Driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs is an offense in California that is severely punished. A person found guilty of a DUI offense may face jail time or fines, among other penalties or consequences. The punishments for this offense, however, depend on whether the defendant has a prior DUI on their record. Or if anyone other than the defendant was injured because of the DUI.
Although DUI offenses are typically charged as misdemeanors, some instances may result in the defendant facing felony charges. When faced with such allegations, it is always best to hire a DUI attorney to fight these allegations against you. At San Diego DUI Attorney, we have years of experience in representing our clients and ensuring a favorable outcome.
Overview of a DUI Offense
When you are charged with a DUI, it means that you were operating a vehicle intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol. Intoxication results in impairment of the driver, meaning they are unable to drive safely on the roads. Impairment can be due to alcohol, narcotics, or even prescription drugs. Regardless of the cause of impairment, the law forbids a person from driving under these conditions. This is because they are a danger to others as well as to themselves.
DUIs in California are priorable crimes. When an offense is priorable, it means that for every subsequent offense of intoxicated driving, the penalties or punishments get more severe. This is, however, pegged on ten years from your first offense.
In California, the first, second, and third DUI offenses are typically prosecuted as misdemeanors unless there are factors that make the crime a felony. Although the offenses get prosecuted as misdemeanors, the penalties or punishments increase with each conviction.
A fourth DUI offense within ten years, however, is automatically prosecuted as a felony. It is also important to note that your first DUI can also be prosecuted as a felony if it resulted in significant injuries to another person.
When faced with these charges, a DUI Attorney will help you fight them to avoid harsh penalties.
First DUI Misdemeanor Offense Penalties
Being charged with a first DUI offense does not guarantee a conviction. With a local Descanso DUI Attorney, you can fight these charges and avoid a conviction. However, should you get convicted on a misdemeanor DUI offense, you are likely to face the following penalties:
- You can be sentenced to a summary or informal probation. The probation period typically lasts between three and five years for a first offense
- The judge can sentence you to a county jail time of six months or less
- You could be charged cash fines ranging from $390 to $1,000, in addition to other court fees
- The judge can order you to attend a DUI school program known as AB541 class for three or nine months
- You may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your car to maintain unrestricted driving. Alternatively, you may have your driver’s license suspended for a period ranging between six and ten months. With a suspended license, you can apply for a restricted driver’s license from the DMV. This kind of permit restricts where you can drive, often only to the DUI school, work or maybe the hospital
When you get arrested for drunk driving, the arresting officer will take your driver’s license and forward it to the DMV informing them of your arrest. A temporary license is then issued that you can use as you wait for the DMV hearing. The DMV hearing, however, is not automatic.
Once you receive notice of the impending suspension of your license, you have a ten-day window to ask for it. During the hearing, you are supposed to convince the DMV officer why they should not automatically suspend your license. If you lose at the hearing, your driver's license will be suspended, but you are welcome to apply for a restricted license.
Penalties for Second Misdemeanor DUI Conviction
When you are charged with a second DUI offense, it means that you already have another DUI conviction in your record. Subsequently, the penalties you will receive will be harsher than those you received with your first conviction. If not well represented, your penalties can be more stringent than they need to be. A Descanso DUI attorney can help you fight the allegations and get a more favorable sentence, if not a dismissal.
When faced with these allegations, a conviction will carry the following penalties:
- Being sentenced to summary probation lasting between three and five years
- The judge will order you to a county jail time ranging between four days and one year
- You could be charged a fine of $390 to $1,000, in addition to other court charges
- You could be ordered to attend and complete a DUI school approved by the court. The judge can order you to a program lasting 18 months or 30 months
- You will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicles if you are to continue enjoying your driving privileges to any place. If you do not, your license will be suspended by the DMV for two years, and after one year, you are allowed to apply for a restricted driver’s license
Penalties for a Third DUI Misdemeanor Conviction
When you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI for the third time, it means you have two prior convictions within ten years. The penalties, as earlier stated, will be harsher than those of the first two. A local Descanso DUI Attorney can, however, help fight against these charges and receive better penalties if not an acquittal. If convicted, the penalties you will receive include:
- Being sentenced to misdemeanor probation lasting between three and five years
- Being sentenced to serve a county jail time of four months to a year
- Being charged a fine ranging between $390 and $1,000 in addition to other assessment fees
- Being ordered to attend and complete a DUI program lasting thirty months
- Being ordered to install an ignition interlock device to keep driving anywhere or facing a suspension of your license by the DMV for three years. After eighteen months, however, you can apply to get a restricted driver’s license that restricts you to the places you can drive
- You will receive the habitual traffic offender title according to the DMV
When your DUI Offense Results in an Injury
When your DUI offense results in an injury, according to VEH 23153, it is no longer a standard DUI offense but a wobbler. When the crime is termed as a wobbler, it means it gets prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision by the prosecutor on how to charge the offense is primarily based on the arrest circumstances. Secondly, the criminal history of the offender is considered.
If your DUI offense resulted in injuries, a misdemeanor conviction would result in the following penalties:
- Summary probation lasting between three and five years
- County jail imprisonment lasting between five days and one year
- Being charged a fine ranging between $390 and $5,000, in addition to other court fees
- Being ordered to attend and complete a DUI school program lasting three or eighteen or thirty months
- You will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicles for six months to continue enjoying unrestricted driving. Alternatively, you will get your license suspended for a year by the DMV
- The court will order you to pay restitution to the victims of your offense
When your DUI offense results in significant injuries, you could face felony charges. A conviction on these charges will result in the following punishments:
- A California state imprisonment ranging between sixteen months and ten years. You could also face more and consecutive jail time, depending on the number of victims injured and how significant their injuries are
- You will likely earn a strike according to the Three Strikes Law of California
- Be charged a fine ranging between $1,050 and $5,000
- You may be ordered to attend and complete a DUI program lasting eighteen months or thirty months
- You will earn the Habitual Traffic Offender title lasting three years
- You will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device for a period of 2 to 3 years if you want to keep driving. If not, the DMV will suspend your license
- You will be ordered to pay restitution to the injured victims
Felony DUI Penalties in California
As earlier stated, the first three DUI offenses in California are typically charged as misdemeanors unless there are aggravating factors making them felonies. When you are faced with a DUI offense for the fourth time or any other subsequent one, you will be charged with a felony crime regardless of whether the violation was a standard one.
