The first thing you should do when you are facing DUI charges in Bonsall is to hire an experienced Bonsall DUI attorney. The San Diego DUI Attorney law firm will help you understand the complex DUI process so that you are informed about the exact charges you are facing, and the criminal and administrative penalties you may face. The counsel you get from your lawyer will keep you at ease and prepared for the court proceedings. Here is everything you need to know about DUI charges and related issues in California. 

An Overview of DUI Offenses

DUI refers to operating a vehicle with a BAC level that exceeds the legal limits for California motorists. The legal limit is .08%  for all motorists. This limit varies for commercial drivers and underage drivers. For commercial drivers, BAC levels should not exceed .04% or .01% for underage drivers.

You have also violated California's DUI laws if you drive while impaired, to any extent, by alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. Impairment under DUI laws means your physical and mental capabilities have been affected by alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs), and you cannot function or reason as a sober person would in similar circumstances.

For example, if you take medication that causes drowsiness, then drive a car, then you are driving under the influence of this drug. You may be unable to see the road clearly, which exposes you and other motorists to danger.

California has strict DUI laws that include harsh penalties for DUI offenders. Subsequent offenders get harsher criminal and administrative penalties. You get criminal penalties after a conviction, but administrative penalties such as license suspension are given after you are charged with a DUI. The state also enforces Zero Tolerance Laws to prohibit underage drunk driving. In addition, California also has a look-back period of ten years, which means that the consequences for each offense increase with subsequent offenses.

Misdemeanor DUI

In California, first, second, and third DUI offenses are misdemeanors in the absence of mitigating or aggravating circumstances such as injury or death.

A First DUI Offense means you have no prior offenses within the last ten years. Some of the penalties you can face include:

  • Summary probation of between three and five years
  • A maximum jail term of six months in county jail
  • Fines of up to $1000
  • A mandatory drug/ alcohol education program for a period of three to nine months
  • You may also get a suspended or restricted license, or be required to install an IID for up to six months

When you are convicted of a Second DUI Offense, the penalties include:

  • Summary probation of between three and five years
  • Fines between $390 and $1000
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A license suspension of up to two years
  • A mandatory requirement to attend a DUI school for 18 to 30 months
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for one year

A Third DUI Offense within ten years of the first misdemeanor offense has stiffer penalties, which may include:

  • Between 120 days and one year in county jail
  • Misdemeanor probation of three to five years
  • Fines between $390 and $1000. The flies can be as high as $2000 as you will pay additional court assessment fees
  • Attending a court-approved DUI program for 30 months
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for two years
  • Designation as a habitual traffic offender

Your Bonsall DUI Attorney will help you in defending yourself in court to have the charges reduced or dismissed. For example, they will request for probation instead of jail term, a restricted license instead of a suspended license, among others, which will allow you to proceed with your life.

Felony DUI

DUI offenses are usually convicted as a misdemeanor unless the following circumstances are present:

  • Three prior DUI offenses within ten years of the first offense
  • DUI caused death or injury to another person
  • You have a prior felony DUI conviction

Felony DUI has harsher penalties, including longer prison terms and higher fines. Let’s explore some circumstances that could lead to felony DUI charges:

  1. DUI With Injury or Death

A DUI with injury means that you not only violated the drunk driving laws but committed another driving crime too. The crimes could include driving under the influence and causing injury, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or second-degree murder.

If you merely caused injury (VC 23513), the prosecution must show that:

  • You were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You acted negligently when driving under the influence
  • You negligent actions resulted in the injury of other motorists or pedestrians

The penalties include:

  • Mandatory installation of an IID
  • two, three, or four years in California state prison
  • Fines of between $1000 and $5000
  • Mandatory attendance of a court-approved DUI program for 18-30 months
  • Registration as a habitual traffic offender for three years
  • An additional sentence of three to six years if you caused great bodily injury, and one additional year for every person that suffered injury.
  • A strike if any other person apart from you suffers great bodily injury
  • Your license is revoked for five years

