Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a grave offense in many jurisdictions. An aggravated DUI charge further escalates the seriousness of the matter, carrying more severe penalties. This kind of charge often means that the driver was under the influence and other exacerbating factors were present, like a child in the vehicle or a third DUI offense.
At its core, a DUI charge arises when someone operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The legal system quantifies this through blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, with most regions considering a BAC of 0.08% or higher as evidence of drunk driving.
However, the DUI landscape becomes more complex when adding variables like drug influence, prior DUI offenses, or the presence of minors during the arrest. In such instances, a standard DUI can escalate to an aggravated DUI, warranting the need for an experienced DUI attorney.
DUI and DWI
The terms DUI and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) are often used interchangeably; their use varies from state to state. Both offenses relate to the operation of a vehicle while compromised by some intoxicating substance.
Difference between DUI and Aggravated DUI
The difference between a DUI and an aggravated DUI often hinges on additional factors or elements that underlie the aggravated charge. For instance, a DUI with a child in the car, an extreme DUI, or a subsequent DUI after a previous DUI conviction can escalate the charge from a misdemeanor DUI or regular DUI to a felony aggravated DUI.
This escalation often brings about harsher penalties, including the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, longer driver’s license suspension periods, and even jail time. Given these ramifications, it’s important to have a defense attorney with an in-depth understanding of DUI law and the nuances of the legal system.
In many jurisdictions, an aggravated DUI conviction is punishable as a Class 4 felony or even a Class 6 felony, based on the severity of the offense and the presence of prior DUI convictions. Penalties for aggravated offenses are particularly severe, and those convicted of aggravated DUI might face the following penalties: significant fines, community service, mandatory alcohol education, and potentially long periods of incarceration.
Penalties and Consequences
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is already a severe offense in most jurisdictions. However, when elements exacerbate the situation, the charge escalates to an “aggravated DUI,” carrying far heavier consequences and penalties. While standard DUI or regular DUI can be detrimental, facing an aggravated DUI offense is undeniably more daunting and could drastically impact one’s life.
Enhanced Penalties for Aggravated DUI Offenses
Legal Penalties: A person charged with aggravated DUI often faces more severe penalties than those charged with a standard DUI or misdemeanor DUI.
- Jail Time: The duration varies based on jurisdiction, prior convictions, and the specific circumstances of the arrest, but felony aggravated DUI usually mandates jail time.
- Fines: These can be significantly higher for an aggravated DUI, sometimes extending into the tens of thousands.
- Driver’s License: Suspension or revocation periods for an aggravated DUI are typically longer. Some regions even permanently revoke the license after multiple aggravated DUIs.
- Probation: An individual might be put under supervised probation, which may involve regular check-ins and drug tests.
- Ignition Interlock Device: Many jurisdictions mandate the installation of this device in the motor vehicle of those convicted. It requires the driver to undergo a breath test before starting the car.
- Alcohol or Drug Programs: The offender may be required to attend these as a part of the rehabilitation process.
Classification of Aggravated DUI: Depending on the jurisdiction, an aggravated DUI can be classified as a class 4 felony or class 6 felony. In some cases, especially where harm or death has occurred, the charge might escalate to an even more severe type of felony.
Criminal Record: An aggravated DUI conviction, especially a felony aggravated DUI, will be part of one’s criminal record, making future endeavors like job applications, housing agreements, or travel, particularly challenging.
Personal and Professional Consequences: Apart from the legal repercussions, being charged with an aggravated DUI can tarnish one’s reputation, strain personal relationships, and jeopardize professional opportunities.
Hiring a DUI Defense Attorney
Hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney is essential. They understand the complexities of DUI laws, tailored defense strategies, and potential penalty reduction. DUI laws vary, requiring specialized knowledge for aggravated cases.
Attorneys protect your rights during arrest and challenge infringements, evaluate evidence, navigate the legal system, negotiate for reduced charges, and minimize long-term consequences. With specialized expertise, they tailor defenses for complex aggravated DUI cases, making their assistance necessary.
Common Defense Strategies Against Aggravated DUI Charges
- Questioning the Traffic Stop: A foundational element of the DUI case is the initial traffic stop. If law enforcement lacked probable cause to initiate the stop, any evidence gathered post-stop might be rendered inadmissible. Every case is unique, and a skilled DUI defense lawyer can analyze whether the stop was legal, which could affect the whole trajectory of the aggravated DUI case.
- Challenging Sobriety Tests: Administered in cases of suspected drunk driving, sobriety tests come under scrutiny regularly. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can undoubtedly lead to an arrest, but these tests can sometimes be misleading. Factors such as the officer’s training, the environmental conditions during the test, or underlying medical conditions can affect the outcome. As a result, a DUI attorney could argue against the validity of these tests in your defense.
- Contesting Blood/Breath Tests: Blood alcohol content (BAC) is pivotal in a DUI arrest. However, the machinery used, such as breathalyzers, need regular calibration and maintenance. Additionally, when blood tests are administered, a strict chain of custody is essential to prevent contamination. An experienced DUI defense can target these vulnerabilities in the prosecution’s case, potentially turning the tide in favor of the defendant.
- Medical and Health-Related Defenses: There are conditions that can mimic the symptoms of being under the influence. For instance, a person with diabetes might showcase symptoms similar to being under the influence of alcohol. An experienced lawyer can bring in medical experts to testify and counteract the DUI charge.
- Proving No Actual Physical Control of Vehicle: An aggravated DUI also includes scenarios where a person might not be actively driving but is in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. This could be someone parked but with the engine running. The DUI law in certain jurisdictions might not consider this as a punishable offense, providing a potential defense against the charge.
- Involuntary Intoxication: There are instances where an individual might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or consent. In these rare scenarios, a DUI defense attorney can argue that their client had no intention of driving under the influence, presenting a defense against the aggravated DUI charge.
Given the serious nature of aggravated DUIs and the subsequent consequences, understanding one’s rights and the nuances of the charge is vital. Whether the charge is a result of aggravated drunk driving, DUI or DWI, or any other type of DUI, an informed approach backed by a skilled DUI defense attorney offers the best chance to navigate the challenges ahead.
How Long Will an Aggravated DUI Affect My Insurance Rates?
Typically, a DUI can impact insurance rates for 3-5 years, but an aggravated DUI can extend that period or even lead to policy cancellation.
If I Was Under the Legal BAC Limit, Can I Still be Charged With an Aggravated DUI?
Yes, especially if drugs are involved or if other aggravating factors are present, like causing an accident or having a child in the car.
Can I Refuse a Blood or Breath Test to Avoid a DUI Charge?
While you might refuse, doing so often has separate penalties and can still lead to a DUI charge based on other evidence.