DUI Penalties in California
When someone is arrested and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the State of California, the penalties that person faces depend on a number of circumstances, including the facts involved and characteristics of the person arrested.
The state sets certain minimum and maximum penalties for DUI convictions. These guidelines help guide judges in issuing the sentences for offenders.
What is Considered “Driving Under the Influence”?
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(a), “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”
According to this specific section, no set amount of alcohol is listed to help determine what it means to be under the influence of alcohol. Under the influence, instead, refers to the person’s mental or physical ability to operate the car based on the consumption of alcohol.
It hinges largely on the police officer’s testimony and written report, the sobriety tests conducted by the officer on the driver, and any chemical tests or witness testimony. Because no set limit is written under this code, the driver can be arrested even if his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is under the legal limit.
However, under California Vehicle Code 23152(b), “it is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”
If the person is arrested for this offense, it is known as a DUI per se. This means that regardless of whether the driver is actually impaired, he or she is determined to be under the influence. Drivers who are underaged or are commercial drivers have a lower per se limit.
Prior DUI Conviction
One of the factors that play into a DUI penalty is whether the individual has a prior conviction. In California, a prior conviction is counted if it occurred within the most recent ten years.
If it has, the initial DUI could be considered for purposes of counting the next conviction as a second or subsequent offense.
First DUI Conviction
If this is the person’s first DUI conviction, it will be treated as a misdemeanor. The fines associated with a first-time DUI conviction can range between $390 to $1,000, plus additional penalty assessments. The individual will also be facing jail time anywhere between 48 hours to six months of incarceration.
The judge has discretion to order probation, which means that no mandatory jail time is required. Probation can be up to three-years of informal probation, which often requires the defendant to complete 30 hours of DUI school or more, if the defendant had a higher BAC.
In addition, for a first DUI conviction, the defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended for six months. If the person had a BAC of more than 0.08 percent or refuse BAC testing, an additional four-month administrative suspension can be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. (DMV). Usually, these suspensions will overlap, so the driver will not have to complete the full two terms.
Depending on the jurisdiction, first-time offenders may also be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in their cars for a period of five months.
Second DUI Conviction
If this is the person’s second DUI conviction in ten years, the penalties will go up in terms of severity. The monetary fines for a second DUI range from $390 to $1,000, plus other penalty assessments.
Second DUI convictions also come with jail sentences between 96 hours to one year in jail. However, many judges will allow defendants to serve jail time on house arrest or complete the sentence through alternative work programs.
In addition to the fines and jail time, a two-year license suspension comes with a second DUI and a 12-month administrative suspension if the person’s BAC was 0.08 percent or more. Like with a first DUI, these two suspensions can overlap.
Second DUI offenses also come with a three-year term of informal probation, and the defendant will need to complete an 18 month or 30-month DUI school program.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the defendant may also be required to install and maintain an IID in his or her vehicle for at least 12 months.
Third or Subsequent DUI Conviction
If the defendant has been convicted of three or more DUI offenses in a ten-year period, the third conviction will also be treated as a misdemeanor but with more severe penalties.
The fines range between $390 and $1,000, plus penalty assessments. A jail sentence of 120 days to one year is also required for a third DUI. This sentence can be reduced to 30 days if probation is granted and a 30-month DUI school is ordered.
Most third-time DUI offenders are required to complete a probation term of three to five years, and the judge does have the secretion to order 30-months of DUI school.
A three-year license suspension also comes with a later DUI, in addition to an administrative suspension for up to a year. These suspensions are allowed to overlap, however, so that the person does not serve two separate suspensions.
In addition, depending on the jurisdiction, the defendant may also be required to have an IID on his or her vehicle for up to 24 months.
DUI with Injury
If the DUI offense resulted in an injury to another person, the penalties will increase in severity. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
If he or she is charged with a felony, the penalties can include a prison sentence of 16 months to four years.
DUI with Fatality
If the DUI resulted in the death of another person, the offender will be prosecuted under California’s vehicular manslaughter or murder laws, depending on the facts of what happened.
These penalties can vary and range from a year in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. However, the higher offenses, such as a second-degree murder, can carry up to 15 years to life of prison time.
Contact Us Today!
If you have been arrested for a DUI and have questions about your rights and what to expect, it is important you contact an experienced DUI attorney to help you along the way. Call us 24/7 at 909-729-4778 to schedule your free consultation today.