California DUI Laws

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 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 seriously 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 a SR22 restricted driver insurance policy. The SR22 policy comes with more expensive premiums and rigorous follow up inspections.

California DUI Convictions

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 are 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.

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.

California Underage DUI Laws

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.

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.

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