While most of us have seen someone being pulled over for supposed drunk driving, not all of us know the possible consequences of being charged with drunk driving. The likely charge you might face, the jail time you might serve, and the effect of the charge on your license, all depend on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the presence of prior drunk driving convictions.

Whether you have been charged with your first time DUI offense or you are a fourth-time offender, a Grossmont DUI Attorney can help minimize the potential consequence of the charge and protect your lawful rights.

Legal Definition DUI

Drunk driving is referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Operating Under the Influence (OUI). In law, DUI is the act of operating a motor vehicle after consuming drugs or alcohol.

A DUI law might prohibit driving under the influence of an alcoholic drink, under the influence of a drug, and under the influence of any drug (illegal or legal) and an alcoholic drink, irrespective of your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).

Drunken driving is a criminal offense in the USA and even most countries around the world. Such crime is considered to be one of the most serious driving offenses as it causes over one-third of all traffic deaths.

California DUI Laws

The basic assumption of California DUI laws is that drivers are forbidden from operating their cars under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. With that said, there are different types of California DUI laws that you should know:

  1. Vehicle Code 23152(a)CV

This is the most basic of all California DUI laws, and it states that it is illegal to operate a car while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

When it comes to drugs, the law applies to all types of intoxicating substances. What this means is that you can be charged with a DUI offense even if you took prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or illegal drugs.

Under 23152, driving under the influence means that your mental and/or physical states are affected such as levels that you cannot drive with caution, like a sober person.

This code often leads to a misdemeanor but can always upgrade to a felony if you are a subsequent DUI offender within 10 years, or you had been convicted of a felony before.

  1. Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC

Operating a car with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher is the other common California DUI law. Often, DUI cases involve a blood/breath alcohol sample that forms the basis of the case.

This code prohibits operating a car with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Also known as “per se law” the code states that if you operate a car with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you will be convicted of DUI. A jury could find you guilty of this offense and even if your judgment was not impaired.

This violation is also charged as a misdemeanor, but often becomes a felony if you are a second or subsequent offender or you suffered a felony DUI within 10 years.

  1. Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury

This code comes into effect if a serious injury occurs from a DUI offense. This code has subdivision (a) that looks at driving under the influence and (b) that looks at a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

The offender can also be charged with a misdemeanor DUI or a felony, depending on the following things:

  • Your criminal history
  • The seriousness of the injury
  • The level of recklessness
  1. Vehicle Code 23612 VC

This law often occurs as an enhancing penalty when you refuse to get a breath test or chemical blood test. Several states allow officers to administer a forded breath test or blood test from people who refuse to take them, basically getting rid of the notion of refusal.

There are three things that you should keep in mind:

  • Driving under the influence – All 50 states in the USA make DUI a crime.
  • A BAC of 0.08% or higher – All the states make it a crime to operate a car with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, irrespective of whether your driving was indeed affected or impaired or not.
  • Felony DUI – Certain kinds of DUIs might be treated as a felony and could lead to a prison sentence.

Proving DUI offenses

The jury must prove the following elements when proving that a person is guilty of operating a car under the influence of a drug or alcohol.

  • The DUI offender drove a car – that means, controlling and steering the car while it was in motion.
  • The offender was under the influence of alcohol or drugs – that means, his or her ability to drive safely was impaired to an appreciable level by having taken the substance.

In San Diego, an individual with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is assumed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most states have taken further measures and prohibited people from driving if their BAC is at least 0.08%, whether their driving is impaired or not.

Thus, the jury needs to prove that the accused is guilty of driving with a BAC of at least 0.08% using the above elements.

Given the two elements, if you are charged with a DUI, you might respond that you were not under the influence of any substance, even if your BAC level is 0.08% or more.

Possible DUI Court Penalties

The consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are quite serious. If you get arrested for DUI, chances are you will face tough penalties, and you might even end up in jail.

Here are the major consequences of being convicted with a DUI:

  1. Court Penalties

There are different ways in which the court can impose DUI penalties, including:

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

California Vehicle Code section 23152 states that a misdemeanor DUI offense doesn’t involve any injury, while section 23153 states that a felony DUI offense involves someone getting injured or dying, besides the driver.  

If you are a first time offender and you get convicted of misdemeanor DUI, you could end up in jail for up to 6 months. You could end up in jail for up to 12 months and pay a fine of up to $1,000 if you repeat the DUI.

On the other hand, if you are guilty of a felony DUI, you could end up in state prison and pay at least $1,000.

Although some DUIs (for example first offenses) are often treated as misdemeanors, there are times when these offenses are treated as a felony, meaning that they are more serious.

If you injure or kill someone due to driving while drunk (having a BAC of 0.08% or higher), you might be convicted of a felony and be locked in state prison for years.

Subsequent Offenses within 10 Years

A second-time offense of a misdemeanor under the influence of substances or at/over 0.08% can also lead to a longer jail sentence.  

A third or fourth offense is enough to get you charged with a felony. It will not matter whether anyone was injured or killed as a result. 

Subsequent convictions that happen within a decade attracts a compulsory jail time. The court also considers an individual with a prior “wet reckless” to have a prior conviction for DUI.

A wet reckless is a guilty plea for driving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol.  

  1. Mandatory Penalties

There are also criminal consequences that are compulsory in California. Although California law orders most of the DUI wrongdoer sanction minimums, the judge is allowed to apply sanctions that are no compulsory or increase the penalties to the maximum. 

It is also the judge’s discretion to order probation or send you to jail if you are guilty of a first misdemeanor DUI offense. At the minimum, the judge is required to impose the least fine, penalty assessment, restitution, and the duration of the rehabilitation program.  

While vehicle impoundment and ignition interlock installation are not compulsory, the judge can command to have them enforced. 

