There are many reasons, various harmless substances and even medication that can trigger a positive DUI breathalyzer or BAC result. Equipment malfunctions and blood sample contamination has contributed to arrests and DUI charges against undeserving California motorists. You can challenge the DUI charges with the help of a Vista DUI attorney, who is part of our experienced attorneys at San Diego DUI Attorney.

The California Vehicle Code Relating to DUI

California Vehicle Code 23152 (a) sets out the restrictions, penalties, and consequences of alcohol or drugs DUI’s within the state. Refusing to be tested or arrested and the lack of cooperation with arresting authorities can also enhance your DUI sentence under section 23152 (b). These laws give provisions for rules and restrictions directed at private, commercial, out of state or underage drivers. 

The procedures for the arresting, testing, court appearance, and plea bargaining in DUI cases is set out in the California vehicle code. Penalties for misdemeanor DUI in California may differ from county to county, but they differ depending on whether it is your first, second, or third offense. DUI's that involves a school area, a driver under probation, or whether a child was in the vehicle will attract stiff penalties throughout the state.

What Happens After a DUI Arrest in California?

After a traffic or checkpoint stop where the police suspect that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a series of tests will be performed. A sobriety exam done on the road will involve multiple tests such as standing on one leg, and then a breathalyzer test can be done. This breathalyzer test is followed by a blood test, which will sometimes be done at a police station. Declining to take a sobriety test of any type may lead to stricter penalties, such as a DMV license suspension for a year for underage drivers.

A DUI arrest results in a booking, but you should be released from custody within a couple of hours for a first to a third-time misdemeanor offense. Felony DUI's may result in bail proceedings, and in both instances, your license will be retained by the police who will mail it to the DMV. A temporary pink permit will be issued for California drivers as well as citations for your court appearance. Drivers from outside the state who get arrested here cannot have their licenses retained by California authorities.

The California Senate Bill 1046 of 2018 allocated the drivers arrested on alcohol DUI’s the availability of an Ignition Interlock Device or a restricted license. The IID acts as a breath analyzer that restricts the vehicle from starting when alcohol is detected. An alcohol DUI defendant can use their standard licenses without limitations to drive while the IID is installed in their car. An IID restriction period will depend on factors such as your DUI history and mitigating factors in your case.

The DMV Suspension Process

An automatic one-month suspension kicks in after ten days of your DUI arrest and confiscation of your driver's license. Your Vista DUI attorney can help you apply for a hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles that will enable you to fight this suspension. This scheduling of the hearing postpones the initial suspension of your license, in which a DUI competent lawyer gains knowledge of the case's merits or demerits for use as a defense. 

License suspensions hearings at the Department of Motor Vehicles involve the DUI arrests that are alcohol-related. Blood alcohol levels of .08 or higher in California or a positive reading for an underage driver will invoke a license suspension. Drug DUI charges such as those involving marijuana, Ambien or Vicodin have no DMV hearing or suspension, though this may happen if there's a conviction on the DUID charges.

A DMV officer assigned to your DUI license suspension hearing writes out an investigative report after interaction with all the parties involved. Your attorney can influence the outcome of this report by presenting evidence contrary to what the police submit and the findings of the DMV case officer. Where the outcome is favorable, there is no license suspension, but if found guilty, your license suspension begins soon after you receive the DMV notice.

A restricted license is available within a month of your DMV license suspension that allows restricted driving for work and court or alcohol programs. The suspension period is critical since you’re not allowed to drive out of the limits of your restricted license, which can lead to stiffer penalties. Note that the trial process for a DUI charge can still institute another license suspension if you're found guilty.

After a conviction resulting from a DUI, the defendant is supposed to surrender the temporary pink slip or a regular driver's license to the court, which in turn delivers it to the DMV within ten days.

DUI Court Proceedings

Under the California vehicle code, county and state courts try misdemeanor charges that most DUI arrests with a BAC that is over .08 incur. A felony DUI will undergo hearing at the state level or federal circuit courts within the state. The main objective of our Vista DUI attorneys is to represent you in the court and possibly avoid harsh penalties. Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, your lawyer should respond to anything unless you are needed to testify.