The penalties, if convicted of this offense, are harsher than for the previous convictions. To fight against these severe penalties, a local Descanso DUI Attorney will be highly helpful. The penalties if convicted, will include:
- State prison sentence for sixteen, or twenty-four or thirty-six months
- Being charged a cash fine ranging between $390 and $1,000
- Being ordered to a mandatory ignition interlock device installation for a year, or get your driver’s license suspended by the DMV for four years
- The DMV can also decide to give you the title of a habitual traffic offender
If your DUI offense results in the death of another person, the sentencing is different and harsher. When found guilty of a DUI leading to death, you may face life imprisonment. Additionally, you will earn a strike on your record according to the three-strikes law.
Probation Conditions for a DUI in California
Aside from the various penalties discussed above, if you are sentenced to probation as a penalty for your offense, you will be faced with additional conditions. These probation conditions, if violated, will likely result in the revocation of the probation and reinstatement of a prison sentence. These conditions include:
- During the probation period, you must not operate a vehicle with any traceable alcohol in you
- You must agree to a blood chemical test or breath test should you be arrested or stopped for a suspected DUI
- You must not be accused of committing any other offense
Some circumstances of the crime may result in additional conditions to your probation sentence. These additional conditions may include:
- Being ordered to attend and participate in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, depending on the cause of your impairment
- Being ordered to participate in an impact program such as the mothers against drunk driving
- Being ordered to pay restitution to the victims if your DUI resulted in injuries
Legal Defenses for DUI Charges
When faced with a DUI charge, a Descanso DUI Attorney will help you fight these allegations and help you get favorable penalties. Your lawyer can also initiate negotiations for a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf.
Your lawyer will be able to investigate the circumstances of your arrest and your case and come up with possible defenses that will help your case. Some of the arguments will include:
The breathalyzer machine was faulty or not well calibrated
Most of these machines are known to be flawed from time to time. If you are sure the results from the device were inaccurate, you can challenge them by asking for the calibration and maintenance records. The law expects the breathalyzer machine to be periodically calibrated and maintained. These records must be well kept, and if not found, the prosecution cannot prove the equipment was in good working condition.
The Blood Sample was contaminated
Your DUI attorney will investigate how the chemical test on your blood was carried out. If the process, according to Title 17 was not followed and may have resulted in contamination of the blood sample, the results from the test are invalid. The guidelines, according to title 17 also require another blood sample to be preserved for future testing. If this sample is found to be contaminated or not available, your lawyer can challenge the validity of the test.
You are were not Drunk but have a Medical Condition
Some medical conditions can result in similar symptoms to those found in a person accused of drunk driving. Diseases like diabetes can have similar symptoms. When a person is on a diet, some high protein diets release ketones, which can be confused with alcohol in the mouth. If this was the case, then you cannot be guilty of intoxicated driving.
These are among many other defenses an experienced Descanso DUI attorney can use to argue your case, and you get an acquittal or a reduced sentence.
Aggravating Circumstances that will Increase your Penalties
These are factors that, if present, when you get arrested for a DUI, will increase the penalties or consequences of your sentence. Your penalties can be aggravated irrespective of whether it is your first or any other subsequent DUI offense. Some of the aggravating factors can also result in additional charges aside from the DUI charges you may be facing. These factors include:
- Registering a BAC of 0.15% or over at the time of the arrest
- Declining to take a chemical test
- Causing an accident as a result of your DUI
- Committing a DUI with a minor in the vehicle that can result in you being charged with child endangerment according to PEN 273a
- Being below the age of 21 when charged with a DUI
- You were driving beyond the speed limit
The enhanced punishment if the aggravating factors exist will be based on the circumstances of the DUI arrest. Additionally, your criminal record, especially having prior DUI, is taken into consideration. Below, we discuss some of these aggravating factors and what they would mean in your case.
Submitting to a Chemical Test
Once you have been lawfully arrested on suspicion of a DUI, the law expects you to submit to a chemical breath test. This is because California is an implied consent state. Under this law, you are not allowed to decline a chemical test as long as your arrest was lawful. If you refuse the chemical test, you will face increased penalties for the refusal in addition to the standard ones for a DUI offense. Additionally, irrespective of the outcome of your DUI case, you will face a mandatory suspension of your license.
You can, however, choose the chemical test you prefer instead of refusal. An arrestee has a choice to submit to a blood chemical test, breath, or urine test. If your BAC is found to be above the legal limit, you will be charged with a DUI offense. If the results from your DUI chemical test indicate that you are not intoxicated beyond the legal limit, no charges may be brought against you.
It is also important to note that when you refuse a chemical test after a lawful arrest, you automatically lose your right to a DMV hearing to challenge your impending license suspension. Additionally, you will not qualify to get a restricted license, even when you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
As discussed, a DUI offense can lead to severe penalties, especially when not legally represented. In order to avoid the harsh penalties, it is essential to get a qualified DUI attorney to fight these allegations on your behalf. If you are in Descanso, San Diego DUI Attorney, can help you with your case, and ensure a favorable conclusion. Reach us at 619-535-7150, and allow us to defend you.