The Difference Between DUI & Aggravated DUI In California

The Marble Team

The Difference Between DUI & Aggravated DUI In California

| 5 min

DUI (“Driving Under The Influence”) is a crime in every US state, and it’s not something you want to have on your record. It doesn’t matter if alcohol, narcotics, or over-the-counter medication are to blame - if you’re driving under the influence, you’re breaking the law. And if you’re caught, you’ll have to face up to the consequences

An ordinary DUI is usually classified as a misdemeanor, but if the case circumstances are more serious - say third parties were injured, or the driver has previous convictions - it can be upgraded to an aggravated DUI, making it a felony. 

What Exactly Is An Aggravated DUI?

Being found guilty of a DUI is bad enough, but an aggravated DUI conviction takes things to the next level. It’s a much more serious affair, with more significant consequences and harsher punishments. Ultimately, it could see you end up with a criminal record, spending a long time in prison, and losing a fortune in personal injury claims.

Which Scenarios Result In An Aggravated DUI Charge?

Many factors change a regular DUI into a more serious aggravated DUI charge. Generally, it’s a question of how extreme the offense is. For example, a first-time offender who’s just over the limit and was stopped for a defective tail-light will be treated differently to a drunk, repeat offender who crashed into a pedestrian while speeding carelessly down the street.

If you’re charged with a DUI, and the cops find out your license isn’t valid, you might see your charge upgraded. Other common reasons for an aggravated DUI charge in California include the following.

1. An Accident You Caused Resulted In Bodily Harm

Cases that involve injury or loss of life caused by aggravated DUI can lead to severe felony and even second-degree murder charges. And that’s before you even think about personal injury lawsuits.

2. You Have A Prior Dui Conviction On Your Record

When you’re found guilty of a DUI, judges assume that you’ll learn your lesson and won’t break the law again. If you’re found guilty of subsequent DUI offenses, you’ll feel the full weight of the law.

3. You Exceeded The Stated Speed Limit By A Large Amount

Some courts might show a degree of leniency if you were only a few miles per hour over the limit. But if you’re way over - by 20 mph on a street/highway or 30 mph on a freeway - expect the worst.

DUI & Aggravated DUI In California

4. The Amount Of Alcohol In Your System Is Well Above The Legal Limit

This is a no-brainer. Drive when you’re over the BAC (blood alcohol content) limit of 0.08%, and you’re in trouble. Drive when you’re above 0.20%, and you’re in huge trouble. The same principles apply if you have excessive levels of drugs in your system.

5. You Drove With A Minor In The Car Under The Influence

Driving with a minor when you’re over the limit is an absolute no-no in the eyes of the law. In California, the rule applies to DUI with passengers aged under 14. Do that, and you could see any potential jail sentence extended; plus, you could also face child endangerment charges.

6. You Refused To Take A Blood Or Breathalyzer Test To Determine Blood Alcohol Content

Unsurprisingly, the law takes a very dim view of anyone who refuses a blood or breathalyzer test. Almost every state works based on implied consent when it comes to these tests. In other words, when you are issued a driving license, you automatically agree to submit to the tests. That’s why refusing them is such a big deal.

How Does An Aggravated DUI Differ From A DWI?

Some states differentiate between a DUI and a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). In such jurisdictions, a DWI is the lesser offense, but even then, it’s still a serious matter.

In California, a DUI and DWI amount to the same thing. The cause of your impaired driving - drink, drugs, tiredness, and so on - is an essential consideration in any charge, but the actual level of impairment is of far greater consequence.

How Does The Punishment For An Aggravated DUI Compare To An Ordinary DUI?

The consequences of a DUI or aggravated DUI conviction are a classic case of making the punishment fit the crime. For a regular DUI, you can expect fines, loss of driving privileges, mandatory participation in rehab programs, and even jail. For an aggravated offense, you may be looking at all of those punishments and more, including: 

  • Seizure of vehicle
  • Heftier fines
  • Longer jail terms
  • Lengthier suspensions
  • A criminal record. 

Note also that there are different punishments for drivers under 21.

Those are the real and straightforward legal ramifications of a DUI conviction. But there are many other unwelcome consequences, like higher insurance premiums, being made a social outcast, and the massive inconvenience of not being able to drive anywhere. Plus, all the added issues come with a criminal record: potential limits on travel, employment, access to certain services, and more.

Charged With Aggravated DUI? Here’s How An Experienced DUI Lawyer Can Help

Have you been charged with aggravated DUI? One option is to represent yourself, or you could choose to use a public prosecutor. However, given the seriousness of the charge, you may want to engage the services of an experienced, expert DUI lawyer. They have specific experience in this law area and will give you their undivided, personal attention. 

A specialist DUI lawyer can simply explain the legal process and even help minimize any potential penalties. But you need to act quickly, as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) deadlines to request a hearing are tight. If you don’t request a hearing, you could lose your license until your case is heard.

Top-class legal expertise is more accessible than you might think. Between free initial consultations and affordable, transparent pricing plans, legal services are more approachable than ever before. It’s well worth checking out your options, and it could even end up saving you money.


The consequences of a regular DUI conviction are rightly severe, but they’re nothing compared to what happens if you’re found guilty of an aggravated DUI. For that reason, if you’re ever charged with this offense, you need the best legal help you can get. That means employing a knowledgeable and experienced DUI lawyer. 

Image: Daniel Wirtz , The Creative Exchange

Dec 30, 2020
The Marble Team