Any time you get behind the wheel of a car you take a chance – with your own life and with the lives of everyone else on the road. That risk is doubled if you are intoxicated, tired, or just not paying attention. We all make mistakes, but you’ll want to know your best line of defense is if that happens. Below we’ll discuss some of the most common driving, car, and license related offenses that happen in Los Angeles. If you find yourself facing charges for any of these driving-related mistakes, your first line of defense in avoiding fines and even jail time is contacting a criminal defense lawyer.
When Driving Related Mistakes Happen
It’s estimated that there are 6,500,000 cars in Los Angeles. That means there are a lot of people on the road! A wide array of mistakes can happen when it comes to driving and driving-related things. For example, you could face charges for all of the following:
We’ve all exercised poor judgment at one point in our lives. But if that poor judgment happens behind the wheel of a car, there can be some major consequences. There is a wide array of consequences for the above infractions that range from suspension of your license to fees to jail time. If you are facing any of these consequences, you’ll want to contact a criminal defense attorney to help you build your case.
License suspension is one of the consequences you could face for any number of infractions. Under California law, the DMV has the right to suspend or revoke the driver’s license of any person arrested for a criminal offense that warrants a license suspension on its own (such as a DUI), or of any person with a habit of engaging in unlawful and/or dangerous behavior.
Why Can a License be Suspended?
Situations that may result in a Los Angeles driver’s license suspension include the following:
- DUI arrests – If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles, your license will automatically be suspended, even if your blood alcohol concentration is only 0.01%.
- Negligent operator suspensions – If you have too many points (citations for moving violations) on your license, you could be labeled a “negligent operator” and have your license suspended.
- Traffic accident resulting in death or serious injury – If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident where another person is seriously injured or killed, you could have your license suspended.
- Driver’s license suspension due to mental or physical conditions – If you are suspected of having a medical or mental condition that affects your ability to drive safely, you may be subjected to a re-exam to keep your license.
- Driver’s license fraud – If you are suspected of fraudulent activity in using or applying for a California driver’s license, you could end up having your license suspended or revoked.
- Medical suspension – If you have a medical condition that causes you to lose consciousness or control while driving, you could have your driving privileges suspended.
- Senior driver’s license suspension – If the DMV suspects that you lack the skill to drive due to age, you could lose your driving privileges.
- Driver’s license suspension because of no car insurance – If you fail to maintain liability insurance on your vehicle, you could have your license suspended by the DMV.
Driving on a Suspended License
Any of the above reasons could result in the suspension of your license. But what are you supposed to do if your license is suspended but you still need to get to work or to other things?
If your license has been suspended, but you’re still driving a car, it’s important to know that is considered a criminal offense in California to drive when you know that your license has been suspended or revoked, and this charge carries significant penalties, possibly including incarceration, a substantial fine, and a loss of certain rights, such as the right to drive a motor vehicle or the right to possess a firearm.
Driving Without a License
It might seem tempting to drive without a license. If you know how to drive but haven’t received a license, or if you have a license from another state or country you can face serious consequences for driving without a California issued license.
All California drivers, and out-of-state drivers who move to California permanently are required to have a valid driver’s license, and any person caught driving without a license in Los Angeles could face criminal charges and severe penalties, including a jail sentence and significant fines.
DUI – Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
You go out one night with some friends, have a few drinks over a couple of hours, but feel sober enough to drive home at the end of the night. On the way home, you get pulled over, are made to do a number of sobriety tests which you fail and are subsequently charged with a DUI.
Drunk driving is one of the most common criminal charges in California, and it’s one that can have a significant adverse impact on the future of the defendant and his or her family. If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Los Angeles, defending yourself can be terrifying and complicated, especially with the long-lasting penalties associated with a DUI conviction. You could go to jail, incur significant fines, have an ignition interlock device installed in your car, lose your license or have your driving privileges restricted, or be required to participate in a DUI treatment or education program.
A DUI is a complex criminal charge, and the penalties for a DUI conviction can vary depending on several factors, including whether anyone was injured, whether you have any previous DUI offenses, and how severe the judge presiding over your case is.
While California has made marijuana legal, you can still be arrested for being under the influence of it. What that means is that if you go to a party, smoke marijuana, and then decide to drive home, you can be arrested for it.
