In California, those who are charged and convicted of driving under the influence face the possibility of fines, jail time or other penalties depending on the circumstances. However, specific enhancements increase the severity and length of sentencing for some motorists charged with DUI, which can result in life-changing consequences in the event of a conviction.

Enhancing a DUI conviction

Five standard enhancements that seriously impact sentencing if convicted of a DUI include:

  • A minor passenger in the vehicle – If driving under the influence with a minor in the car, it is more likely that the motorist may receive a minimum of an additional 48 hours in jail for a first-time offense and ten days for a second offense. The number of days in jail dramatically increases depending on the driver’s prior record.
  • Prior DUI convictions – Multiple convictions result in more severe punishments as one continuously commits that offense. DUI convictions may result in more jail time, more significant fines and license revocation after two previous offenses.  For example, a third DUI carries a 120 day jail minimum sentence.
  • Refusal to take a chemical test – Some drivers may try to refuse to submit a chemical test after being arrested for a DUI.  A driver doesn’t have to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening test, however, after arrest, the driver must submit to a blood, breath or urine test.  If the driver refuses the post-arrest test and is subsequently convicted of a DUI, then that motorist could see a minimum 48-hour increase in jail time on a first offense, or more if the individual has multiple DUI convictions on his or her record.
  • Excessive blood alcohol content (BAC) – The legal BAC limit is .08% in California, so anything over that amount classifies as driving under the influence. If the driver has a BAC over .15%, there could be a minimum jail increase of 48 hours along with this as well.
  • Inflicting physical harm on another – Whether it’s a pedestrian, passenger or another driver, physical harm to another can lead to felony charges and prison time.  The minimum enhancement on a prison sentence is one additional year prison for each person who is hurt up to 3 additional years prison for someone who suffers great bodily injury.

There are more examples under California law, but these are just some of the typical enhancements that drivers may see. Prosecutors may try to apply one or more of these enhancements in order to create the maximum punishments for motorists in these situations. Understand your rights and options before making any decisions about your DUI case.