It's fairly common knowledge that if you're caught driving while intoxicated, you can be criminally charged with a DUI. What many people don't know is that the circumstances of your arrest could lead you to be charged with aggravated DUI, a more serious offense that can lead to being hit with higher penalties even if it's your first offense. Here's what you need to know about this type of DUI and how to possibly get it reduced to a lesser one.
Aggravated DUI Explained
A regular DUI can be described as a basic charge where the act of driving under the influence is the only offense the person committed. An aggravated DUI, on the other hand, will typically encompass other criminal acts or moving violations the person committed concurrently with the DUI. For instance, you may be charged with aggravated DUI if you were also driving on a suspended or revoked license.
There are several things that can result in a regular DUI charge being upgraded to an aggravated DUI:
- High BAC level – In many states, you may face stiffer penalties if your BAC level far exceeds the legal limit set by the state for a DUI charge. For instance, in Minnesota, the limit for a misdemeanor DUI is .08, but you will be charged with gross misdemeanor if your BAC level was at or exceeded .16 (starting in August 2015).
- Refusal to submit to BAC testing – Many states have made it mandatory for drivers suspected of drunk driving to take a blood alcohol test. Refusal to take the test can result in elevation of the DUI charge and automatic penalties being assessed. For instance, in Texas, your license will be suspended for 180 days for your first refusal, regardless of the outcome of any of the other DUI charges against you.
- Speeding and/or reckless driving – Exceeding the speed limit by a certain amount (e.g. 20 miles over posted limit) or driving in an unsafe manner (e.g. weaving, drag racing) can result in an aggravated DUI charge.
- Causing an accident or injuring someone – Depending on the circumstances, you can be charged with either an aggravated DUI or a felony if you cause an accident or hurt someone while driving under the influence. For instance, you may be charged with aggravated DUI if you hit a parked car with no one in it, whereas you may be charged with manslaughter if you hit a pedestrian and the person dies.
- Child endangerment – If you drive with a child—typically defined as someone under the age of 16—in the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the charge may be upgraded to an aggravated DUI.
Aggravated DUI charges typically carry harsher penalties than a regular DUI, and these penalties may be imposed regardless of whether or not it is your first offense. For instance, in Minnesota, you could be sentenced up to one year in jail for a high BAC, and you may be required to post a $12,000 bail. If it's your second offense, the state may seize your vehicle and sell it.
Getting an Aggravated DUI Charge Reduced
There are a couple of ways to get an aggravated DUI dropped to a regular DUI or eliminated altogether. One option is to make a plea deal with the prosecutor. However, this may be challenging to do depending on the circumstances of your arrest. The prosecutor may not be as willing to cut a deal if you were driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle, for instance. On the other hand, if the reason for the aggravated DUI was because your BAC level was high, the prosecutor may be willing to agree to say your BAC was at the lower legal limit in exchange for a guilty plea.
Challenging the technology involved in your arrest can also result in a reduced charge. If the police say you were speeding, you could dispute the accuracy of the speed gun used to clock how fast you were going or the officer's perception if he or she eyeballed your approximate speed. Blood alcohol testing machines are notorious for producing inaccurate results, so you can dispute the reading obtained by the field BAC kit and possibly get the charges dropped altogether.
The best strategy for getting an aggravated DUI reduced will depend on the factors of your case. Work with a DUI lawyer on developing the best defense possible to the charges you're facing.