A seasoned Bonsall DUI Attorney can convince the court to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor DUI with injury depending on the circumstances of your case. As a misdemeanor,  the penalties and sentencing are less harsh, and may include:

  • Summary probation of between three and five years
  • A county jail term of between five days and one year
  • Fines of up to $5,000 in addition to paying victim restitution
  • Mandatory attendance of a court-approved drug/alcohol class for three, nine, eighteen or thirty months
  • Install an IID for at least six months after which you can drive on a restricted license
  • License suspension of between one and three years
  1. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (PC 191.5)

This offense occurs when you drive while intoxicated, resulting in the unpremeditated murder of another person.

The prosecution must prove the following elements for you to be convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter:

  • You drove while under the influence
  • You committed another misdemeanor or infraction while driving under the influence (It could also include a lawful act that is likely to cause death)
  • You acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence implies actions that are careless beyond the ordinary. For example, driving above the speed limit when traffic is heavy is a grossly negligent act.
  • Your actions resulted in death.

The penalties for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while intoxicated include:

  • A state prison sentence of either 4, 6, or 10 years
  • Formal probation
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • License revocation for three years
  • 15 years to life in state prison if you have any prior Vehicular Manslaughter convictions

Your Bonsall DUI attorney can challenge the evidence of the prosecution with a well-prepared defense strategy. If the defense is successful, you can be charged for a less serious crime of Vehicular Manslaughter while intoxicated. 

Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated is a violation of PC 191.5(b). It is charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to up to one year in county jail. When charged as a felony, you can be sentenced to 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison.

  1. Second Degree Murder/ Watson Murder (PC 187)

You are guilty of second-degree murder if the prosecution can prove that you acted with implied malice by driving under the influence and causing death. It is a more serious charge than Vehicular Manslaughter. With legal representation from an experienced Bonsall DUI Attorney, the charges can be reduced to ordinary Vehicular Manslaughter. The penalties for Watson murder may include:

  • Fifteen years to life in a state prison
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • A strike on your record
  • Additional penalties in case some surviving victims suffered injury
  1. DUI Felony for Multiple Convictions

If you have more than three misdemeanor convictions within ten years, you automatically get a Felony DUI for Multiple Convictions. The penalties in this case include:

  • 180 days in county jail or a state prison sentence of 16 months, two or three years
  • Fines between $390 and $1,000
  • Probation between 3 and five years
  • Mandatory court-approved DUI classes for 30 months
  • Revocation of your driver’s license for four years
  • Registration as a habitual traffic offender for four years

The judge may increase your sentence if there are aggravating circumstances, such as:

  • DUI with a suspended, revoked or restricted license
  • DUI with a minor (aged 15 or less)
  • Multiple DUIs within ten years
  • DUI with a BAC level of .15% or higher
  • Refusing to take a breath test
  • DUI with multiple injuries or death
  • DUI with excessive speed
  • Reckless driving while under the influence
  • DUI causing damage to property

Underage DUI

California has Zero Tolerance Laws for underage drunk driving. The legal BAC limit for drivers aged below 21 is .01%, meaning even the slightest alcohol will be detected.

The penalties for Underage DUI are equally strict. They may include:

  • License suspension for one year for the first offense
  • License suspension for two to three years for habitual offenders
  • You can also be charged under standard misdemeanor and felony DUIs
  • You may pay a fine $100 for a first DUI offense with a BAC of .05% or higher and be required to attend an alcohol education program if you are between 18 and 21

Commercial DUI

Commercial DUI laws in California prohibit commercial drivers from driving with a BAC level of .04% or higher. In addition, as a commercial driver, you are held under certain regulations that dictate how you are to behave when driving a commercial vehicle. You will lose your commercial driver's license for one year when:

  • You drive with a BAC of .04% or higher
  • You drive a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any controlled substance
  • You refuse to take a BAC test
  • You commit a felony while operating a commercial vehicle
  • You operate a commercial vehicle with a suspended or revoked license

If you commit the above offenses while transporting hazardous materials, you get a license suspension of three years.

