Prior DUI Convictions

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A Sacramento DUI Attorney Explains Prior DUI Convictions

As painful as is it can be to be prosecuted and convicted of DUI even once, some people will have it happen multiple times in their life.  Each time you are convicted of a DUI, that offense becomes a potential prior DUI to aggravate the sentencing should you be convicted for anther DUI later.  As a Sacramento DUI attorney, I am frequently asked how long it takes before a DUI conviction is so old that it does not count as a “prior” DUI for the purposes of DUI sentencing.  

California Vehicle Code Section 23540 Reads in part: 
” If a person is convicted of a violation of Section 23152 and the offense occurred within 10 years of a separate violation of Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, 23152, or 23153, that resulted in a conviction, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail….”

This code section goes on to list the various combinations of sentences that might follow a subsequent conviction.  However the two most important words in the code section above are that an “offense” must have occurred within 10 years.  This means the time starts ticking on the day you are arrested for a DUI, not the day you are convicted. 

“Prior” DUI Does Not Have to Occur Before Another DUI to Be a “Prior”

For example, I just had a client who was arrested for a DUI in August 2004.  He was not convicted until November 2004.  However, in September 2014 this client was arrested for a DUI again.  So the question became, is this 2014 DUI a “second DUI” for purposes of sentencing, or is it a “first DUI” meaning was it more than 10 years old?   The answer to this question is that the date of the actual offense, NOT the date of the conviction is what counts.  Therefore his 2014 DUI will be treated like a “first DUI” by the district attorney and the court. 

The other key word in California vehicle code section 23540 is the word “separate”.  This is important in that it implies that a DUI offense need not precede another offense in order to be considered a prior.  For example, suppose hypothetical defendant John is arrested for a DUI in Sacramento California in January 2014, but the court is slow to prosecute him. Further suppose that John is arrested for a DUI in West Sacramento ( this is Yolo county, not Sacramento county)  in February 2014.  If the court in Yolo County prosecutes John faster than the court in Sacramento then it is possible for John’s February DUI to be a “prior DUI” for purposes of his sentencing on his DUI in Sacramento, even though the Sacramento DUI happened first.

Of course, with help of an experienced Sacramento DUI Attorney, it is possible John can avoid conviction all together.

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