Driving under the influence can cause dire consequences if you are apprehended and convicted. Although most DUI charges are treated as misdemeanors, fourth-time DUIs and other DUI related cases with aggravating factors are usually treated as felonies. If you happen to find yourself facing DUI charges in El Cajon, CA, do not hesitate to contact the San Diego DUI Attorney. Our experienced El Cajon DUI attorneys will try and make sure your charges are reduced or dismissed. Here’s what you need to know about DUI.

California Laws on DUI

You need to understand California laws on DUI and the penalties to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Understanding the law will help you avoid committing a DUI, and if you get arrested for the offense, it will help you plan your next steps. Below is an outline of what you need to understand about California laws on DUI:

Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits

  1. “Per Se” BAC Limit is the legal limit of alcohol concentration that drivers are lawfully allowed to have in their blood. If you get pulled over by an officer, the first thing they’ll do is to check your BAC level. The allowed limit for adult non-commercial vehicle drivers is 0.08% in California. If your BAC exceeds 0.08%, you will be charged with DUI.

  2. Zero Tolerance BAC Limit - California has two zero tolerance laws: zero tolerance law for people on DUI probation and zero tolerance law for underage drivers. The BAC limit for drivers below the age of 21 and those on DUI probation is 0.01%.

  3. If you are driving a commercial vehicle or you are operating a passenger vehicle for hire with passengers inside, your alcohol limit should not exceed 0.04%.

Common DUI Charges You might Face

First Offense DUI

You get charged with a first time DUI offense if you are arrested driving a vehicle while intoxicated for the first time. If you’ve never been charged with a DUI before, then the offense becomes your first DUI conviction. The penalties for a first time DUI offender include:

  • 48 hours to 6 months of jail term

  • Fines of up to $390 plus penalty assessments

  • Six months driver’s license suspension

  • An Interlock Ignition Device may be installed on your car for 6 months

  • DUI school in an approved drug and alcohol education program for 3 to 9 months

  • Three years of informal probation and your car might be impounded.

Other charges for first offense DUI include underage DUI, DUI with a passenger under 14, DUI with injury and military DUI.

Penalties for Subsequent DUI Offenses

Most penalties for first-time DUI offenders aim at cautioning the offender against repeating the crime. If you keep repeating the offense, you face harsh penalties. The following are penalties for second and subsequent DUI offenses:

  • For a second DUI, you may receive a jail term of 96 hours to 1 year and between 120 days to 1 year for a third offense.

  • Second-time offenders pay between $390 to $1000 and up to $1800 in fines for third-time offenders.

  • Your driver’s license may be suspended for 2 years if you commit DUI for a second time and 3 years if convicted for the third time.

  • You may be required to attend a DUI approved school for 18 to 30 months if you commit a DUI for a second time and 30 months for committing a DUI for the third time.

  • You get summary probation of 3 to 5 years for a second DUI offense and 5 years for a third DUI offense.

  • Your vehicle may be installed with an Ignition Interlock Device for 1 year if you commit a DUI for the second time and 2 years for a third DUI offense or the vehicle could be permanently seized.

Penalty Enhancements and Felony DUI Offenses

They include:

  1. A fourth DUI conviction within 10 years - If you commit a DUI for the fourth time within 10 years, the fourth time will be charged as a felony

  2. DUI resulting in serious injuries - DUI is usually charged as a misdemeanor, but it will be charged as a felony if it results in serious bodily injury

  3. Putting at risk the life of a passenger under 14 years

  4. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration level of above 20%

  5. Driving recklessly and at excess speeds

  6. Being on probation for another crime

  7. Refusal of a chemical test after arrest

  8. Committing a DUI offense when you are under 21 years

Penalties for DUI Resulting in Injuries

Depending on the severity of the injuries you have caused or your past criminal records, your DUI offense may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Penalties for a DUI misdemeanor are:

