California State has several strict laws to curb the drunk-driving problem. For instance, there is the DUI per se DUI law that governs adult drivers and the zero-tolerance law, which forbids underage drivers from driving under the influence. With these strict laws in place, it means that it is easy for a driver to be arrested for allegedly driving under the influence.
The DUI laws may be quite complex to comprehend, which is why you may get confused when you get arrested. Thus, the best thing to do if you are facing DUI charges is to contact an expert DUI attorney. For those charged in Four Corners, CA, attorneys at the San Diego DUI Attorney are readily available to help you through your DUI case. We provide skillful legal representation that may lead to a charge dismissal or reduction. In the following sections, we focus on what entails a California DUI and the DUI charges you may face.
An Overview of California DUI Law
If you get arrested for suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, chances are you will be charged with two offenses under VC 23152a and VC 23152b. As per Vehicle Code 23152a, it is an offense to operate a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, or both. Being intoxicated means your mental or physical abilities are impaired to the extent that you can’t drive as a sober person would do.
To be charged with VC 23152a, the prosecuting attorney will consider any impartial symptoms of intoxication or records of your patterns of driving. The symptoms include red & watery eyes, wobbly posture, poor performance on field sobriety tests, and alcoholic odor.
On the other hand, Vehicle Code 23152b makes it a criminal offense for drivers to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. A prosecuting attorney would charge you with this Vehicle Code after analyzing chemical test results, i.e., breath, urine, or blood tests. If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs only, you will be charged under VC 23152a.
VC 23152a is the subjective standard for DUI while VC 23152b is the per se DUI law. A Per Se DUI is a drunk-driving offense based on the driver’s BAC in contrast with subjective standard DUI, which is based on the driver’s level of impairment. Thus, provided your BAC is 0.08% or higher, the prosecutor will consider you to be under the influence regardless of whether you are impaired or not.
The Zero Tolerance Law
Vehicle Code 23136 is the California zero-tolerance law on underage drunk-driving. The law makes it an offense for drivers below the age of 21 to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. An under 21 driver can be arrested if he/she drives with a BAC of as low as 0.01%. They don’t need to be impaired or intoxicated to have violated this law.
Alcoholic beverages as per this vehicle code apply to alcohol from any given source, and not just from alcoholic drinks. Apart from alcoholic drinks, possible alcohol sources include topical mouth-numbing ointments, homeopathic medicines, nighttime cold formulas like Nyquil, and cough syrups.
Implied Consent Laws
After an officer pulls you over, he/she checks for any symptoms of intoxication. If there are, and the officer has reason to suspect you are under the influence, he/she will request you to do a breath test before arresting you. Note that it is not mandatory for you to do the test as long as you haven’t been arrested. You have the right to refuse to do the test, and if you do, the officer can’t force you. Though, also note that refusing to do the test has its consequences. If you are going to refuse to do the test, you need to ensure you have a Four Corners DUI Attorney by your side to defend your rights.
However, after you have been legally arrested for Driving under the influence, the implied consent law dictates that it is compulsory for you to agree to a breath test to determine your BAC. Note that this law applies only to breath tests after a legal DUI arrest. Refusing to take the test under the implied consent law may lead to a compulsory driver’s license revocation and enhanced penalties to add on the standard DUI penalties.
DUI Charges You May Face
DUI may subject you to different charges depending on the facts of your case and the number of times you are caught drunk-driving. For instance, if in the commission of your DUI offense, another person sustained an injury or died, you may be charged with DUI causing injury or DUI murder. For any DUI charge you face in Four Corners, you must have an experienced Four Corners DUI Attorney by your side to stand a chance of winning the case. DUI charges you may face and which we can help you fight include:
First DUI Offense
A first DUI offense applies to those drivers who are arrested for the first time drunk-driving. As long as you do not have any previous DUI convictions on your criminal record, you will be treated as a first-time offender. This is a misdemeanor offense whose criminal penalties include maximum jail time of six months, a maximum fine of $1,000, six months of license suspension, a maximum of five years of probation, and an alcohol/drug school program for three months. Also, you may be subjected to administrative penalties, which include four months of license suspension by the DMV.
Second DUI offense
A second DUI offense is charged on drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence for a second time within ten years of the first offense. The penalties for a second offense are quite severe compared to the first offense. They include a maximum fine of $1,000, a jail sentence of one year, license suspension by the court for one year, the DMV license suspension for one year, up to five years of probation, eighteen or thirty months of alcohol/drug school IID program and a mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) installation for one year.
Third DUI Offense
A third DUI offense applies to third-time DUI offenders. If you are arrested drunk-driving for the time within ten years of the previous offenses, you will be charged with a third DUI offense. Like the first and second offenses, a third DUI offense is a misdemeanor. However, its penalties are more severe compared to the last two offenses. They include a fine of up to $1,000, a jail sentence of up to a year, license suspension of up to two years, 30 months of alcohol/drug school program, up to five years of informal probation, mandatory IID installation for two years, and a habitual traffic offender (HTO) title by the DMV.
However, an experienced Four Corners DUI Attorney can bargain for your charges to be reduced. For example, instead of being charged with a third DUI offense, your charges may be reduced to wet reckless, which has less severe penalties.
Fourth Offense DUI
A fourth offense DUI is also known as felony DUI since it is charged as a felony. The consequences for committing this offense include a maximum of three years in State prison, felony probation, a fine of up to 1,000, up to five years of license suspension, and thirty months of alcohol/drug school program.
DUI Murder/Watson Murder
DUI murder is a form of second-degree murder. It is charged if while driving while intoxicated; you kill someone else. Though you can only be charged with DUI murder if you at least one previous DUI conviction and you attended a DUI school, and a Watson admonition was read to you in connection with the previous offenses. This crime can also be charged under PC 191.5 vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
The penalties for DUI murder include a maximum of $10,000 in fines, fifteen years to life in prison, and a strike on your criminal record as per California’s Three Strikes law.