Your commercial driver's license can be suspended for life for second convictions or when you commit a felony with a controlled substance.

We advise you to contact a DUI attorney who will help you recover your commercial driver's license, avoid a conviction, or have the charges dismissed.

Whenever the penalty for a DUI includes either a jail or prison sentence or probation, your attorney can request for probation instead of imprisonment. California also allows DUI offenders to have their criminal records expunged, or felony charges reduced to misdemeanors. When your criminal record is expunged, it is legal to say that you were never convicted.

DUI Administrative Penalties

The California Department of Motor Vehicles gives administrative penalties to offenders of DUI laws. Most of these penalties include license restriction, suspension, and revocation. 

The DMV gives out these penalties as soon as you are arrested for a traffic violation, regardless of whether you are convicted or not.

License Suspension

The arresting officer confiscates your driver's license as soon as he or she arrests you for a DUI offense. In its place, you get a temporary license that also serves as notice of suspension. 

You are supposed to contact a DUI Attorney who will assist you in requesting an administrative hearing within the ten-day window.

The hearing gives you a chance to justify why your license should be restored. Your lawyer will help you avoid a suspension or get a restricted license and install an ignition interlock device. A restricted license allows you to drive to work or school.

SR-22 Insurance

SR-22 is a form of insurance that high-risk drivers should maintain. You become a high-risk driver when convicted of a DUI, you have a suspended license, you cause an accident while driving an uninsured vehicle, or you do not pay parking tickets.

SR-22 insurance usually has high premium rates and serves to show the driver's financial responsibility. Once you maintain the insurance for three years, you can then request for a restricted license. A DUI attorney can help you get SR-22 insurance and restore your driving privileges.

Restricted License

The arresting officer either revokes or suspends your license at the time of your arrest. He or she will issue you with a temporary license that is valid for thirty days. Once the thirty day period elapses, you cannot continue driving until the revocation period ends.

However, if you request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest, your temporary license will be valid until the conclusion of the DMV hearings.

If you win the DMV hearings, your driving rights are restored. When you lose, then you can install an Ignition Interlock Device that immediately qualifies you for a restricted license. Your license may still be suspended if the court convicts you for a DUI. After the conviction, install an IID then apply for a restricted license.

Commercial drivers cannot get a restricted license for operating commercial vehicles. A commercial driver can only get a restricted license for a non-commercial car.

You do not qualify for a restricted license if you:

  • Refused a chemical test
  • Are below 21
  • Are on probation for a DUI

The requirements for applying for a restricted license include:

  • SR-22 insurance to show proof of financial responsibility
  • A $125 fee for re-issuance of a driver's license
  • Proof of enrollment in a drug/alcohol program
  • You install an IID for one year if it is your second DUI offense or serve the one-year license suspension period

 Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device is a miniature Breathalyzer that is installed on the steering column of a car. It prevents the car from starting if it detects alcohol in your breath.

It is an advanced mechanism that enables the courts to keep track of DUI offenders. Installing an IID is both an administrative and a criminal penalty for DUI violations. The device requires you to submit a breath sample before you start driving and randomly as you drive. It submits a log of your results to the court.

Only the driver should breathe into the device. Asking someone to give the samples on your behalf is fraudulent.

The IID keeps track of all engine starts and stops, breath test results, and attempts to tamper with the results. You also have to service the IID every two months.

While an IID might feel intrusive in your car, it is better than having your license suspended. Your DUI attorney will give you the relevant legal advice on how to conduct yourself while you are driving with an IID.

Find a San Diego DUI Lawyer Near Me

The representation of a qualified DUI attorney makes a big difference in the outcome of your case. The San Diego DUI Attorney specializes in handling DUI and related charges. We know the common pitfalls in DUI prosecutions and can leverage these weaknesses to your benefit. If you or your loved one is facing DUI charges, contact our Bonsall DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150 for consultation.