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how to get a troubled teen back on track

Two Legal Options for Avoiding Escalating DUI Charges for Multiple Convictions

by Bernard Rice

To curb repeat offenses, states will typically stack DUI convictions over a period of time so that you are hit with increasingly severe consequences for each subsequent charge. Preventing prior charges from being considered during sentencing can reduce the consequences you face during sentencing. Here are two things that may be done to decrease or eliminate the impact of prior DUI convictions.

File a Motion to Strike Prior Charges

One option for dealing with prior convictions is to file a motion to strike them from your record. This is not the same as getting a conviction expunged. Expungement removes the crime from your record while a motion to strike simply instructs the court to disregard the prior convictions during sentencing.

Although it's typically not relevant until the end of your trial, a motion to strike must be filed at the beginning of the case. The court will then hold a hearing about the issue to determine whether to approve the motion.

To successfully win a motion-to-strike petition, you must show the previous conviction was unconstitutional. For instance, if the police forced you to have your blood drawn for chemical testing without obtaining a warrant—which the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional—your motion may be approved because the cops violated your rights during the arrest process.

You will typically be required to submit a statement about the prior DUI you want stricken to the court where you were convicted and the current prosecutor in your case. You may also be required to obtain and submit records associated with the case to the court for review. There are typically time limits for this, so it's important to begin gathering the paperwork as soon as the motion is filed.

Ask for a Bifurcated Trial

In some states, you may be subjected to increased penalties for a DUI in one case, even if a prior DUI case hasn't been settled. For example, you have an open trial for a DUI already when you are arrested a second time. The court may consider the first case to be your first offense and sentence you to increased charges in the second case, even though the first one is still ongoing.

You can prevent this from happening by requesting a bifurcated trial. Essentially, this requests that the court does not allow information from the first trial to be used in the second and vice versa. Typically, you will be granted a bifurcated trial if you can prove that not granting the motion will result in the court or jury being prejudiced against you and that you won't receive a fair trial as a result. It's important to note, though, bifurcation is usually granted at the judge's discretion, and he or she will look at several factors when making a decision, such as the severity of the charges and how long ago the arrest occurred.

For more information about these and other options for preventing prior convictions from influencing your DUI trial, contact a criminal-defense attorney.