Arrested for DUI? Our team of DUI / DWI defense lawyers specializes in handling DUI/DWI cases. Below are detailed DUI Penalties & getting DUI Dismissed.
People arrested for DUI get charged with both these crimes:
Driving with a BAC of .04% or higher is illegal if you have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) or if you are on DUI probation. If you are under 21, driving with any BAC is illegal.
It is also unlawful to drive under the influence of drugs in violation of Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, be they prescription drugs, over-the-counter meds, or illegal narcotics.
Most DUIs are misdemeanors, they become felonies if:
This chart provides a basic summary of DUI penalties in California:
|Type of California DUI||Jail/Prison Sentence||Fine||Ignition interlock device (IID) period||DUI School|
|1st offense misdemeanor DUI||Up to 6 months in county jail||$390-1000||6 months (the IID is usually not mandatory for a first-time DUI, but with no IID the DMV would suspend your license for 4 months; after 30 days, you could get a restricted license allowing you to drive to and from work for 5 months)||3 or 9 months|
|2nd offense misdemeanor DUI||96 hours to 1 year in county jail||$390-1000||1 year (if you choose not to get an IID, the license suspension period is 2 years; after 1 year, you can get a restricted license allowing you to drive to and from work for 1 year)||18 or 30 months (SB 38)|
|3rd offense misdemeanor DUI||120 days to 1 year in county jail||$390-1000||2 years (if you choose not to get an IID, the license suspension period will be 3 years)||30 months|
|DUI with injury (misdemeanor)||5 days to 1 year in county jail||$390-5000, plus restitution to injured parties||6 months (if you choose not to get an IID, the license suspension period will be 1 year)||3, 18 or 30 months|
|1st offense DUI with injury (felony)||16 months to 16 years in state prison||$1015-5000, plus restitution to injured parties||1 year||18 or 30 months|
|Felony DUI||16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison||$390-1000||up to 5 years of driver’s license suspension||18 or 30 months|
Your insurance rates will also increase substantially.
Based on the chart above, consequences and penalties of a DUI conviction get more serious with each successive DUI conviction that takes place within a ten-year period.
This ten-year timeframe is otherwise known as a “washout” or “lookback” period and also includes:
We will provide a comprehensive guide to the various laws, penalties, and sentences that may be imposed in connection with DUI offenses by addressing the following:
When you are convicted of DUI in California for the first time, the potential penalties for a first-offense DUI are as follows:
Please note that once you are arrested for any California drunk driving offense, you only have ten days to request a DMV hearing “admin per se” hearing from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. This request postpones your license suspension until the resolution of the administrative per se hearing and may even result in your license suspension being set aside.
If you hire a California attorney within that ten-day period, they can
The consequences of a second California DUI conviction within ten years include:
California’s punishment for a third drunk driving conviction within ten years can include:
Drunk driving causing injury under Vehicle Code 23153 VC is a “wobbler,” which means that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on
If you are convicted of drunk driving where a person other than yourself suffered an injury, you are subject to the following under California law:
California felony DUI is typically charged if you acquire four or more DUI convictions within a ten-year period. The criminal court penalties for felony DUI may include:
California DUIs that result in death are sentenced very differently. Penalties for these offenses may lead to
(Note that Los Angeles County prosecutors are no longer increasing sentences based on prior strikes.
Ride-sharing drivers can be convicted of DUI for driving with a BAC of only 0.04% or higher whenever you are transporting a passenger. It does not matter if you are being safe and feel unimpaired.
If there is no “passenger for hire” in your car, then the standard 0.08% BAC limit applies.
If you are found asleep in the driver’s seat with the car on, police will certainly arrest you for DUI if they believe you are under the influence or have an illegal BAC.
If you are found asleep in the driver’s seat with the car off – or you are found asleep in the backseat with the car on – some police will arrest you on the theory that you were still “operating the vehicle.”
If you are found asleep in the backseat with the car off, you have the best chances of escaping DUI charges unless there is evidence you were driving drunk prior to parking, and that you fell asleep to “sober up.”
