There’s nothing like a perfect driver. Unfortunately, even the best among us sometimes are caught in various driving violations. If you are caught on the wrong side of traffic laws and pulled over in Orange County, all is not lost for you. Traffic officers have an obligation to write you a ticket or even arrest you if they catch you with your hands in the cookie jar. However, you also owe yourself the favor of seeking reliable legal representation to ensure you achieve the best outcome. If you are charged with driving crimes, we invite you to turn to the Orange County Criminal Defense Team. Whether you are fighting a parking ticket or a case that’s as serious as DUI, we can offer a solid defense to ensure your issue comes to the best possible conclusion.
Paying the fine for driving crime misdemeanors may at first seem like a good idea. However, each ticket you pay for will end up on your driving record. This may affect your auto insurance rates, drastically increasing them in the near future. The best way to go about this is to defend yourself irrespective of whether you are charged with an infraction, misdemeanor, or a driving crime felony.
Driving Crimes Defined
Driving crimes are traffic violations that cover all unlawful activities that can take place when operating an automobile. In each state, there are motor vehicle codes that each driver must abide by to ensure the safety of all road users.
Driving crimes range from minor infractions such as failing to signal and not using a seatbelt to major offenses like distracted driving and speeding in a construction zone. There are also criminal driving crimes like dangerous/careless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Usually, the punishment imposed will fit the magnitude of the crime.
When it comes to traffic offenses, punishment can be imposed through the court system, especially when dealing with major or criminal crimes. Penalties may also be set through agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. While a DUI charge may attract criminal charges, fines, and possible jail time, a speeding ticket is only likely to attract a fine from the DMV and some “points on your license.
Before you underestimate your situation and opt to plead guilty to make the case go away, it is crucial to note that the aftermath of a conviction may depend on various aspects. For instance, a judge or the DMV will always consider the facts of your case, such as whether someone was injured or killed. They will also take note of your criminal history.
In some instances, a conviction may also strip you of your driving rights temporarily. The DMV may even find it appropriate to deny driving privileges permanently altogether. Again, while this may seem like a small price to pay at face value, it could affect all areas of your life, including your work opportunities, financial resources, and the family-related responsibilities you can take on.
If you are charged with a traffic offense of any nature, it is best to immediately seek a traffic attorney’s expertise. The expert will analyze your situation and guide you on the best way forward. Sometimes, a lawyer is the only thing standing between you and substantial jail time or frustrating penalties such as a revoked driver’s license.
A List of Some of the Common Driving Crimes in California
If you are charged with a minor driving crime like rolling through a stop sign, this may earn you a ticket. Consequently, you may have to pay a fine and trigger possible increases in your auto insurance premiums. It remains imperative to understand that sometimes, the stakes are high, and a violation may result in a permanent criminal record and possible jail time.
California roads are busy all year round. Authorities are hence not “taking it easy” on traffic law violators. Bear in mind that even minor mistakes or delays in judgment can lead to catastrophic accidents that cause serious injuries, property damage, or even fatalities.
Here are some of the most common driving crimes in California:
Under Vehicle Code Section 23103, it is unlawful to operate an automobile with malicious disregard/neglect for the safety of other road users. This vehicle code makes it illegal to drive recklessly and endanger the lives or properties of other people. If you are caught in violation of VC 23103, you may be charged with a misdemeanor, more so if no one was injured.
The penalties for reckless driving may vary depending on the circumstances around an offense. While a misdemeanor may attract up to 3 months behind bars and a fine ranging between $145 to $1,000, these penalties may drastically increase if an incident leads to another person’s injury.
When reckless driving that results in the minor injuries of another individual is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
When an offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty may be as follows:
- 1 to 12 month’s incarceration
- A fine ranging between $220 and $1,000
When reckless driving causes severe injuries to another person and is charged as a felony, the penalties may include:
- Jail time not exceeding three years
- A maximum fine of $ 10,000
How can an attorney defend you against reckless driving charges?
There are certain elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted. One of the key reasons it is best to consult an attorney before pleading guilty is that the proper defenses may get you off the hook. For instance, your lawyer may argue that you were not driving recklessly, and an incident didn’t involve any negligence or irresponsibility from your end.
If the prosecutor cannot substantiate that you were purely neglectful, the charges may be dropped or reduced. An attorney can also help ensure that you obtain the best possible plea bargain even if you plead guilty.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
California Vehicle Code 23152 prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. You can be charged with DUI if you operate a car with Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that exceeds 0.08%. If you drive big commercial rigs, your BAC must not exceed 0.04%.In California, persons below 21 years or repeat DUI offenders must not exceed the BAC limit of 0.01.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a grave driving crime that may be punished based on your DUI history. Penalties may also vary depending on other aspects, such as whether other people were killed or injured or whether you voluntarily agreed to take a sobriety test.