DUI Causing Injury
DUI causing injury is defined under VC 23153 as causing physical injury to someone else while driving under the influence. Prosecuting attorneys may charge DUI causing injury as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The penalties for VC 23153 vary based on the facts of the case and the number of times you have been convicted. For instance, a third DUI offense causing injury is automatically convicted as a felony.
For a misdemeanor DUI causing injury, the penalties include up to five years of informal probation, a jail sentence of up to one year, a maximum fine of $5,000, restitution to the injured victim(s), a driver’s license suspension for one or three years, and up to thirty months of alcohol/drug education program.
Felony punishments include up to four years in state prison, and an additional and consecutive three to six years in prison in case any victim sustained severe bodily injury. You may also face a strike on your criminal record if the victim sustained great bodily injury, up to $5,000 in fines, eighteen or months of DUI school program, HTO title for three years, and license revocation for five years. However, it is possible for a Four Corners DUI Attorney to successfully fight for the reduction of your felony charges, which as a result, you may end up facing lenient penalties.
DUI of Drugs
Operating a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs is an offense prosecuted under VC 23152f. A drug as per California law is any substance, other than alcohol, which can affect the muscles, nervous system or the brain of a person thus impairing their driving ability.
DUI of drugs strictly deals with being under the influence of drugs. They may be illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and cocaine, or legalized ones like over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, or marijuana. Unlike DUI of alcohol, there’s no legal limit of drugs that a person must have in their system for them to be charged with DUID. Thus, you may be convicted of DUID regardless of the drug level in your system.
DUI of drugs is generally a misdemeanor offense. Its penalties are similar to those of DUI of alcohol. They include up to five years of probation, enrolment to a DUI school, a fine of up to $1,000, license suspension, and potential jail time.
However, in certain cases, DUID can also be a felony. You will be charged with felony DUID if it’s your fourth or subsequent DUI offense, your DUID resulted in an injury to another person, and you have at least one previous felony DUI conviction. In this case, you will face a maximum fine of $1,000 or $5,000 if another person was injured, and a maximum jail sentence of three years or four in case a person was injured.
VC 23152d sets forth the law on commercial DUI. According to this Vehicle Code, it is an offense for a driver to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more. Note that the 0.04% limit applies only when one is operating a commercial vehicle like a large truck, double trailer, tank vehicle, school bus, etc. However, when a person is driving a non-commercial vehicle like a motorcycle, car, or small truck, the standard legal BAC limit of 0.08% applies. Also, the limit applies regardless of whether the driver is impaired or not.
The penalties for a first-time commercial DUI offender include informal probation, a maximum of one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and up to 36 months of DUI school program. A commercial driver will also face a commercial driver’s license suspension for one year. The suspension applies irrespective of whether the commercial driver was operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the arrest.
A second commercial DUI conviction may result in the driver losing his/her commercial driver’s license permanently. This penalty applies both in California law and federal law. Due to the severity of these penalties, a commercial driver caught drunk-driving has to hire an expert Four Corners DUI Attorney who may help him/her win the case.
Certain aggravating factors can impact your DUI conviction. Depending on the facts of your case, a judge may impose a sentence enhancement to your original conviction. Aggravating Factors in a DUI case include:
- Refusal to submit to chemical tests
- DUI while on probation
- DUI with a BAC of .20%
- DUI with a passenger under 14
- DUI hit and run
- DUI causing an accident or property damage
- Reckless driving/ DUI over the legal speed limit.
Legal Representation at DMV Hearings
Unlike other California offenses, when you are arrested for DUI, you undergo two legal processes to try and prove your innocence. That is the court process and the DMV process. The DMV is the California agency that regulates the vehicle industry, secures identities, registers vehicles, and issues licenses to drivers in the State. The DMV Process entails a DMV administrative hearing whereby the hearing officer determines whether your license should be suspended or not.
Apart from representing you in court, our attorneys will also represent you at the DMV hearing. Note that you need valid reasons to convince the DMV hearing officer not to suspend your license. Note that a criminal court license suspension is different from the DMV suspension. Thus, even if the court drops your DUI charges, the DMV may still suspend your license. However, through the help of your attorney, you may be able to obtain an IID restricted license which allows you to drive to certain places.
In most cases, the DMV administrative hearing takes place before criminal court proceedings. Thus, apart from your attorney convincing the hearing officer not to revoke your license, he/she may use the opportunity to collect evidence that may be useful in criminal court.
DUI Plea Bargains
The law of California makes it possible for a DUI offender through his/her lawyer to bargain for a charge reduction. In case the prosecuting attorney agrees to offer you a plea bargain, you DUI charges may be reduced to a wet reckless, dry reckless, drunk in public, drinking alcohol in a vehicle, or exhibition of speed. Wet reckless is the most commonly offered plea deal by California prosecutors.
Reduced DUI charges have less severe penalties compared to the original DUI charges. However, a prosecutor will only offer you a plea bargain if the evidence against your DUI charge is weak, if he/she lacks testimony from a material witness, or if there’s no substantial change in the conviction after the plea bargain. Also, where there are aggravating factors, your DUI offense is a felony, or you have had more than one conviction, it may not be easy for a prosecutor to offer you a plea deal.
Find an Experienced Four Corners DUI Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one is in Four Corners, CA and been charged with any DUI offense, contact San Diego DUI Attorney law firm as soon as possible. You will have a chance to speak with an experienced attorney to whom you can share your case and receive the legal help you need. Call us now or at any time at 619-535-7150. We are available 24/7 to fight for you!