Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a priorable violation, meaning the prosecutor can bring up a prior DUI conviction to impose harsher punishments on repeat offenders. If you are taken into custody for a third DUI crime, you could receive more severe punishments than for the first two. To counter these accusations, you'll need an experienced defense team. Get in touch with us at the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Long Beach for criminal defense if you are facing 3rd offense DUI or related charges.

Overview of Third DUI Offense

A third DUI crime is defined as the third DUI offense committed within 10 years of the first conviction. If a defendant has two wet reckless convictions on his or her record, the third DUI crime still applies to their case.

The first step in determining if you're guilty of a DUI crime is a traffic stop. This is initiated if the law enforcement official detects indicators of impairment, including running a red light, speeding, or erratic lane changes. The police will commence the DUI investigations once they notice any other signs of impairment. Driving while impaired by either alcohol or drugs is illegal under California law if your BAC level is 0.08% or above.

The police officer will have you do a series of field sobriety tests and ask you to submit to a chemical breath test. If you don't pass the tests, the law enforcement officer will take you into custody and inform you of your Miranda rights. After that, you'll be transported to the nearest law enforcement facility for processing and booking.

The consequences of a DUI charge begin right away once you're arrested. The California Department of Motor Vehicles grants you only 10 days following the arrest to submit a request for a DMV hearing to prevent the suspension of your driver's license. In the meantime, you can take advantage of the pink notification sheet provided by the arresting officer and operate your vehicle for thirty days until your driving privileges are suspended.

Third-time DUI offenses under California law are considered misdemeanors, so your attorney can request to have the charges lowered. Plea deals result in reduced penalties and sentences.

Elements of the Crime

It is the responsibility of prosecutors to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused committed an offense. The prosecutors need to prove specific components of a third DUI offense, such as:

  • The Accused Had Physical Control of the Motor Vehicle

Being physically in control of an automobile means that the defendant was driving rather than simply occupying the car. For example, the accused can claim that he or she was not actually in control of the automobile if a law enforcement officer catches him or her by the side of the road or in a parking lot. The prosecutor can also rely on factors such as where you sat in the automobile, the position of the car keys, whether the car's engine was warm, or the number of occupants to demonstrate that you were operating the vehicle.

  • The Accused was Driving With a BAC Level of 0.08% or Above

California's legal BAC limit stands at 0.08%. Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above while you're behind the wheel is illegal. To demonstrate that the accused was operating a vehicle with a higher BAC level, the prosecutor will rely on the findings from the breathalyzer test.      

Blood and urine tests could be administered in addition to a breathalyzer. The police will ask for a urine or blood sample and send it to the testing facility so they can measure the blood alcohol content.

A professional DUI defense lawyer can question the legitimacy of these findings or ask for a blood-split petition to ascertain the accuracy of the blood test results.

  • Substance Abuse or Alcohol Consumption Contributed To The Defendant's Impairment

It's a violation of the law to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by either drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. The prosecutor can present evidence such as an arresting officer's testimony, a drug recognition expert's account, and the findings of urine, saliva, or blood testing.

Plea Deal

If you don't want to go to trial, your DUI attorney could be able to work out some kind of plea bargain. The terms of a plea agreement can involve a lesser sentence or reduced charges. Your attorney will inform you of the benefits and drawbacks of a plea deal before you proceed and will then let you make your decision.

Plea deals usually work based on the quality of the prosecutor's case, any prior convictions the accused could have committed, and the defendant's risk tolerance if they proceed to trial. A plea deal eliminates the risk of facing trial and anticipating an outcome that could not be favorable. If a plea agreement is reached, the sentence will likely be more mild.

If you accept a reduction in sentence, you will admit guilt for the crime and be subjected to a set of previously agreed punishments. By reducing your term, you avoid the worst-case scenario and receive a more lenient punishment. If you demand a trial before a jury and are found guilty, you could be sentenced to jail time, probation, and significant fines.

When charges are reduced, the original crime is lowered to a less severe offense. Although dismissals or reduced charges are more common for first-time DUI offenders, they are nevertheless available for those with multiple convictions.

The following are some benefits of having your charges reduced:

  • Reduced penalties and fines.
  • Avoiding a license suspension.
  • Less time behind bars.
  • Reduced effect on your auto insurance.
  • Reduced stigma.

Common plea bargains for driving under the influence offenses include:

  1. Wet Reckless.
  2. Dry Reckless.
  3. Exhibition of speed or speed contest.

There are instances in which a reduction in charges cannot apply as a prior conviction. However, a conviction for wet reckless remains priorable. Cases of dry reckless, wet reckless, and speed exhibition could add points to your DMV file.

Additional charges can be dropped if the prosecutor's case is not solid enough or when the arresting officer significantly deviates from the regular arresting process. These include:

  • Drunk in a public place.
  • Getting drunk behind the wheel.
  • Traffic infractions.