  1. Summary probation of 3 to 5 years

  2. Your driver’s license may be restricted for 1 to 3 years

  3. You may be required to pay fines of between $390 to $5,000

  4. You may be detained in jail for 5 days to 1 year

  5. You will be required to compensate the injured victim

  6. You may be required to through an approved DUI school for 3, 18 or 30 months

Penalties for a DUI felony include:

  1. Your driver’s license may be revoked for 4 years

  2. You may be required to pay $1,000 to $5,000 in fines

  3. You may face detention for 16 months to 10 years

  4. You may be required to compensate the injured victim

  5. You may be required to through an approved DUI school for 18 or 30 months

  6. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may give you a habitual traffic offender status for 3 years

DUI Charged as Watson Murder

Under California Penal Code 187, Watson Murder is a form of second-degree murder. If you have a prior DUI conviction and you happen to kill someone while driving under the influence, you may be charged with Watson murder.

You are highly likely to be charged with Watson murder if:

  • Your BAC level is typically more than 0.15%

  • You’ve had multiple convictions before for driving under the influence of drugs or/and alcohol

  • You participate in reckless driving, for example, driving at high speed, participating in speed contests and reckless evading a police officer

The following are penalties for Watson Murder:

  1. 15 years to life in the state prison of California

  2. A strike on your criminal records

  3. A fine of up to $10,000

If there’s any other victim that survived the accident, you might face the following additional penalties:

  1. You get 1 year for each surviving victim that suffers minor injuries

  2. You get 3 to 6 years for each surviving victim that suffers great bodily harm

Hit and Run DUI

Leaving the accident scene without identifying yourself to the other involved party and the accident resulted in damage to someone’s property may result to result in a hit and run DUI conviction. You risk facing both California DUI and California misdemeanor hit and run if the prosecutor proves that you were driving the vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. Both offenses are treated as misdemeanors and the penalties for a first time DUI conviction are as follows:

  1. Six to ten months of restriction or suspension of your driver’s license

  2. A fine of between $390 to $1,000

  3. Between 96 hours and 6 months in county jail

If you happen to be convicted with both a California DUI and a California misdemeanor hit and run, the penalties might add up. DUI laws can be complicated, and an El Cajon DUI attorney can be a massive source of help in this situation.

Driver’s License Suspension

First Time DUI Triggered by the Court

In accordance with Vehicle Code 13352(a)(1), if your first time DUI conviction ends up in court, it automatically triggers your driver’s license suspension for six months. After getting convicted, the court will give notice to the DMV to impose the driver’s license suspension. There wouldn’t be a court-triggered driver’s license suspension if the DUI charge reduced to reckless driving or another offense other than a DUI. You are allowed to drive if you agree to install an IID in your car. If you want to avoid your license from getting suspended, you have to do the following:

  • Ensure you don’t lose a DMV hearing

  • Ensure your DUI conviction does not end up in court

Our El Cajon DUI attorneys can represent you in the DMV hearing or negotiate with the prosecutor to try and ensure your license isn't suspended.

First Time DUI Administrative License Suspension

The DMV in California will try to have your driver’s license suspended for violating an administrative per se. Immediately after getting arrested for DUI for the first time, you will have 10 days to request a DMV hearing. Requesting a DMV hearing will ensure your driver’s license suspension is temporarily put on hold. Failure to request for the DMV hearing will cause them to suspend your driver’s license automatically. An administrative driver’s license suspension only applies to motorists caught with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. In accordance with the administrative per se violation, your driver’s license will not be suspended if your BAC is below 0.08%. If the chemical test results show a BAC level of 0.08% and above you can contact an experienced El Cajon DUI attorney to represent you at the hearing.

Restricted License

There are two types of restricted licenses namely:

  1. Ignition Interlock Device (IID) restricted license - It is also known as a breath alcohol ignition interlock device. It’s a breathalyzer that controls the ignition system of the vehicle based on the BAC level of the motorist. California DMV allows defendants to continue driving after their license suspension if they agree to install an IID on their vehicle. To get the license, you have to file for an SR22 form, pay all the fees and complete DUI school. An SR22 is a document provided by your insurance company, filed by the DMV, verifying that you’ve met adequate auto liability insurance.

