California DUI Laws

DUI Laws in California

After you are pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DUI, you face a battle on two fronts: one in criminal court and one against the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These two processes must be managed simultaneously and with immediacy. Because they pose such a grave risk to your livelihood and your lifestyle, you need a strong and experienced advocate on your side.

It’s a pretty safe bet that at the closing hour of any bar, you might find one or two customers debating whether or not they should drive home. If it has reached the point where someone needs to ask, it’s better to just call a cab.

Some folks try to rationalize whether or not they are drunk based on the amount of food they had and the number of drinks they consumed. All the math in the world won’t save you in California if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. That is the legal definition of driving under the influence and the courts really don’t want to hear that you can “handle your liquor.”

DUI arrests are treated very seriously in California as they are in the rest of the country. As a result, you can face some extremely serious consequences if convicted of a DUI offense. No matter how many times you’ve been convicted of a DUI in California, you’ll be required to carry an SR22 restricted driver insurance policy. The SR22 policy comes with more expensive premiums and rigorous follow-up inspections.

California Misdemeanor DUI vs Felony DUI

DUI cases in California are charged as either a misdemeanor (CA Vehicle Code 23152) or a felony (California Vehicle Code section 23153). If it is your first, second, or third offense with no enhancements then you will probably be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. However, if you were involved in an accident or caused bodily injury to someone else or if it is your fourth DUI offense then you will probably be charged with felony DUI. An experienced DUI lawyer will be able to tell what the most likely charge you face will be after evaluating your particular case.

Obviously, the penalties associated with a felony DUI are far greater than those associated with a misdemeanor DUI, including bigger fines, longer license suspensions, and longer jail sentences. But it may be possible for your California DUI attorney to plea bargain your charge down from a felony to a misdemeanor. Another big difference between being charged with misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI is that if you are convicted of felony DUI and you caused bodily injury to another then you are liable to pay restitution to the victims. The amount of this restitution will be set at a separate restitution hearing and may or may not be covered by your insurance, leaving the potential for a huge settlement against you.

California DUI Penalties

A first-time DUI conviction can land you in jail for anywhere between four days and six months. You can be fined up to $1,000 and forced to complete a state-certified DUI driving program. Your license will be suspended for six months. With a second DUI conviction that occurs within 10 years of the first offense, the jail times increase to ninety days up to one year. The fine can still be $1,000 but the license suspension goes up to one year.

If you have been convicted of four or more DUIs within the last 10 years or someone other than you was injured while you were driving, you could be charged with felony DUI and face possible prison time.

For a third DUI conviction, the possible time behind bars becomes 120 days to one year with a two-year license suspension. You may also be forced to apply for a restricted driver’s license. With this type of license, you’ll be mandated to install an ignition interlock device which prevents the driver from being able to start the car if there is any alcohol in their blood system.

If a fourth DUI conviction happens within 10 years of the other convictions then you can expect to spend at least 180 days in jail and have your license suspended for four years.

Penalties for those with prior DUI convictions are as follows:

Second DUI conviction

  • Jail — 90 days to one year
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension

Third DUI conviction

  • Jail — 120 days to one year
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Three-year driver’s license revocation

Fourth or subsequent DUI conviction

  • Jail or prison for up to three years
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Four-year driver’s license revocation

While the application of penalties for a first DUI is uniform throughout California, the application of penalties for subsequent DUI convictions tends to vary by county. That is why it is so important to retain the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney.

What Is The Real Cost Of A DUI Conviction in California?

When you take into account the fines, penalty assessments, increased auto insurance premiums, and your DUI lawyer fees, the average cost of a first-offense DUI is about $10,000. This does not include any extra costs for medical bills, car damage, vehicle towing, personal injuries, loss of income, or additional penalty assessments for DUI enhancements, such as causing bodily injury to another or prior DUI convictions.

First offense California DUI costs include:

  • DUI fine: $390
  • Average penalty assessment: $666
  • Alcohol-Abuse Education Fund: $50
  • DUI school: $375
  • Blood test/breath test fee: $37
  • State Restitution Fund: $100
  • Jail Cite and Release fee: $10
  • License reissue fee: $100
  • Lawyer fees (average): $2,500
  • Car insurance increase: $2,200 x 3 years = $6,600

Total cost of DUI: $10,828

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving MADD

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device is a portable breath testing unit that is attached to a person’s car, preventing the car from being driven if the breath alcohol content of the driver is over certain preset limits – the limit usually being any alcohol at all. The device is usually fitted after a court order and their use is becoming more popular in California DUI cases.

