DUI Offenses in California
It is illegal in the state of California to drive with a blood alcohol concentration or BAC level of 0.08% or higher. Commercial drivers may not operate a motorized vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, and a driver under 18 may not drive with any measurable blood alcohol concentration. Drivers may also be convicted of DUI with any level of alcohol in their blood if the state has sufficient evidence to prove the driver could not safely operate their vehicle.
Penalties for a California DUI arrest
Driving under the influence in California can lead to both administrative (civil) penalties as well as criminal penalties. If convicted, there are a variety of penalties which may be assessed. These penalties are discussed below.
California DUI and Administrative Penalties
California drivers, who refuse to submit to a chemical test following a California DUI arrest, will have their license immediately suspended. First time refusals will result in a one year license suspension. Second time refusals will result in a two year license suspension.
Drivers who took the chemical test but whose BAC was 0.08% or higher will have their license suspended for 4 months for the first offense. All subsequent offenses (within 10 years of the first offense) will result in a one year license suspension.
Drivers will also have their license confiscated at the time of the DUI arrest. Their license will be returned to them following the license suspension, assuming they complete the steps for reinstate, including paying fines and purchasing the required insurance.
Drivers have 10 days from the date of the receipt of the suspension or revocation order to request a hearing to challenge the administrative license suspension.
The administrative license suspension is a civil charge and will be enforced whether or not the driver is conviction of DUI.
First Time DUI arrest and conviction in California
Assuming the state has sufficient evidence to prove the officer had probable cause to stop the driver’s car, the driver violated California’s DUI laws, and the DUI arrest was lawful, the driver will be charged with DUI.
Generally, a first-time DUI charge is a misdemeanor charge, assuming there was no bodily injury or death. Fines and penalties for a first-time California DUI include:
-Fines ranging from $390 up to $1,000 -Four days to six months in jail -Four month minimum license suspension -Probation -Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device -Mandatory attendance of an alcohol awareness program -Mandatory purchase of SR22 insurance
Second DUI arrest and conviction in California
Drivers arrested within the 10 year look back or washout period will be charged with a second misdemeanor DUI, assuming there is no death or severe bodily injury. The washout period is calculated from the date of each DUI arrest. Drivers arrested for a second California DUI will face the following DUI penalties:
-Mandatory jail time from 96 hours to one year, although under some conditions the court may convert the jail time to house arrest or work service. -Fines ranging from $390 to $1000 - 3 to 5 years probation -18 month mandatory attendance in an alcohol educational school. -License suspension up to 2 years -Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
Third DUI arrest and conviction in California
Drivers arrested for DUI will be charged with a third DUI if their first DUI arrest was less than 10 years earlier. A third California DUI is also considered a misdemeanor charge unless another person (other than the defendant) suffered bodily injury, the defendant has a fourth DUI within the 10 year washout period, or the defendant was previously charge with a DUI felony. If any of the above conditions exist, the driver will be charged with felony DUI.
Penalties assessed for a third California DUI include the following:
-Fines and penalties ranging from $390 to $1,800 (plus fees and enhancements) -At least 120 days in jail, which can be increased up to one year (options may exist for house arrest or community service). -3 to 5 years probation. -Mandatory attendance in a DUI educational program. -License suspension of 3 years -Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
Hiring a DUI lawyer
Due to the severity of the fines and penalties and the life-long consequences of a DUI conviction, all drivers are encouraged to talk to a DUI lawyer before pleading guilty to any California DUI charges.