligence is insufficient to support the crime of careless driving. The prosecution department has the burden of substantiating that the accused was more than purely neglectful.

Defense Strategies for Driving Charges in California

Defense lawyers use different defense approach for a specific crime. However, the common strategy is usually to thwart the prosecutor’s evidence and instill doubt to the judge that the offense is not a driving violation. Eventually, defending the crimes will entail, proving that the components of crime were not substantiated to satisfaction.

One fundamental approach that cuts across all driving crimes is that the perpetrator was not driving during the time of the arrest. It only makes sense that an individual commits driving crimes if they were driving. A usual implication of this charge is that the defendant was mistakenly identified or accused wrongly. With is the approach, and if the judge is satisfied, the accused will not have a valid driving crime to answer.

The most consequential approach used in violations involving driving license is showing the defendant was exempt from carrying the license. For example, the law doesn’t require a resident of a different country, territory, or state have a California’s driving license. Additionally, the lawyer can prove that the accused has a valid driving license, but they did not have it when asked to produce it. Even though the last argument might raise queries as to why the accused didn’t give out the license at the time of arrest, it would still be beneficial to the accused. For example, the accused can claim that the police officer used excessive force, or used illegal methods to request for the document.

If convicted with a DUI offense or any other related crime, a defense lawyer can employ multiple defense approaches. A viable claim will be that the accused was not driving under the influence. Another argument that could accompany this claim is that the chemical test conducted was not an accurate means of determining if an individual is drunk. For example, symptoms that DUI officers use to proclaim that a driver is drunk are just impressions and not accurate results of the intoxication. Note that symptoms such as eye redness could indicate that an individual has eye allergies and not intoxicated.

Violating traffic laws and careless driving are offenses whose defense is based on the situation surrounding the crime. Perhaps, it is illegal to drive exceeding a speed limit of 25 mph in various surroundings such as schools. However, the driver can exceed the limit on the basis that there was no risk. Additionally, it should be noted that an emergency condition like being followed by robbers can lead to panic resulting in over speeding, careless driving, or violating any driving law. Therefore, the lawyer can prove that the driver reluctantly broke traffic rules, and the circumstances forced him to violate the regulations. These are ideal defense approaches for any driving crime.

Find a Driving Crimes Lawyer Near Me

Note that driving crimes are incredibly diverse. Therefore, a conviction of any of these crimes is the last thing you want since it will affect you and your family’s life. Getting the best legal representation and advice is the only hope of battling these charges. The San Diego Criminal Attorney provides professional legal assistance in San Diego, CA and its surroundings. Contact us today at 619-880-5474!