  1. Criminal Sanctions

You can also face criminal sanctions if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony DUI, including:

Jail and Prison

A DUI guilty verdict can result in a mandatory jail or prison sentence. However, a judge can order a mandated DUI program instead of a fine if the ruling is for a misdemeanor first offense. A California court can also order public work service or community service for first-time offenses.

Jail and prison sentences can be extended if there is an “enhancing circumstance,” which is defined as:


  • People other than the DUI offender were injured. The sentence can be extended by one year for every injured person.
  • People suffered from bodily harm. The sentence can be extended by one year for every victim.
  • Hit and run that involves vehicular manslaughter.


  • “Excessive speed”- driving over 30 mph above the legal speed on freeways or 20 mph above the lawful speed on roadways. This might enhance the mandatory jail time to 60 days.
  • Refusing to take a chemical test can also lead to a minimum of 48 hours in jail.
  • Someone under the age of 14 years (a minor passenger) was in the car.

Penalty Assessment, Restitutions, and Fine

A DUI offender is often ordered to pay a fine, a penalty assessment, as well as restitution. What this means is that you can pay:

  • $390 to $1,000 fines for a misdemeanor offense. You can also pay $390 to $5,000 for a felony offense.
  • A California court can also increase a fine by ordering penalty assessments. Generally, a fine and assessment in a San Diego court vary between $1,800 and $2,200.
  • A victim is compensated for his or her loss and injury with a restitution fine, which can vary from $100 to $10,000. Besides, there can be further restitution orders that can mandate the DUI wrongdoer to pay the victim’s medical expenses.


You can be ordered to complete or take part in an alcohol and drug treatment program if you are convicted of a DUI. A California court can order a program that lasts for up to three months, nine months, eighteen months, or thirty months. 

A driver with a license suspension due to a DUI offense must complete the program before his or her license can be restored. You cannot receive credit for having taken part in such a program before you committed the DUI offense.

Vehicle Impoundment and Forfeiture

The court orders the impoundment of an offender’s car if the offense is committed by the car owner. The judge can state that the car is a nuisance and order it surrendered and sold.

A car owner aged below 21 years can also be stuck with an impoundment penalty whether he or she was in the car or not during the DUI offense or the offender is below the legal drinking age.

Your license can be:

  • Suspended – The license is taken away for a short time or until you fulfill certain conditions.
  • Restricted – You are limited on when you can use your car. Restrictions can include only driving to and from school, work, treatment, or court-ordered programs.
  • Revoked – Your license is terminated and ordered to apply a new one after a certain period of cancellation time.

A court can postpone the date of the DUI doer license suspension or revocation until after the offender has served prison time. The court often applies this order if you are a repeat offender, it is a hit and run case, or there were many victims.  

A driver under the age of 21 with a DUI conviction or convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving can get his or her license suspended for an additional year beyond the suspension time.

Ignition Interlock Device

For a DUI offender, a California court can order the use of a recognized ignition interlock gadget. This prevents your car from starting if you have taken alcohol.

The court can order the device to be activated for 1-3 years when your license is reinstated.


DUI wrongdoer probation can last for 3 to 5 years. If a court orders probation, you cannot do the following:

  • Commit a crime.
  • Operate a car with measurable alcohol in your blood.
  • Refuse to take a chemical test when requested.
  • Fail to pay an assessment, restitution, or fine.

Enhanced Penalties Grounds

There are many situations that can lead to enhanced penalties in California. They include:

  • High BOC – An enhanced penalty can be ordered if your BAC is 0.15% or higher.
  • Refusal to take a chemical test – Your jail time can be increased if you refuse to take a chemical test.
  • Speeding and/or reckless driving – This enhancement can be applied if someone has a BAC of 0.08% or higher or was driving beyond the recommended limit while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Child endangerment – If there was a passage of below the age of 14 years in the car when the offense occurred, the enhanced penalty is jail time.
  • Accident or injury – DUI accidents leading to property damage can lead to harsher punishment in California. Also, if a person is injured, the state can upgrade the offense to a felony.

Summarized Misdemeanor DUI vs. Felony DUI Penalties

Misdemeanor DUI with injury:

  • 3 to 5 years of probation
  • 5 days to 1 year in a country jail
  • 3, 18, or 30 months in an alcohol program
  • $390 to $1,000 in fines
  • Restitution to all injured victims
  • 1 year driver's license suspension

Felony DUI with injury:

  • 16 months to 10 years in state prison as well as additional and consecutive 1 to 6 years prison sentence (depending on the extent of the injury and the number of victims)
  • Between $1,015 and $5,000 in fines
  • An 18 to 30 months drug/alcohol program
  • Habitual traffic offender status for 3 years
  • Restitution to the injured

Out-of-State California DUI Laws

As you might have guessed, DUI laws outside the state of California are different from California laws. If you get arrested in California for DUI, but you don’t live in this state, the arresting person will inform you that you cannot drive in California for 30 days.

Just like a California dweller, you then have 10 days to contact the DMV and schedule a per se hearing to contest the suspension. If the revocation or suspension comes into effect, it is highly likely that your state will take similar action and suspend your driving privileges.

When it comes to the California court proceeding, your presence might or might not be necessary. It is, therefore, important to contact a qualified Grossmont DUI Attorney if you are faced with a California DUI offense as a non-residence. The lawyer will come in handy to guide you through the process of California state court proceedings.

Find a Grossmont DUI Attorney Near Me

Whether you were arrested after a night out with friends in the Grossmont Area, it is very critical to understand California DUI laws as well as penalties.

The best way to do this is to speak with a professional attorney who is skilled and experienced in defending DUI offenders. Be at peace today and contact the professional San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150.