A DUI offense in San Diego is a complex charge that contains many different elements. Each case (and its surrounding circumstances) is unique. Indeed, the charges you may face, as well as any associated penalties, will be determined by the circumstances of your arrest.

A first time DUI offense can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. That is why you should always consult a DUI lawyer if you’ve been charged with a DUI offense. San Diego DUI Attorney is a professional team of lawyers ready to help you navigate through a first offense DUI charge.

Defining a DUI Charge 

A DUI is a charge based on an impaired ability to drive. In California, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense that comes with stiff penalties. This is due to the number of accidents and fatalities that occur as a result of impaired driving.

A DUI charge in San Diego consists of two main elements:

  1. Driving Under the Influence 

Perhaps the most common DUI offense you may be aware of is driving under the influence. It refers to operating a vehicle in a state of impaired judgment as a result of consuming drugs/alcohol.

With this charge, it doesn’t matter if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08. If an officer determines that your current state of judgment is insufficient to operate a vehicle safely, you may be charged with driving under the influence.

  1. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 or Higher 

The second component of a DUI offense is driving with a blood alcohol level that is above the legal limit. In San Diego, the legal limit for driving with alcohol in your system is 0.08. If a blood or breath test shows that you were driving at or above this limit, you may be charged with a DUI offense.

A first offense DUI is considered a misdemeanor with both administrative and criminal penalties. There may be extenuating circumstances that can aggravate the DUI charge to a criminal offense. For example, the following circumstances can result in stiffer penalties and/or jail time if convicted.

  • Having a BAC of 0.15 or higher
  • If your DUI caused an accident, injury, or death to occur
  • Speeding while driving under the influence (speeds of 20MPH above the speed limit can particularly result in stiffer penalties and/or jail time)
  • Refusing to be subjected to a blood or breath test after being arrested
  • Driving without a license at the time of arrest
  • An underage person (under 21) driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood
  • Having a passenger under 14 years old when arrested for a DUI

Causing serious injury or death while driving will subject you to a felony charge along with the DUI offense. If it's your first time being charged with a DUI, it can be confusing to know where to start. Each case is unique, and many different variables can work in your favor or against your case.

With San Diego DUI Attorney by your side, we can use our experience to navigate the law and ensure that your DUI charge is fair and legal.

Establishing Probable Cause

When the prosecution is charging you for a DUI offense, they must first establish probable cause for pulling you over. Indeed, California law states that an officer needs to have a specific reason for stopping you while driving. Because most DUI cases begin with a traffic stop, the officer should be able to explain why they pulled you over.

A regular traffic violation can be probable cause for being pulled over. For example, any of the following violations can give an officer enough reason to stop you.

  • A broken tail light
  • Failing to follow road signs
  • An expired registration
  • Speeding

There must be sufficient evidence to suggest that the traffic stop was valid and it occurred as a result of you breaking a specific traffic rule. If this cannot be established, the resulting evidence related to the DUI charge can be suppressed.

In addition, for a DUI charge to be considered valid, the prosecution must show probable cause to suggest the driver may have been impaired. An officer cannot assume that you were driving under the influence. They must show specific evidence that may have caused them to believe you were in an impaired state. Such evidence includes:

  • Smell or presence of alcohol in the vehicle
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooping, red, or watery eyes along with other erratic behavior

An officer may then subject you to a field sobriety test to determine if you’re driving under the influence. The important thing to note here is an officer merely assuming that you’re driving under the influence is not sufficient grounds for a conviction. There must be adequate evidence justifying the stop and suggesting that your judgment was impaired while driving. 

What Happens After Being Arrested? 

After being arrested for a first offense DUI, your license was probably confiscated, and you were issued with a pink piece of paper. This paper is an "Order of Suspension and Temporary License”, also called an “Admin Per Se.” It is issued to show that you’ve been charged with a DUI offense, and you can only drive temporarily for a period of 30 days (from the date it was issued) as you wait for your case to go to trial.

To receive an Admin Per Se, your license must have been valid on the date it was issued, and your driving privileges must not have been suspended at the time the charge occurred.

You may choose to contest your license suspension with the DMV in order to retain your driving privileges during the trial process. You will have 10 days (inclusive of weekends) to schedule a hearing with the DMV. Your driving privileges will remain valid until the DMV hearing is complete. During the hearing, the main issues that will be of focus include the following.

  • Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?
  • Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you for a DUI?
  • Did the officer provide enough information regarding a refusal to do a breath/blood test?
  • Did you accept or refuse to do a blood test?