In California, the same DUI laws that govern cars and motorcycles also apply to most motorized or electric bikes. Therefore, drunk e-biking is punished the same as drunk driving an automobile.
For non-motorized/non-electric bikes, drunk biking is a California misdemeanor carrying up to $250 in fines and no jail. Cycling under the influence will not cause your driver’s license to get suspended unless you are under 21 years old.
You do not have to consent to a breath or blood test, and biking with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is not per se illegal.
E-scooting under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a California misdemeanor carrying up to $250 in fines, no jail, and no driver’s license suspension. You do not have to consent to a breath or blood test, and e-scooting with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is not per se illegal.
It is a California crime to boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. As a misdemeanor, BUI carries up to $1,000 in fines and/or six months in jail. It should not affect your driver’s license.
When California courts impose a DUI sentence that includes probation, the following conditions are always included in addition to the criminal penalties described above:
Depending on the circumstances, the following conditions of DUI probation may be imposed:
Violation of these terms can result in the consequences associated with a DUI probation violation.
If you are on probation for a DUI and get arrested for a new one, the criminal court judge may revoke your probation and remand you to jail to serve your suspended jail sentence. However, you are entitled to a probation revocation hearing where you can argue that you deserve a second chance or did not commit another DUI.
Meanwhile, the DMV will suspend your license if you commit a DUI while on probation for a prior DUI:
|APS action violation||Length of suspension by the DMV|
|Your BAC is at least 0.01% according to a PAS or chemical test||1 year|
|You refused to take a PAS or chemical test||2 years|
|You refused a PAS or chemical test, plus you have two or more prior DUI convictions||3 years|
If you committed more than one APS action, the suspensions will run concurrently.
There are aggravating factors that, if present at the time you are arrested for driving under the influence, will increase your county jail or state prison sentence. The most common of these include:
What type of enhanced penalty you receive for any of these aggravating factors will depend on:
Note that if you are a commercial driver, a first-time DUI will trigger a one-year CDL suspension. A subsequent DUI in 10 years will trigger a permanent revocation. These harsh penalties reflect the importance of commercial drivers being safe since they carry large loads, and any accident could be fatal.
In many cases, we can convince prosecutors to reduce your DUI charge down to one of the following reckless driving charges:
Note that if you plead to a wet reckless and pick up a new DUI later on, the wet reckless would be considered an “aggravating factor” and increase your DUI penalties.
In California, DUI stops occur when police observe you driving erratically, show up at the scene of an accident, or stop you at a checkpoint. The encounter usually proceeds as follows:
Once you are arrested for DUI, you are presumed to have given your “implied consent” to an evidentiary breath test or blood test. Though if the officers suspect you of DUI of drugs, you have to take the blood test since the breath test detects only alcohol.
If you refuse to take a breath or blood test, the police officer will inform you that:
Refusing a breath or blood test also triggers a license suspension, the length of which turns on whether you have any prior DUIs in the last 10 years:
If you are under 21 and refuse to take a PAS test, these same suspension periods apply.
Note that you can take a urine test instead of a blood test if you have hemophilia or are on anticoagulant medication from a coronary condition. Or in the event no breath- or blood tests are available, you would have to take a urine test.
After your arrest, the officer will take your license and give you a “notice of suspension or revocation” form notifying you that you have only 10 days to request a DMV hearing by contacting your local Driver Safety Office. The officer will also give you a temporary license valid for 30 days; though if you request a DMV hearing in time, the temporary license remains valid pending the hearing results.
Meanwhile, the officer sends a copy of your “notice of suspension or revocation” form – as well as your license and a sworn police report – to the DMV for them to investigate your case.
There is a chance that the DMV’s initial review of your case will show that there is no basis to suspend your license, at which point they will notify you in writing that your case is set aside and that you can reclaim your license at a DMV field office. Though in most cases, the DMV will find that there was sufficient evidence that you were DUI and should have your license suspended.