A stiffer felony charge will involve your presence at trial, especially where bail was posted for your release. Court proceedings can stretch out over months within which your lawyer consolidates evidence for a viable defense.

First Time DUI

To keep you from facing the consequences of a DUI arrest in California, your lawyer undertakes an optional DMV suspension hearing for drivers under the influence of alcohol. There is a criminal process in court that a first time DUI arrestee is mandated to attend where the count can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the results of your drunk driving.

Being charged with a DUI in California for the first time will also attract an arraignment where you take a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charge. If convicted, the penalties imposed for the first time DUI can be in addition to a court suspension of your driver's license. These may include fines, jail time, or probation.

An acquittal or being found not guilty by the criminal court can make the DMV reverse your suspended driver's license. The case officer assigned to you will determine whether the trial court decision was based on the lack of evidence or is due to technical tactics for a win.

Penalties For a First-Time DUI in California

Penalties arising from the first time DUI in California are the least severe and will vary by county. A 3 to 5 year period of informal probation will be coupled with DUI schooling that can extend between 3 to 9 months. Penalty assessments and fines for a first time DUI can amount to over $1,500 in some counties while your driver's license will be suspended for six months.

A jail sentence for up to 6 months or having an IID installed in your car is part of a first offense DUI penalties and restrictions in California counties. Others will require you to attend a work release program. International travel, especially to Canada, is restricted unless you make special arrangements with Canadian authorities for immigration.

A first time DUI charge can be reduced to a speed exhibition or reckless driving offense, which carries lesser penalties and restrictions. In this instance, the court does not suspend your license, but the DMV can continue its suspension after considering the points accumulated on your driving record.

Second Offense DUI

Since DUI offenses in California are affected by priors, punishment, penalties, and restrictions will increase with each consecutive offense within ten years. The second DUI is prosecuted as a misdemeanor charge, and the prosecution must prove that you had a BAC of .08 or higher, or you were under the influence of narcotics when operating a motor vehicle.

Penalties for a Second Time DUI

A conviction resulting from a second time DUI in California will attract court penalties as follows:

  • Driver license suspension for two years and restrictions after 12 months
  • Summary probation for 3 to 5 years
  • County jail sentence of between 96 hours and one year
  • Fines ranging from $390 to $1000 with an extra $1000 as penalty assessment fees
  • DUI schooling for between 18 and 30 months at a court-approved facility
  • A one-year installation of an IID

Third Time California DUI

Facing a third DUI within ten (10) years can be overwhelming. Note that this is the last DUI that can be charged as a misdemeanor since any consecutive offenses will attract a felony charge.

The process of prosecuting a DUI in California will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. There are several aggravating and mitigating factors that play out the direction of your third DUI. The penalties for a third DUI include:

  • The probationary period for a minimum of three and a maximum of five years
  • Fines of between $2,500 and $3,000
  • Prison time of between 120 days and one year
  • Enrollment in a DUI education program
  • Installation of an IID in your car
  • Contributions to the victim restitution fund for injuries or property damage caused

Charge Escalating factors affecting Third Offense DUIs in California

There are aggravations that can enhance the penalties for a third offense DUI. These factors can escalate a third time DUI to a felony.

  • Causing injury or death
  • Reckless driving and at an excessive speed
  • Property damage
  • Refusing to submit to a chemical test
  • BAC of .15% or higher
  • Driving with a passenger(s) under the age of 14

It is very important to hire a Vista DUI attorney who has handled different cases with aggravating factors so that you can possibly have your charges reduced to a misdemeanor DUI.

Felony DUI

A felony DUI arising from three priors or causing an accident that results in injuries or death can be a more severe life-changing matter. DUIs can also be charged as felony murders or as vehicular and gross vehicular manslaughter. Additional aggravating factors such as a high BAC level or the placing of the public at imminent danger can be considered to stiffen the convicting guidelines.