The state of California legalized recreational use of marijuana in January 2018, but driving under the influence of marijuana (DUI) is still a criminal offense and the penalties associated with this seemingly minor crime can be life-changing, especially if you are involved in a DUI accident that results in injuries to another person. When we hear the term “DUI,” we typically think of driving under the influence of alcohol, but California DUI laws also cover driving under the influence of drugs, and that includes marijuana. Under California law it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, to operate a motor vehicle.
It’s important to note that currently there is no 100% accurate way to test for marijuana impairment. Law enforcement cannot simply conduct a breathalyzer test (as is done with an alcohol DUI) after pulling you over to find out if you have used marijuana recently. That means that law enforcement relies heavily on the personal observations of the arresting officer to determine whether you were driving under the influence of marijuana, and that leaves plenty of room for refutation.
Felony driving under the influence (DUI) offenses are prosecuted aggressively in the state of California, and there are many different ways your Los Angeles DUI charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony, including being charged with a subsequent DUI offense after three prior DUI convictions in a 10-year period or after just one prior felony DUI conviction.
When a DUI Becomes a Felony DUI
Under California DUI laws, it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol (meaning your physical or mental abilities are impaired by alcohol); drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater, or drive under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence is a serious criminal offense in California, and there is a fine line between misdemeanor and felony DUI charges in Los Angeles, the deciding factors in most cases being the intoxicated driver’s criminal record and whether other people suffered injuries because of the driver’s actions. There are four main factors that can cause your DUI offense to be charged as a California felony, including the following:
- Your DUI caused injury to another person
- Your DUI caused death to another person
- You have at least one prior felony DUI conviction
- You’ve had three or more prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years
The penalties associated with a felony DUI conviction in California are extremely harsh and can affect every aspect of your life for years to come, possibly causing you to lose your driver’s license, incur heavy fines and spend years in a California state prison.
Hit & Run Accident
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver is involved in an accident and subsequently flees the scene without stopping, whether the accident involved a parked car, another car on the road, or someone else’s property. Under California law, if you are involved in a traffic accident, regardless of whether the accident was your fault, you are required to stop and exchange information with all parties involved. If the accident results in damage to a parked car or someone else’s property, you are required to stop and attempt to locate the owner. If the owner cannot be located, you must leave a detailed note that describes the circumstances of the collision and contains your contact information and driver documentation. You must also report the accident to the local police or the California Highway Patrol.
It’s not uncommon in Los Angeles – good people are involved in motor vehicle collisions and, due to panic or confusion, leave the scene of the accident, thereby exposing themselves to hit and run charges and the serious consequences that may accompany a hit and run conviction, including jail time, fines, probation, restitution and a suspension of driving privileges, not to mention increased auto insurance rates and other penalties. Even if you are involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be arrested for hit and run if you leave the scene of the accident without stopping, and the consequences of a hit and run charge are even more severe if the accident causes some type of bodily injury to another person, again, even if you aren’t the one who caused the injury. Even a seemingly minor hit and run accident can have potentially devastating consequences, possibly including jail time, steep fines and points on your driver’s license, and more serious offenses can carry long-lasting penalties that can adversely affect the rest of your life.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney
Driving-related offenses happen every single day in Los Angeles. These offenses, which are very often times just small mistakes, carry a wide array of consequences – stemming from small fines to jail time. When a small mistake means being locked away in jail it can be heartbreaking for not only the defendant but also his or her family.
If you have been charged with any of the offenses we’ve discussed here, you might be feeling completely overwhelmed with the consequences you are facing. It might seem as if there’s no hope for you. Our lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles will ensure that you understand the charges you are facing and are fully aware of your rights under California law. We will take a look at the specifics of your case, the nature of your criminal offense, your background, and what defense strategies are available to you. Being accused of any of these crimes does not need to mean a life sentence for you and you should in no way feel that if you’re accused that you will automatically be convicted.
Your Defense Team
If you are facing a driving-related charges in California, our defense team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles can help. Whatever the circumstances of your case, we are committed to representing our clients in an aggressive and professional manner, and we will ensure that you understand the charges against you, so you can make educated decisions about your future on your own.