For first-time DUI offenders, the penalty may include:
- Up to 6 months incarceration in county jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- License suspension for up to 10 months
The second DUI offense may attract penalties as follows:
- Incarceration for up to 1 year
- A fine not exceeding $1,800
- Possible license suspension for up to 24 months
A third DUI offense may result in the following penalties:
- Jail term not exceeding one year
- A fine of up to $1,800
- License suspension for up to 3 years
If you are a career DUI offender, punishment may also involve the mandatory fitting of an ignition interlock device on your car. A judge or the DMV may also make it compulsory for you to complete a DUI program.
So, what defenses can an attorney use if you are charged with DUI in California?
Fighting DUI charges in California is not impossible. While it may take some heavy lifting to convince the judge that you are innocent of the charges you face, a skilled lawyer can get you off the loop using the following defenses:
- No probable cause for being pulled over
- Illegal search and arrest
- No Miranda warning
- Failure of the authorities to adhere to Title 17
- Inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the sobriety test results
- Your BAC was rising for other reasons that don’t involve alcohol intoxication
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)
California Vehicle Code 23152 also criminalizes operating an automobile while intoxicated with controlled substances. This includes not only illegal narcotics but also pharmaceuticals that may cause impairment and unsafe driving.
When it comes to impairment by drugs, it can be a little challenging for the prosecution to prove intoxication. In this case, the police may not have the right equipment to run on-site sobriety tests for drugs. However, if they have probable cause to believe you are intoxicated, they may arrest you and charge you after administering a blood test.
It remains imperative to understand that some, if not all, the rules that apply in alcohol DUI also apply in DUID. This means that there are dire consequences for refusing to take a blood test to establish the existence of illegal substances in your system.
So, how can a lawyer defend you if charged with a DUID?
Both alcohol DUI and DUID are criminalized under the same Vehicle Code. This means that they attract similar penalties if you are found guilty and convicted. Therefore, your defense attorney is likely to use the same strategies to defend either offense.
Driving Without a Valid License
Vehicle Code 12500 stipulates that it is an offense to operate a vehicle without a valid driving license. This code excuses certain motorists, such as residents from other regions. It is crucial to note that using a car with an invalid license is a different offense from driving with no license or driving with a suspended permit.
Violating VC 12500 is an infraction charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face the following penalties:
- Maximum incarceration for six months
- A fine between $250 and $1,000
Before a conviction, there are certain elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:
- You were driving on California streets or highways
- At the time of an arrest, your driver’s license was invalid
So, what is the best defense for driving without a valid license?
In this case, there is no way around not having a valid license. However, it is up to the prosecution to prove that you indeed had no valid permit. Your attorney’s work will be to ensure that you are not charged unless the prosecution can prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Driving on a Suspended License
Vehicle Code 14601 makes it a crime to drive with a suspended or revoked license. As aforementioned, the crime of driving with an invalid permit is quite different from driving with a suspended driver’s permit. In this case, the penalties a judge will impose may depend on why you had to drive with a suspended license.
Violating VC 14601 is a misdemeanor, meaning that it is not as serious as a felony and not as less serious as an infraction. If convicted, the penalty will involve:
- Substantial fines and/ or
- Custody in county jail
- Added driver’s license suspension time
There are numerous reasons why the DMV may revoke your driver’s license. These reasons may include:
- A DUI conviction
- Failure to submit to a sobriety test
- Careless driving
- Physical or mental limitations, etc.
So, how can an attorney be of help?
Traffic violation attorneys are well conversant with the issues that often lead to the suspension of driving privileges. As such, your lawyer can devise the best tactics to battle your charges based on why and how your license was revoked in the first place.
The prosecutor must prove that you knew that your driver’s license was suspended. That said, one of the best defenses an attorney can use is that you were not acquainted with this fact. The expert can also claim that the revocation was illegal or that you had obtained a restricted permit that was valid at the time of an arrest.
California Penal Code 192(c) describes the crime of vehicular manslaughter as operating an automobile unlawfully or negligently, thereby causing the demise of another individual. This is a serious crime typically punished based on the level of negligence involved in a case. Usually, a judge will consider a range of variables, such as whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and whether they have a criminal history.
If you are charged for vehicular manslaughter while committing another felony, the charges are likely to be escalated into manslaughter. This means you will be convicted under Penal Code 187, irrespective of whether an incident was accidental or not. Then again, you may be charged with vehicular manslaughter under the influence if an incident happens when you are high on alcohol or drugs.
Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler offense when it is purely caused by negligence. The following is the penalty if the driving crime is charged as a misdemeanor:
- Incarceration for a maximum of 1 year
- If an offense is charged as a felony, the punishment imposed after a conviction may include imprisonment for 2 to 6 years.
It also pays to understand that there may be other repercussions if the prosecution makes a conviction. For instance, you may also be subjected to Vehicle Code 13361(c), which stipulates that the licenses of persons convicted of vehicular manslaughter must be suspended for at least 12 months. Note that your driving privileges could be suspended for longer depending on the facts of your case.
So, what is the ideal defense for vehicular manslaughter?
In this case, your attorney will mainly focus on arguing that your actions did not amount to negligence, carelessness, or gross slackness. In case the facts tabled by the prosecution show negligence, a lawyer can persuade the court otherwise. For instance, the expert could argue that even though your actions seem neglectful, you were in an emergency.
Hit and Run
California Vehicle Codes 20003 and 20002 define hit and run driving crimes and their penalties. While VC 20002 addresses a hit and run that causes property damage, VC 20003 addresses a violation that causes bodily harm to other individuals. Note that the former crime is charged as a misdemeanor while the latter is charged as a felony.
When a hit and run case is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties may include:
- Up to 6 months imprisonment
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
If the offense is charged as a felony, the punishment is as follows:
- Up to 1 year jail time
- A fine between $1,000 and $10,000
A judge might increase the penalties if a hit and run happened when a driver was committing another offense such as drunk driving or overspeeding.
What defenses can an attorney use when defending you from hit and run charges?
Your attorney may argue that you didn’t realize that an accident had occurred and that you left an accident scene unintentionally. The expert could also say that even though an accident occurred, it caused no damages or injuries. Other viable defenses include that the site of an accident was unsafe, making it impossible for you to pull over, or that only your car was damaged during an incident.
Evading a Police Officer
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, you should pull over if a police officer pursues you. Ideally, you should realize that the police are following you based on their attire and the flashing van lights or sirens.
If you are convicted for evading a police officer, the penalties may be as follows:
- Up to 1-year incarceration in county jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Impoundment of your vehicle for 1-month maximum
Depending on the facts of your case, you may also be subject to penalty enhancement under VC 2800.2 and VC 2800.3. The former Vehicle Code is a penalty enhancement for fleeing from a police officer and causing injury or death. The latter is a punishment enhancement for driving carelessly and endangering the well-being of other road users as you attempt to evade the police.
Are there any defenses an attorney can use if I’m charged for evading a police officer?
An attorney can defend you and have your charges dropped or reduced by arguing that the police didn’t meet specific standards when pursuing you. It could be that they were not in attire, they didn’t flash their red light, or they failed to sound the distress signal.
Another defense that can work in certain situations is claiming that even though you seemed to evade the police, this was not intentional. It could be that you could not see or hear the signals, or you could not pull over because of the traffic flow on-site. Your attorney may even claim that you couldn’t stop because you were in an emergency.
Reckless driving is yet another common driving crime described under California Vehicle Code 23103. Under this VC, reckless driving is defined as driving with malicious neglect of the safety of other road users or neighboring property.
If a crime doesn’t lead to any injuries, it could be charged as a misdemeanor. In this case, the punishment for a conviction may include:
- Imprisonment for a maximum of 3 months
- A fine ranging between $145 and $1,000
The penalties for reckless driving can increase dramatically if other persons are injured during an incident. Even though an offense may still be charged as a misdemeanor if it only leads to minor injuries, the penalty will be considerably higher. It may include:
- A jail sentence of between 1 month and one year
- A fine ranging between $220 and $1,000
It is essential to note that this crime can also be charged as a felony if it leads to severe injuries or death. If you face reckless driving felony charges, you risk the following punishment:
- Up to 3 years jail time
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
Can you defend yourself against reckless driving charges?
Yes. A competent attorney can provide a solid defense, irrespective of the facts of your case. For instance, your lawyer may argue that you were not driving recklessly. This means that the prosecution must prove otherwise or risk not obtaining a conviction. It's often an uphill task for the prosecution to prove that a driver was deliberately negligent or irresponsible when driving.
Find an Orange County Criminal Defense Team Near Me
If you are accused of a driving crime in Orange County, you must find yourself the best legal defense team. Remember that each case is unique, and it presents unique challenges that you may not be able to tackle effectively without a seasoned lawyer. At Orange County Criminal Defense Team, we are in the business of standing up for the accused. We know better than just to take the facts of a case as they are presented. Our job is to find new evidence or use arguments that question whether you are guilty of a specific driving crime without a reasonable doubt. Our understanding of the legal system enhances our success chances, irrespective of the case we handle. Call us now at 714-467-2772 and schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.