  2. Restricted license - This allows you to drive to and from school, work and DUI school. You’ll be required to file an SR22 form with the DMV for you to be given a restricted license or to reinstate your license after it’s been suspended. The DMV may require you to keep your SR22 for 3 years from when your license was reinstated. If your DUI suspension is court triggered you can get a restricted license immediately but if it’s an administrative suspension you have to wait for 30 days from when the license was suspended.

DUI Court Proceedings

Most people who get arrested with a BAC of above 0.08% are charged with two crimes: Driving with Excessive BAC and Driving under the influence. If you ever get charged with the two crimes, you should get in touch with an experienced attorney who will make sure you avoid getting convicted with either of the offenses. The attorney can attend all the court proceedings on your behalf unless you need to testify or if the case goes to trial.

Many cases involving DUI may require you to appear severally in court and might take several months. When this is going on, your attorney will gather evidence, run motions and negotiate with the prosecutor and the judge, seeking a reduction in the charges or a dismissal of the charges.

You may reach a settlement to plead to a DUI or a lesser charge. A plea can be completed by one of the following ways: you may go to court and take a plea before the judge, or your attorney may have you sign notarized documents outside the court. The attorney will then present the documents to the court and take a plea on your behalf. If no settlement is reached, your case will be set for trial before a jury.

Consequences for Refusing a Chemical Test

Under California’s “implied consent law” once you get arrested for DUI you are not supposed to refuse a DUI breath test. You surrender your driving privileges if you refuse a breath test. According to the laws, drivers have completely consented to a blood alcohol concentration test in exchange for driving privileges.

You will face serious consequences for refusing a breathalyzer test. The driver has two options, either a breath or a blood test. Drivers who refuse the test face a driver’s license suspension and pay a fine of $125. Your license gets suspended for one year for a first DUI offense, two years license revocation for a second offense and three years license revocation for a third and subsequent offense, for drivers who refuse to take the test. Other penalties for refusing to take a chemical test include:

  1. 48 extra hours in jail for a first-time offender, 96 extra hours for a second-time offender, 10 extra days for a third offender and 18 extra days for a fourth and subsequent offender.

  2. DUI school for a period of 9 months instead of 3 months for a first-time offender.

  3. Losing eligibility for a restricted license for first-time DUI offenders.

Your probation might be revoked if you are on probation and you violate the conditions. The judge may reinstate the sentence which includes a jail term.

Defenses for a Chemical Test Refusal

Some common defenses that can be used to fight the penalties for refusing to take a chemical test include:

  1. Unlawful arrest - Your arrest is unlawful if the officer does not have probable cause for your DUI arrest. If it so happens, then you haven’t given your implied consent to chemical testing, and therefore the chemical refusal charges will be dismissed.

  2. Improper stop - An officer should stop you with a valid reason. You can file a motion to overthrow all the evidence gathered when you were stopped without a valid reason.

  3. If you refused due to an injury which wasn’t necessarily caused or contributed by drugs or alcohol - You may be excused for refusing to take the test as a result of a serious medical condition or injury that may render you incapable of making a choice. However, the condition must be unrelated to the ingestion of drugs or alcohol.

  4. If the officer did not advise you of the consequences of refusing a chemical test - California DUI laws require that the officer should advise you of your obligation to submit to a DUI chemical test. Failure to do so will result in the dismissal of your chemical refusal charges.

  5. If the chemical test refusal reprimand was misleading or confusing - The test refusal reprimand must be given in an unambiguous and clear manner; otherwise, the refusal charges will be dismissed.

Engage a DUI Attorney Near Me

Hiring a skilled El Cajon DUI attorney is one of the best decisions you can make when you or your loved one is facing DUI charges. The attorney will advise you on the best possible defenses, gather enough evidence, run motions and negotiate with the prosecutor, seeking a reduction in the charges or a dismissal of the charges. At San Diego DUI Attorney, we can guarantee that we’ll put forth our best effort to fight for you. Call our DUI lawyer at 619-535-7150 to book your free consultation.