Due process requires that you have the opportunity to attend a DMV hearing to contest your license suspension. If you waive your right to a hearing or end up losing the hearing, the DMV will impose the suspension.
Depending on the facts of your case, there are many possible ways to attack drunk/drugged driving charges in California. Potential defenses and mitigating factors include:
Typical evidence in these cases includes eyewitnesses, expert forensic witnesses, split blood testing, accident reconstruction experts, and video surveillance.
Note that it is not a defense that you had no intention of driving drunk. This is because DUI is a “general intent” crime rather than a “specific intent” crime.
The long-term fallout of having a DUI extends far beyond any criminal penalties. Having a DUI on your record could keep you from getting
In some circumstances, a DUI can even cause immigrants to be deported – especially if there were drugs involved or child passengers.
Furthermore, a DUI remains on your driving record for a decade. Plus it puts two points on your license: That means your license will get suspended if you pick up only two more points in one year. (Learn more about negligent operator points and habitual traffic offenders.)
When facing a DUI charge, hiring an experienced DUI attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Here are some reasons why it is beneficial to have legal representation:
If you are facing a DUI charge, it is essential to consult with an experienced DUI attorney who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances.
In addition to paying the applicable fees, you also have to purchase a Form SR-22 from your insurance company. A Form SR-22 serves as your “proof of financial responsibility” that you carry at least the minimum required auto insurance:
Note that you must maintain your SR-22 for at least three years.
The reissue fee is normally $125. However, if you were under 21 and prosecuted under California’s Zero Tolerance law, the reissue fee is $100.
Learn more in our article: DMV Suspended License Reinstatement – How to do it.
For detailed instructions on your restricted license options if your license gets suspended, refer to the official DMV information fliers:
Note that second-time DUI offenders have to show proof that they enrolled in a DUI treatment program, obtain FR-44 insurance, and pay a $100 reissue fee one year into the suspension. Meanwhile, third-time (or subsequent) DUI offenders are not eligible for a restricted license.
If you have a CDL (commercial driver’s license), you have to downgrade to a Class C noncommercial DL to get a restricted license. However, if you were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI and you pay a reissue fee of $125, you can get a restricted license to drive for work after a 30-day suspension.
“Alternative” sentencing options are alternatives to a county jail or California State Prison sentence for a drunk driving conviction. When imposed in connection with California DUI penalties, these sentencing alternatives may include:
Lawyers who do not specialize in drunk driving defense may not even know that these sentencing alternatives exist–and if they do, they may not know the most effective ways to convince the prosecutor and/or judge to agree to them.
This is just one reason why it is so important to hire specifically a drunk driving defense lawyer to defend your California drunk driving case and help you minimize your penalties.
Each DUI arrest triggers a criminal case and an entirely separate DMV case – called Administrative Per Se (APS).
The criminal case determines your guilt and potentially carries fines and jail; in contrast the DMV case has a very narrow focus, which is whether you get to keep your license.
If you have a DMV hearing, only three issues are up for discussion:
If you refused to take a chemical test, then only four issues are up for discussion:
Since the criminal case is separate from the DMV case, you can win one and still lose the other. Though if your DMV case results in your license being suspended – but you end up being acquitted of DUI in the criminal case – the DMV will lift the suspension.
Note that if your DUI charge merely gets reduced to reckless driving, your license suspension would stand.
The Law Office of Shaffer Cormell is dedicated to providing aggressive criminal defense representation to working professionals who have found themselves in trouble with the law. We show up to win, and we’re not afraid to fight aggressively to accomplish our client’s goals.
As one of the best criminal defense Lawyers in California, we have the resources and experience to handle even the most complex cases. Our experienced team examines various aspects of your case and, perhaps most importantly, we genuinely care about our clients and their future. We take the time to learn about their goals and priorities so that we can achieve an outcome that allows them to move past their mistakes and focus on the future they want. When you work with us, you become part of our team.
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