The DMV hearing may provide valuable insights into your overall DUI charge. If any flaws are identified in your case, they may help mitigate the charges presented against you for a DUI offense. You will also be able to retain your driving privileges throughout the duration of the case. Make sure you consult a lawyer to represent you when planning to appear before the DMV.

If You’re Taken to A Police Station 

In some cases, you may be taken to the police station for booking and administration of a chemical test. This most often occurs if you decline to take a field sobriety test or if there are extenuating circumstances around your arrest (such as causing injury/death as a result of the DUI). If you’ve been placed under arrest, you will be required to submit to a breath and/or blood test at the police station.

After testing, you may be released on the same or next day and required to appear in court for arraignment. In cases where you’ve also been charged with a felony, you may remain at the station until presentation before a judge. The law stipulates that you must see a judge within 48 hours. You will most likely be entitled to bail, which the judge will set the conditions for when presented in court.

License Suspension 

When you’re charged with a first time DUI in San Diego, your license will be confiscated. As previously stated, you will receive an Admin Per Se and have a 10-day window to contest the suspension with the DMV. If you lose the contest or you choose not to appear before the DMV, your license is automatically suspended for 4 months to a year (pending the outcome of your trial).

That is why it’s so important to have an experienced DUI attorney by your side if you’ve been charged with a first time DUI. An attorney can help you prepare your case before the DMV by navigating the law and pointing out any misgivings surrounding your arrest.

Penalties for a DUI in San Diego 

If you're convicted of a DUI for the first time, you may have fines, penalties, and possible jail time (in more severe cases). The law stipulates the following penalties for first time DUI offenders.

  • A fine of between $380- $2000 (inclusive of penalty assessments)
  • Attendance and completion of an alcohol/drug program (with a period of between 3-9 months)
  • License suspension of 6 months- 1 year
  • A license restriction for only driving to and from work, or to and from your DUI program
  • A 48-hour jail sentence (can be extended to between 6months-1 year in county jail under certain circumstances)
  • Possible probation

As a first time offender, the severity of these penalties may be less if no extenuating circumstances are surrounding your case. For example, if you caused no bodily injury and weren't speeding at the time of arrest, your penalties may be less severe. 

Specific penalties vary on a case-by-case basis, based on any extenuating circumstances involved. For example, having a BAC of 0.15 or higher, causing property damage or personal injury, and being a minor at the time of the offense can lead to stiffer penalties. If you refused to take an alcohol test upon being arrested, the DMV will automatically suspend your license for a year (for the first refusal). Subsequent refusals may result on longer suspensions.

You may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle following a DUI offense. This device prevents your vehicle from starting if it detects a certain level of alcohol in your breath. Installing an IID may be required in cases where your BAC was 0.15 or higher, you refused to take a chemical test, or you had prior traffic or criminal violations. 

How San Diego DUI Attorney Can Help  

San Diego (and the state of California as a whole) takes DUI offenses very seriously. Even a first time DUI offense can interfere with your personal and professional life in many different ways. You may be subjected to hefty fines, loss of your license, and interruption of your regular schedule. If you’ve been charged with a first time DUI, your top priority is to avoid a conviction. Only an experienced and qualified attorney can help you navigate the law and mount a credible defense.

How can we help your case? There are many different elements the prosecution will have to prove in order to convict you of a DUI. If they fail in any of the following factors, we can use it as a line of defense to argue your case.

  1. False Positives 

We can help establish if your alcohol test reading was inaccurate. Indeed, certain diet and health conditions can cause a false positive to occur. We can work every angle regarding your chemical test to ensure that it was accurate.

  1. Lack of Probable Cause 

If an officer didn’t have probable cause to pull you over in the first place, we can use that to suppress the DUI charges.

  1. An Illegal DUI Check

If the police had set up a DUI checkpoint, they must adhere to specific procedures. Any violations can be used as an avenue for defense in your case.

  1. A Violation of Title 17

If evidence related to blood and breath samples was collected or stored inaccurately, it might not be admissible in court. Proper procedure must be followed at all times.

Contacting an Attorney for a First Offense DUI Near Me

At San Diego DUI Attorney, we have 61 years of combined experience and a client satisfaction rate of over 98%. We have experience in handling first time DUI and criminal defense cases in San Diego, Vista, Oceanside, Chula Vista, and other surrounding areas.

We can reduce your likelihood of being convicted of a first time DUI offense (or your risk of facing hefty penalties as a result of a conviction). Have you been charged with a first time DUI in San Diego? Call our San Diego DUI Defense Attorney at 619-535-7150 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.