Enhancements used for speed exhibitions or where dry or wet reckless driving is evident will attract ignition interlocks and SCRAM devices. Following these penalties, there may be consequences on your international travel or immigration-related issues.

Penalties for a Felony DUI

A fourth or felony DUI will come with a prison sentence of between 16 months minimum and a maximum of 4 years in state prison. Fines of three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars to one thousand ($1000) dollars, including the costs associated with the court trial. A three year status of habitual traffic offender placement is upheld and a license suspension that can extend up to four years.

There is a vast difference between a misdemeanor and felony DUI since the latter only carries a one-year maximum jail sentence. In a fourth felony DUI, you will face a maximum of four years in state prison. To minimize the risk of incurring these harsh penalties, retaining a Vista DUI attorney gives you control of your case and the best chances of charge reductions, case dismissal, or an acquittal.

Reduced and Lesser Charges of California DUIs

A settlement could be reached where the initial misdemeanor DUI charges can be dropped to a lesser charge. There are two ways this can be achieved:

  1. Going before the judge personally to plead for lower DUI charges
  2. Having your DUI attorney bring documents of notarization for your signature which they will submit to the court. This is known as a Tahl waiver to execute a plea for lesser charges on your behalf.

The lack of settlement in a misdemeanor DUI court proceeding means the case will go to trial. A judge hears DUI charges that end up in California courts. Felony DUIs and misdemeanor charges that go to trial will also involve the District Attorney perusal of the DUI file, and sometimes, evidence uncertainties can lead to a DA's rejection.

Your DUI attorney will seek to make better deals with the prosecution before the case goes before the judge. One of the more common deals sought in cases without aggravating factors is a speed exhibition misdemeanor or infraction charge.

‘Speed Ex’ or Exhibition of Speed

Though it's a crime on its own, a speed exhibition involves aiding and abetting a speeding show on a California highway. While there is no relation between a speed ex and a DUI, the lesser penalties that exhibition attracts makes it one of the most familiar California reductions of DUI charges.

Vehicle code 23109(c) charges speed exhibition as a misdemeanor in California although the sentences are lighter than those meted out by DUI relating VC sections 23152(a) and (b). VC 23109(c) defines speed exhibition as driving a motor vehicle while engaging in ‘exhibitions of speed.' Motor vehicle in this sense represents;

  • Cars, trucks and any private passenger vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • School buses and transit vehicles
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Trailer tractors

Penalties for Speed Exhibition under Vehicle Code 23109(c)

A speed ex can be handled as a misdemeanor in California or as an infraction. Where charged as an infraction, speed exhibition, which is the alternative charge most DUI misdemeanors prefer is punishable by a two hundred dollars fine and probation or jail time.

A misdemeanor ‘speed ex’ conviction will attract a 90-day jail sentence, which will be served in county jail, or five hundred dollars fine.

Role of a DUI Attorney in Mitigating the Consequences of DUI Charges

The DUI attorney handles the legal aspects of a misdemeanor or felony DUI charge and practices within the state of California. They handle charges resulting from a standard DUI to vehicular and gross vehicular manslaughter. The DUI lawyer investigates aspects of your case to determine the probabilities of issues and questionable areas to use in your defense.

The attorney can visit the location where the DUI arrest happened to study all police records from breath analysis, blood sample testing, and procedures followed by the police personnel. The officer who arrested you is a person of interest to the DUI lawyer who digs into their training background and arrests records.

The attorney should also scrutinize the blood and breath testing equipment maintenance and analyze samples using subpoenas or cross-examinations. A defect in the testing equipment and wrong procedures by an arresting officer are common issues that our lawyers investigate to help defend you.

Contact an Experienced Vista DUI Attorney Near Me

While there are many lawyers that can help you fight your DUI charges, we recommend that you get in touch with an experienced lawyer who understands all the DUI laws and is willing to fight for your rights until the end. You should not be stressed out navigating through the court and DMV processes when our lawyers are ready to help you out. Call the local office of San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150 to talk to an experienced Vista DUI attorney today.