DUI charges and their potential consequences can be tricky and quite confusing to understand. The severity of the penalties for a DUI conviction largely depends on the incidents and circumstances that surround it.
A number of factors can turn a DUI arrest into aggravated DUI. This is serious because a single aggravated DUI charge can easily lead to higher fines, longer jail time, and a permanent criminal record.
During the hearing for a DUI arrest, the prosecution may cite the following factors to aggravate a DUI charge:
Proof of reckless driving can enhance the punishment of a DUI charge. If the driver was operating the vehicle with willful disregard to the safety of people or property, he or she may be required to pay additional fines or complete DUI school on top of other penalties.
Furthermore, a defendant who is found driving over the speed limit may also receive excessive speed charges in addition to a DUI. In some states, the sentence could vary depending on fast or over the speed limit you were driving.
Driving with a suspended or revoked license
Nobody should sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without a valid driver’s license. If you are not yet of legal driving age or if you had your driving privileges suspended/revoked for some reason, then you have no business operating a vehicle.
Driving under the influence already shows blatant disregard for traffic laws, and comes with severe penalties. For a DUI defendant caught driving on a suspended or revoked license, the consequences could be more dire.
Previous or multiple DUI convictions
If you have been convicted for DUI in the past, you may face enhanced sentences for your subsequent DUI convictions. For example, if the minimum jail time for a first-time DUI offense is 24 hours, it could increase to 10 days on your second offense and even longer on the third conviction.
States impose harsher punishments to repeat DUI offenders to deter them from driving under the influence again. The courts may also hand down elevated sentences even if the previous convictions occurred in other states.
High blood alcohol concentration
There is a set legal limit for the allowed blood alcohol concentration while driving in the United States. In most states, the limit is at 0.08%, which means that if you are caught driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you have committed a DUI offense.
If your BAC is 0.10% or higher, you may be charged with a high BAC DUI offense. A BAC of more than 0.159% qualifies as the highest BAC DUI offense. These higher-level offenses carry with them more severe penalties such as higher fines and longer jail time, among others.
Another factor that can aggravate a DUI offense is the presence of minors in the vehicle at the time of the arrest. However, the minor has to be under a specific age range to trigger enhanced penalties for a DUI. In some states, the minor has to be 12 years old or younger, while other states have set the maximum age at 16.
The punishment for a DUI conviction may also increase if the offense takes place within a school zone, regardless of whether there are children on board the vehicle or not.
Causing an injury
If a DUI offender ends up seriously injuring someone, he or she is likely to face enhanced DUI penalties and may be charged with aggravated assault while driving under the influence. The latter is classified as a second-degree felony and carries with it plenty of serious consequences, among them is a maximum prison time of up to ten years.
Should you find yourself facing an aggravated DUI charge, the first and most important step is to consult and hire an experienced DUI attorney. Working with someone who is familiar with the ins and outs of DUI offenses can better navigate the intricacies of the case and help you avoid a slew of consequences.