Most of the time, these crimes carry a minor fine and little to no time behind bars. They're also not likely to appear on a criminal record or accrue points on your DMV record.

Penalties for Third DUI Offenses

If you are found guilty of a third DUI conviction, the consequences are more severe, and you're likely to face hefty fines. A third DUI offense is treated as a misdemeanor unless the penalties or charges are lowered.

A few examples of these punishments include

  • An informal probation period of between three and five years.
  • A sentence of 120 days to a year behind bars.
  • Fines ranging from $2500 to $3000.
  • Installation of the ignition interlock device (IID) is mandatory for two years.
  • Participating in a thirty-month DUI education course.
  • A three-month suspension of your driver's license.
  • Register as a habitual traffic offender (HTO).

The consequences for third DUI offenses are not predetermined. They can vary based on the unique circumstances of each situation. Some of the elements that could result in additional sentencing include:

  • Your BAC level was 0.15% or more.
  • You declined to take a chemical test.
  • You caused the accident.
  • You were pulled over while driving with a minor (anyone younger than 14). Child endangerment occurs when the motorist is drunk and driving while also carrying a minor. It could extend your sentence by 30 days behind bars.
  • You were speeding. If you are convicted of excessive speeding or speed exhibition while driving, you will receive sixty more days behind bars on top of your original sentence.
  • Your DUI criminal record.

When you receive a probation sentence, you should comply with certain rules that the court has established:

  • Pay all fines.
  • Participate in community service.
  • Seek out and keep a job.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol.
  • You should not go behind the wheel if you've had any alcohol.
  • Mandatory installation of the IID in your vehicle.
  • Carry a SCRAM with you.
  • Avoid infringing the law.
  • Making court appearances to update the judge on progress.


Instead of going to jail for a DUI charge, a person convicted of this crime could be sentenced to wear an ankle bracelet called SCRAM. The bracelet checks your blood alcohol level every thirty minutes and transmits reports to the court every day. SCRAM can determine if you have alcohol in your system by examining your perspiration. The bracelet's primary function is to make sure you do not consume alcohol throughout your probation period.

Most of the time, you have between thirty days and a year to have the gadget on. The facts of the situation, the number of previous violations, and the severity of your drinking issue will all affect how long you have to put on the bracelet.

California's Alternative Third DUI Offense Sentencing Options

If you are found guilty of a third DUI offense, you might not spend time behind bars. This is because several sentencing options exist, including community service, house arrest, roadside work, or electronic monitoring.

Most lawyers who have no expertise in California DUI are unaware of these alternative DUI sentencing options. Even if they're aware of the information, they may not know any effective ways that can convince the judge as well as the prosecutor to deter them from sending you behind bars. This is why it's crucial to have legal representation from someone who specializes in California DUI cases.

Fighting The First Two DUI Convictions

You have the right to contest your past DUI convictions, regardless of whether or not they were legitimate. The court normally considers your previous two DUI convictions that occurred within the last 10 years, from the date you first got sentenced for a first-time DUI through the day you were apprehended for a third time.

If the two prior DUI convictions occurred within this time frame, the court can rule that your third DUI accusation is valid, and you'll be subject to harsher punishments if found guilty. Consult with your lawyer if the two past offenses were not committed within 10 years of each other.

You could be charged with a first-time DUI or a second-time DUI, depending on how your attorney views your prior convictions. Your chances of being accused of a third DUI offense remain high, regardless of where your past convictions occurred. However, a lawyer could help you win the case by reversing the circumstances.

Comparing DUIs for the First, Second, and Third Time

If there aren't aggravating circumstances, a DUI offense committed for the first, second, or third time is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if there are any aggravating circumstances in your case, they could all be elevated to felony DUIs. If you have been convicted in the past of more than three DUI crimes, you will face felony DUI charges.

The punishments imposed for a third and second DUI are often far more severe than those for a first DUI. First-time offenders accused of driving under the influence face a minimum four-month license suspension, a hefty fine not exceeding $1,000, and a possible jail sentence of no more than six months. A second DUI arrest can land you in jail for a maximum of one year, with a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000 and a license suspension lasting two years.

DMV Penalties for Third-Time DUI Offenses

The California DMV penalizes DUI offenders by suspending their licenses. If you're arrested, you will get a license suspension notice. The apprehending officer takes away your driver's license and replaces it with a pink document that serves as a driving permit for the following 30 days.

You need to ask for a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your apprehension. If you fail to schedule a hearing, your driver's license will be suspended after 30 days. Your attorney can set up the hearing over the phone or in person with the DMV magistrate. The magistrate will decide if there is sufficient reason to suspend your driver's license.

In support of your case, you or your attorney will present the following facts:

  • Whether or not there was reasonable suspicion for the arrest.
  • Whether the reason for your arrest was legitimate.
  • Whether you had a BAC of 0.08% or higher while driving.
  • Whether you knew the repercussions of failing to take a blood or breath test.

