What Are the DUI Laws in California?

What Are the DUI Laws in California?

What Are the DUI Laws in California?

Alcoholic beverages can impair a person’s ability to drive and other functions. For this reason, driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law. Every state across the nation has different laws regarding DUIs, but every state outlaws impaired driving.

In California, a DUI can either be a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. When you face a DUI charge, it can be detrimental to your future in many ways. Upon a conviction, you will have a criminal record and receive a sentence that can involve costly penalties.

There are many defenses available for DUI charges that can help you avoid a conviction. You must meet with a California DUI defense lawyer to find the best strategy for you.

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First DUI

A first-time DUI is typically a misdemeanor and results in two legal proceedings: a DMV hearing and a criminal case.

Penalties for a first-time conviction will vary but include:

  • Six months in jail
  • Work release
  • Attendance at a victim impact panel
  • Three to five years of probation
  • DUI school
  • Fines between $1,500 and $2,000
  • Six-month license suspension
  • The installation of an IID for six months

A first offense has a steep penalty, but that penalty can worsen when there are aggravating factors. The reason for the steep penalties is to discourage repeat offenders.

Defenses are available, and many people avoid a conviction on their first charge with help from the right DUI defense attorney.

Second DUI

While the penalties for a first-time DUI are harsh, a second offense is much harsher.

The penalties you will face for a second offense are:

  • Fine of $390 and penalty assessments
  • Three to five years of probation
  • Ignition interlock device for one year
  • 96 hours to one year in jail
  • Second-offender DUI school

California is unique because it leaves it up to individual counties to determine the penalties for a second offense. So depending on where your conviction occurs, your penalties will differ. Due to this uncertainty, you must immediately contact a DUI defense lawyer in California for help with your case.

Third DUI

If you receive a third DUI offense in California within ten years, you can face:

  • 120 days to one year in jail
  • Three to five years of probation
  • Two years of an ignition interlock device
  • 30-month DUI education program approved by the court
  • Drivers license revocation for three years, then a restricted license for 18 months
  • Fine and penalty assessments

You can face several additional penalties depending on the stipulations of your probation and any aggravating factors present. A third offense is not a felony unless there is an injury to a third party. Further, you can often avoid jail time with suitable legal representation.

Fourth DUI

California DUI Lawyer

When you are facing a fourth-time DUI offense in California, it can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. A fourth offense must occur within ten years, and all prior crimes do not need to occur within the state.

The potential penalties include the following:

  • 30 months of DUI school
  • Incarceration ranges from 180 days to three years, depending on whether it is a felony or misdemeanor
  • Fines between $390 and $1,000
  • Drivers license revocation for four years

A fourth DUI in California is a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor will decide whether to press felony or misdemeanor charges. No matter how many DUIs you have, when there is an injury or death, it will automatically be a felony charge, even with a clean driving record.

DUI With a Commercial License

Commercial drivers have a higher duty than other vehicles on the road. A driver’s BAC must be 0.04 percent or higher for a commercial DUI. This is half of the legal limit for drivers of non-commercial vehicles. Drivers can suffer criminal consequences and can lose their employment due to a commercial DUI. Do not lose your livelihood; work with a California commercial DUI defense lawyer to avoid a conviction.

Refusing Breathalyzer

When you are lawfully stopped by the police, and they have reason to suspect you are under the influence, they can request that you provide a breath sample. You can face penalties for a refusal if the Breathalyzer request was lawful. One penalty you will face is a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Keep in mind you cannot refuse the chemical test after police arrest you. Before police arrest you, you can refuse specific tests.

The most common defenses you can use for a refusal are that the traffic stop was unlawful, the officer did not have justification for requesting a breath test, or you refused due to an injury or another valid reason. Each of these defenses requires the assistance of a DUI defense lawyer in California.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)

California also prohibits drivers from operating motor vehicles while under the influence of drugs. The definition of drugs is any substance other than alcohol in a person’s system that impairs their ability to drive. You are under the influence when you cannot drive the same way a sober person does because you have taken drugs, alcohol, or both.

Penalties for a misdemeanor DUID include:

  • Fines begin at $1,800
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Jail time
  • Three-month California DUI school
  • Three to five years of DUI probation

You can face a felony if it is your fourth DUI offense, you have a previous felony DUI, or there was an injury to a third party.

The penalties for a felony are:

  • Fines
  • Three years in jail

When there is an injury, the penalties are steeper.

California law distinguishes between these drug categories:

  • Legal drugs:
  • Illegal drugs
  • Prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medications

You can get a DUI for sleeping pills, prescription medications, and more, which is shocking to many. There is no legal limit on the total drugs in your system so long as they impair your driving ability.

