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Understanding DUI Enhancements in California

By San Diego Attorney on October 1, 2020

The state of California has complex laws regarding DUIs that most defendants are not aware of how serious their charges can be. Even for first-time offenders, prosecutors in San Diego County can level significant charges if they have evidence of additional crimes or you meet certain criteria. These are often referred to as “enhancements” and can take a single misdemeanor charge and turn it into a felony.

What Is an Enhancement?

Driving under the influence is a single criminal act on its own that can result in a misdemeanor DUI charge. However, while the police may arrest some suspects before an accident occurs or a driver commits another violation, there are several enhancements that can lengthen a driver’s sentence.

For a first-time offender with no enhancements, a defendant can face:

  • A minimum of two days in jail to a maximum of six months
  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • A six-month license suspension or longer based on BAC
  • Vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days
  • Community service

It is important to remember that this is the baseline for a DUI charge, meaning an enhancement can add several more penalties on top of it.

The most common enhancement is having a prior conviction. If you have been charged with a DUI in the past 10 years, then you may face an enhancement as a repeat offender. Having multiple DUI convictions in San Diego can result in up to one year in jail, a minimum of $3,000 in fines, a minimum license suspension of two years, ignition interlock device installation, and alcohol treatment programs, all depending on your BAC levels and how many prior convictions you have. Obviously, the more DUI convictions you have, the harsher your sentence.

However, there are also other enhancements that can come into play even if you are a first-time offender. For example, if you are a member of the military or serve at Camp Pendleton, then you could be charged with a military DUI. The military judges drug and alcohol offenses significantly more harshly than civilian courts, meaning in addition to standard DUI penalties, you can also face administrative and punitive actions from the military, which can include a court martial.

Another major DUI enhancement is a DUI with an injury. This charge is often leveled against defendants who were involved in DUI auto accidents that led to the injury of another person. If this is a first-time offense, then the charge is still a misdemeanor but can include one year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. But it can quickly become a felony if you have prior convictions, which means you could be placed in a state prison and lose several rights.

Other common types of enhancements in San Diego County include:

  • Child endangerment, if a child was in the car or if you were driving in a school zone
  • Speeding or reckless driving
  • Refusing to take a chemical test
  • High BAC
  • Drinking alcohol while under 21-years-old
  • Driving while operating a commercial vehicle

Fighting DUI Charges in San Diego and North County

If you are facing a DUI conviction, then you need the best defense case possible. DUI enhancements in California can lead to significant penalties that follow a defendant for years to come. But an enhancement is not guaranteed, and, with the right attorney, you may be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.

That is why you should contact jD LAW. Our founding attorney is one of the very best San Diego DUI defense attorneys, having over 30 years of experience defending clients in criminal cases and prior experience as an LAPD investigator. There is no one better at handling a DUI case in San Diego and North County. To get started building your case, contact our offices at (760) 630-2000.

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If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.


James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.

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