The fitting of an IID is now mandatory on the car of someone convicted of multiple DUIs within 10 years, and while they are usually not fitted after a first offense they can be if the case had any enhancements, such as being over twice the legal limit with a BAC of 0.15% or more. Willingly submitting to having an IID fitted to your car can give your lawyer an excellent chance of reducing the other possible penalties against you and can help you to avoid jail time or higher fines.

To prevent another person from blowing into the breathalyzer machine the driver must learn certain breathing patterns so the machine can confirm it is them blowing into it. It also requires further confirmation breath tests from the driver at 15-minute intervals after the car has been started and any failed test will result in a violation being recorded and reported to the court. It is a crime for anyone else to blow into the machine for the purpose of bypassing the system.

CDL DUI Defense

When it comes to blood alcohol content, commercial drivers are held to stricter standards than drivers of passenger vehicles. A commercial driver can be charged with DUI if his or her blood alcohol content is as low as .04. This compares with a level of .08 for holders of noncommercial Class C driver’s licenses. The .04 blood alcohol level applies to commercial drivers operating noncommercial vehicles, including their personal vehicles.

In California, a commercial driver who is convicted of a first-time DUI will lose his or her commercial driver’s license (CDL) for one year. A second DUI conviction within 10 years will result in a 55-year license suspension.

If you are a commercial driver, the loss of your driving privileges would be nothing short of catastrophic. You will lose your job and even when your CDL is reinstated, you will find it difficult to obtain employment as a commercial driver again.

Sobriety Checkpoints

In recent years, police in Southern California have turned to sobriety checkpoints in the fight against drunk driving. The use of sobriety checkpoints has the advantage of minimizing or negating the effectiveness of defenses based on probable cause in many, but not all, cases.

If you were arrested on suspicion of DUI at a sobriety checkpoint, it still may be possible to overcome the charge if the police failed to follow certain procedures when setting up and operating the checkpoint.

DUI-Related License Suspensions

You have only 10 days after a DUI arrest to request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you do not make such a request, your license will be automatically suspended after 30 days.

DMV Hearing

A DUI charge in California consists of two entirely separate and independent processes, which are the criminal court process and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing. The criminal court process deals with your guilt or innocence of a criminal act whereas the DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding regarding the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges. You must request your DMV hearing within 10 days of the date of your California DUI arrest. When you were released from custody after your DUI arrest you will have received a pink notice of suspension and a temporary driver’s license (DMV Form DS-367).

Having a competent DUI attorney represent you at this DMV hearing significantly increases your chances of reinstating your driving license because at this stage your driving license has already been suspended. Your driving license was revoked at the scene by the arresting officer and you were issued a temporary license when you were released from custody. You or your lawyer must request your DMV hearing within 10 days of the date on the pink suspension notice. Otherwise, when your temporary driver’s license expires in 30 days, you won’t be allowed to drive for the time period up until the conclusion of your DUI case which could possibly be months, even if you are not guilty.

To request your DMV hearing you or your lawyer must provide your name, driver’s license number, date of the suspension notice, and information on whether you took or refused a blood or breath alcohol test. You can also request for the hearing to be done in person or over the phone. If you decide to use a DUI lawyer then it is a good idea to contact them before you request the hearing, which will usually take place 30-45 days after your request. The act of requesting the DMV hearing means that your temporary driver’s license is extended until after the hearing. It is important for you to realize that the DMV Hearing Officer in charge of the hearing takes the role of prosecutor and it is his intention to take punitive action against you. And unlike in the criminal court process for California DUI cases, if you do not have a DUI attorney to represent you the DMV will not appoint one for you and you will be at their mercy.

Not having a qualified California DUI lawyer represent you is a wasted opportunity to examine and object to certain evidence, such as the chain of custody of your blood sample or some other technical aspect of your case that might give grounds for a solid DUI defense. of the time the DMV Hearing Officer won’t make an immediate decision after the hearing and you will be informed by mail of his decision up to 2 weeks later. A temporary driver’s license will be extended until the hearing officer’s final decision.

To request an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing after a DUI charge you must contact one of 12 DMV Driver Safety Office

California Underage DUI Laws

There is a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving in California. A person under the age of 21 cannot legally drive if they have a Blood Alcohol Content BAC of 0.01% or higher, as opposed to the 0.08% limit for adults. Those under the age of 21 must also submit to field sobriety tests, including the roadside breathalyzer test, PAS, if instructed to do so by a California police officer who suspects them of having any alcohol whatsoever in their system.