DUI With Meth

California drivers cannot drive under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. One of the most common drugs drivers use is meth. Meth is an ingredient in a prescription medication used for ADHD and other conditions. At its core, it is a nervous system stimulant. Small amounts can cause a rapid heart rate and increase your alertness. However, excess use can cause mood disturbance, anxiety, confusion, delusions, and hallucinations. Therefore, California believes the drug can impair your driving ability, but there is no evidence that it does.

The penalties for a DUI with meth are the same as DUID penalties. You have several defenses available for a meth DUI such as lack of probable cause, the meth did not impair your judgment, or the officer improperly did the chemical test. Other defenses are available, but you must speak with a California DUI defense lawyer immediately.

DUI With Marijuana

Many states have some form of marijuana legalization, including California. In the state, recreational use is legal; however, several stipulations exist. Similar to alcohol, marijuana impairs a driver’s abilities. The penalties are the same when you have alcohol impairment and when you have a marijuana impairment. The key difference is there is no set limit for how much marijuana a driver can have in their system. The defense strategy can be different for DUI with marijuana because there is still debate on how much cannabis will impair a person’s driving ability.

DUI With a Child

The majority of states agree that driving with a minor in the vehicle while under the influence is more severe than a standard DUI. The reason is that driving with a minor under 14 is an aggravating factor, and depending on your state, you can also face child endangerment charges.

California addresses these charges as a sentencing enhancement, meaning the driver can face additional jail time. The extra jail time is often 90 days but will vary depending on individual circumstances. Some factors that will not affect the outcome of sentencing are whether the adult intended to harm the child, their driving patterns, or the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system. A knowledgeable California DUI defense lawyer will work to lower or drop your charges.

DUI Causing Injury

California handles cases differently when you get a DUI and an injury to another person. DUI with injury is a felony offense that can result in a four-year prison sentence. The critical element of a DUI causing injury is when a person is driving a vehicle while using alcohol or drugs and causes an accident where another person suffers an injury. The person who suffers an injury does not need to be outside the vehicle; it can be a passenger. Suppose you are drunk driving and collide with a tree causing injury to your passenger; that is a DUI causing injury.

A felony will subject you to:

  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Habitual traffic offender (HTO) status
  • A strike on your record
  • Completion of DUI school
  • License revocation for five years

There are aggravating factors that can make penalties worse, but there are also defenses available. You will need to discuss your options with a California DUI defense lawyer.

Probable Cause and Parked Cars

An officer must have probable cause to arrest a person for a DUI. There is a gray area where an officer can try to arrest you for a DUI while the car is not in motion. Lawyers often fight these charges because the entire premise of a DUI is for driving, and if the vehicle is not in motion or even turned on, then you cannot be driving under the influence.

Please note you can get a DUI even if you move the vehicle two inches in the parking space. The amount you move is irrelevant; all the officer needs is to observe you driving the car. You can also face DUI charges if you were in a position of control over the car, even if it was not moving. There are other ways the prosecutor will try to validate the arrest, which is why you need a California DUI defense lawyer.

Wet reckless

The term wet reckless applies when a person pleads no contest or guilty as part of a plea agreement. Typically, the plea agreement results when the prosecutor agrees to drop the more serious DUI charge if the defendant pleads to the wet reckless charge. In other terms, wet reckless is a reckless driving charge under Code 23102 that involves alcohol. There are also dry reckless charges, with the vital differential being the use of alcohol.

Wet reckless charges have fewer penalties and consequences, which can help you when facing harsher charges. A California DUI defense lawyer will seek wet reckless pleas when it is unlikely that you can get out of a DUI case entirely. However, work with your lawyer to find the best strategy for your case.

DUI and Speeding

Driving at an excessive speed is a sentencing enhancement when you are under arrest for a DUI.

The enhancement can result in 60 days of additional jail time if:

  • You drove in a reckless manner
  • You drove 30 miles over the posted speed on a freeway or 20 miles over the posted speed on a street
  • You have a DUI conviction

The posted speed limit is crucial because it is what the prosecutor will rely on to prove your case. This sentencing enhancement is unique because even if a prosecutor drops other charges, you may still need to serve 60 days. Due to the complexity of sentencing enhancements, you need a proper legal defense to avoid jail time.

Defending a DUI

Many California drivers who are facing a DUI charge feel they are in a hopeless situation, but this is often not the case.

Your many possible defenses may include:

  • Breath test errors
  • Blood test errors
  • Title 17 violations
  • Inaccurate field tests
  • Residual mouth alcohol
  • Rising blood alcohol
  • Ketosis
  • Bad driving
  • Not driving
  • Non-compliant DUI checkpoint
  • Police Misconduct

There are many more, but it will be up to your California DUI defense lawyer to determine the defense that works for your particular circumstances. Rest assured, you have options after a DUI arrest.

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