Your attorney can raise defenses like:

  • You weren't driving the vehicle.
  • You were apprehended at an unauthorized DUI checkpoint.
  • There wasn't enough evidence to justify your arrest.
  • You weren't provided with a 15-minute window of observation.
  • The testing apparatus was faulty.
  • The high BAC level resulted from other factors.
  • You weren't warned of the repercussions of declining to take a chemical or breath test.
  • You didn't refuse to take the chemical test.
  • The arresting officer's report was flawed.

If you are successful at the DMV hearing, the license suspension could be lifted while your criminal proceeding is still pending. If you are unsuccessful, your license will be suspended for one year. The DMV can permit you to operate a vehicle if you set up the ignition interlock device.

The DMV can reinstate all of your driving rights if the charges against you are dropped or you are acquitted. If you're found guilty following the proceedings, your driver's license will be suspended for three years. After a year of suspension, you will be eligible to apply for a restricted driver's license. Different types of restricted driver's licenses are available, such as:

An IID-restricted permit allows you to get around any place so long as an ignition interlock device is installed in your vehicle. The breathalyzer will record your breath and analyze it for alcoholic content.

If the gadget detects alcohol on your breath, the vehicle might fail to start in rare instances. Additionally, it would send frequent data on your alcohol consumption. The restricted driver's license is valid for 2 years.

With a restricted permit, you can drive to a DUI school and work. You should complete a DUI course for at least one year of the program to be eligible for a restricted driver's license. In addition, you should produce an SR-22, have an IID installed in your vehicle, and pay a $125 reissue fee.

Getting your driver's license back is crucial. Your DUI lawyer will assist you in keeping track of deadlines, getting your license back, and regaining mobility. Your attorney will also assist you in getting an SR-22 insurance form.

Your auto insurance company's SR-22 document serves as evidence that you have purchased the required amount of auto liability insurance. If you ever want your driving rights to be restored, you need to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Legal Defenses for a Third DUI Offense

A third-time DUI charge does not always result in a DUI conviction. Having a solid plan of defense can help you avoid the repercussions of a DUI conviction. DUI defenses fall into three main categories:

  • those that demonstrate you weren't under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Those that show that you weren't under the influence when you were driving.
  • Those that show the arresting officer didn't adhere to the law when doing so.

The following are examples of defenses you can use in your case:

You Were Only Driving Erratically, Not Drunk

You could argue in court that your erratic driving was due only to distractions and not to any intoxicating substances. The prosecutor normally concentrates on how you drive and will strive to convince the judge that you were driving recklessly because you were drunk.

A competent DUI lawyer will refute such evidence by arguing that your driving skills were above board and safe for other road users. If you cannot demonstrate to the court that you weren't driving recklessly, your lawyer can argue that poor driving patterns don't always indicate that the motorist is intoxicated.

The Physical Indications of Driving While Under the Influence Do Not Always Indicate That You Were Inebriated

This is a solid defense for a California DUI charge. Most police officers will apprehend you for driving while impaired based on how you look. He or she will spot certain objective and physical signs, including a flushed face, red eyes, a shaky stride, slurred speech, or an alcoholic odor.

Your DUI lawyer will represent you in court by offering up some reasonable justifications that could have resulted in these symptoms. For instance, your attorney can claim that you had eye irritation, an allergy, a cold, or that you were simply fatigued.

The Blood Alcohol Concentration Test Was Inaccurate

The BAC kit used might have been defective, leading to falsely high findings. Additionally, the BAC kits need to go through regular maintenance inspections. By demonstrating that the authorities did not routinely maintain the BAC kits, your lawyer might be able to free you from jail.

Additionally, your attorney could argue that the alcohol amount in your mouth caused an inaccurately high result. For example, you could have taken cough syrup or mouthwash immediately before the test, leaving some alcohol residue in your mouth that showed up on the chemical tests.

The Officer Did Not Adhere To All California BAC Testing Regulations

Before making an arrest, a law enforcement officer should adhere to Title 17 of California's laws on blood and breath testing. These rules and regulations include keeping you under observation for 15 minutes before administering the alcohol chemical testing and handling your urine or blood samples with care.

Your DUI lawyer could undermine the prosecutor's case by stating that the findings from the test could have been compromised if the arresting officer failed to follow these rules. You can use this as evidence in your case and increase your chances of being acquitted.

Find a Pasadena DUI Attorney Near Me

An experienced DUI defense attorney is crucial at every stage of the criminal process, beginning with the arrest and continuing until sentencing. Since the consequences of a DUI conviction remain for a long time, you'll need legal help to reinstate your driving privileges. If you are facing charges for a third DUI violation, you can contact the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Long Beach. Get in touch with our team today by calling 562-966-8120 for immediate legal assistance.