Third offense DUI charges, like first offense and second offense DUIs, are heard at the DC Superior Court and are prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office for DC. If you are charged with a third offense you should expect that your case will be treated seriously by all parties involved, and may come with severe penalties if convicted. Because of these potential penalties, it is important to contact a DC DUI lawyer, for help putting forth the strongest defense possible.
Third offense DUI charges are prosecuted even more vigorously than second offense DUI charges. The maximum penalties and mandatory minimum levels of jail time are going to be greater. As a result, the Attorney General’s Office moves forward on third offense DUI prosecutions aggressively.
If there is more than fifteen years between the completion of the sentence on one DUI to the beginning or the charging of the second DUI, the first DUI cannot be used to enhance the potential sentence of the second DUI offense.
If someone had one DUI in 1999, finished their sentence in 1999 and was charged with a second DUI in 2015, more than fifteen years have elapsed. Therefore the DUI in 2015 is not eligible for an enhanced penalty and cannot be treated as second DUI.
Judges treat third offense DUIs seriously. Depending on when the first DUI and second DUI were received, some judges are willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt, particularly if a person had first DUI when they were young. If fourteen years passed since a person was charged with the second DUI, people are often willing to give that person another chance without jail time.
But when judges see a third DUI, the majority of them start to think that there is a problem that may not be fixable without setting a necessary jail time. There is a challenge to give a judge viable reasons why they should not incarcerate a client for a period of time on a third DUI.
Potentially, prosecutors will offer alternative sentencing on a third offense, but it depends on the circumstances of the case, such as how much time was between the DUIs. They also take into consideration the circumstances of the person who charged, such as if there is a serious alcohol problem or if the person is hospitalized. It will depend on the circumstances of a particular DUI investigation whether the government thinks they have a strong or weak case.
In some cases, a DUI attorney will be able to negotiate alternative sentencing, and they do not involve a specific mandatory sentence and can be beneficial offers to be obtained.
Because the evidentiary requirements and the elements of a third offense DUI are no different from a second or first offense DUI, the way a defense attorney will look at the evidence and the way they challenge the evidence is similar. However, an unsuccessful challenge on a third offense DUI can potentially subject a person to months of jail time and as a result, an attorney must take a serious look at the strengths and weaknesses of a prosecutor’s case.
Any attorney representing someone accused of a third DUI must have a serious discussion with the client about the best way to minimize the possible penalties that a person faces and the risk that a person faces by going down certain paths and employing challenges that may not have a high degree of success.
Attorneys will take important consideration into police officer’s DUI investigation and drill down to see if they administered the field sobriety tests accurately and if the breath or other chemical tests were administered appropriately because, particularly with the field sobriety tests, officers often make mistakes and misinterpret the results.
There are certain considerations to take when performing tests that can be essential in the investigations, such as for some individuals it would be difficult for them to perform the field sobriety test. In the training manual for performing a DUI investigation that is given to police officers, there is a section that talks about weight or obesity being a potential limit on people’s ability to perform the test accurately. That is important for a judge to hear, so attorneys will have their client testify as to their weight at the time of the investigation and how their weight affected their ability to perform field sobriety test. There is not any doubt that weight can adversely affect the ability to perform a test and police are supposed to know that.
The investigation is basically the same for first and second offenses, but an attorney might present it in a different way from a first versus a third DUI only because they most likely have a different forum. With a third DUI offense, they present it to a jury not a judge, which could alter the arguments an attorney would make.
When a person is charged with a third offense DUI, they should look for a lawyer who is experienced trying cases before a jury, because most likely the case will end up before one. A person should look at a lawyer’s experience handling all types of DUI cases, who stays abreast of recent developments with DUI litigation, different techniques being used, different strategies, and who works hard with records of success.
When defending people facing third offense DUI charges, a defense attorney wants to try to convince the judges that a person is taking steps to address what could be serious underlying problems, and have taken those steps to the point where significant jail time and serious penalties are not necessary.
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