There are many restrictions for California drivers who are under the legal drinking age. If you are under 21 you are not allowed to drive alone with any kind of liquor in your car. The legal BAC limit for drivers under the age of 21 is .01 or higher. There is a zero-tolerance law in place for drivers under the age of 18. This means for them that any BAC level can lead to a DUI conviction.

The driver’s license suspension period for someone under the age of 21 who has a BAC of 0.01% or higher can be 1 year even if it is their first offense, making the suspension penalties much harsher than for adults who may have a higher BAC. It is especially important to retain the services of an experienced DUI attorney in an underage DUI case.

If the person under the age of 21 has a BAC of over 0.01% but under 0.05% the offense will usually be charged as a civil violation but if their BAC is over 0.08% they will be charged with a criminal offense.

A driver convicted of DUI with a BAC of 0.01% or more, who is under 18 years of age, will lose their driver’s license for 1 year or until they reach the age of 18, whichever is greater. And minors who are between the ages of 13-20 and who are convicted of any alcohol-related offense will have their driving privileges delayed for one year, even if the offense was not driving-related.

California DUI Implied Consent Law

By driving in California you have automatically given your “implied consent” to submit to a chemical blood, breath, or urine test if a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If you refuse to take a chemical test then the police are allowed to forcibly take a blood sample from you and your driving license will be suspended for at least one year. Refusal to take a chemical test at the police station after you have been arrested counts as a DUI enhancement and will incur additional penalties to the standard DUI charge. Do not confuse the chemical test after you have been arrested, which you must take, with the field sobriety tests done at the roadside before you have been arrested, which you have the right to refuse to participate in. This includes the roadside breathalyzer test, PAS, which you may refuse to take as long as you are not on probation and are over the age of 21.

If you are suspected of drunk driving then you have the right to choose between a blood test or a breathalyzer test after you have been transported to the police station. If you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs then you have the right to choose between a blood test and a urine test, but if the particular arresting agency does not support urine analysis for drugs then you must take the blood test.

California Boating & DUI

Boating under the influence, BUI in California is considered to be just as serious an offense as drunk driving. You can be pulled over and arrested for BUI on any California county lake, river, or waterway, including San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The legal limit for your Blood Alcohol Content BAC is the same for DUI which is 0.08%. The penalties for BUI are similar to drunk driving penalties and include fines, compulsory attendance at DUI/BUI programs, jail time, and loss of driving privileges. BUI charges can also be used as prior convictions for any future DUI convictions that you may get, meaning an increase in fines and enhanced penalties.

Drunk boating cases can sometimes be harder for the prosecution to prove when there is more than one person on the boat because they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged with operating the boat with a BAC of 0.08% or higher was actually operating it. It is very easy to walk away from the driving position in a boat and swap places with somebody else on the boat, and it is normal for several people on a boat to take turns at the controls. A competent DUI lawyer may, for instance, be able to get your BUI charge reduced to serving as a crew member while under the influence.

California Zero Tolerance for Repeat Offenders

California’s zero-tolerance laws extend to repeat offenders. If a person is on prohibition for a DUI conviction and is arrested once again for driving under the influence then their BAC only needs to be .01 or higher. That’s basically what you would get with one beer and that can mean an automatic second or third DUI conviction with all the penalties they would carry.

California DUI Expungement

If you do get convicted of drunk driving in California, it is still possible to remove that conviction from your record at a later date by a process called DUI expungement. This can help you to pass something like a background check for a new job, and you won’t have to declare your DUI conviction on a job application. The expungement process can start when you have fulfilled all of the penalties of the DUI and all of the conditions of probation. As long as you are not on probation for a new offense you are allowed to withdraw your guilty plea and instead enter a not-guilty plea. Or if you already pled not guilty and were found to be guilty the court will set aside the guilty verdict and dismiss the accusations against you.

This results in the dismissal of the case against you. This dismissal gives you the right to not declare your DUI conviction when, for instance, applying for a job but your DUI conviction does not completely disappear from your rap sheet and will be visible to law enforcement agencies and other government agencies. Also, you must still declare your DUI conviction on certain government-issued license applications such as a bus driver’s license, teacher, real estate sales license, etc. Your DUI conviction also remains on your record for the purposes of being used as a prior conviction for any future offenses that you might commit.

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