Facing driving under the influence charges in the Golden State is a nerve-wracking experience because California DUI laws are among the most stringent nationally. Penalties range from license suspension to imprisonment. Therefore, you should understand the application of the state’s DUI laws to your case. Having a DUI attorney from the Seyb Law Group is equally advisable because they’ll fight for your rights and freedom.
What Counts as DUI in California?
You can get convicted under California’s DUI laws in several ways. The most common involves being found with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit. The California Vehicle Code § 23152 breaks the limits into four key categories:
- 0.08% or higher applies to adults older than 21 years who hold regular driver’s licenses without restrictions.
- 0.04% or higher applies to those who hold commercial driver’s licenses irrespective of the vehicle they were driving at the time of the arrest.
- 0.04 or higher if you’re currently on probation for a previous DUI charge.
- 0.01 or higher for those under the legal drinking age (21 years).
DUI Charges Aren’t Limited to Alcohol
Contrary to what you might think, DUI doesn’t refer to alcohol alone. A substance can be regarded as the cause of your DUI offenses if it impacts your ability to handle a motor vehicle. That includes medicine, drugs, and other intoxicating substances such as illegal drugs, prescription medications, and legal over-the-counter drugs.
If the district attorney proves you were driving “under the influence,” by an intoxicating substance, the precise blood alcohol concentration won’t matter. In this case, you’re likely to get convicted even if your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit.
California’s DUI Codes for Adult Drivers
In California, two general DUI laws apply to adult drivers:
- Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), which prohibits drunk driving.
- Vehicle Code Section 23152(b), which prohibits driving with a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.08%.
If you get arrested for DUI in the Golden Gate State, you’re likely to get charged under both laws.
Penalties for DUI Offenses in California
DUI offenses in California carry varying penalties, which are primarily determined by the specifics of each case. These include your age and whether you cooperated during the chemical test. General penalties for DUI convictions include:
- Admin per se driver’s license suspension.
- Court assessments and fines.
- Additional driver’s license suspension (as a criminal penalty).
- Being ordered to attend educational programs, including a DUI school.
- Unofficial penalties, including higher insurance costs.
- Getting ordered to fit an ignition interlock device in your car.
Since DUIs in California tend to be “priorable,” you might face stricter penalties and fines if you have prior DUI convictions. For instance, any DUI conviction within the past ten tears is likely to count against you.
Penalties Based on Previous DUI Offenses
Here’s a lowdown of specific penalties for first, second, third, or subsequent DUI convictions in California within ten years:
First-Time DUI Offense
Despite the strict California DUI laws, penalties for first-time offenders are relatively small. They include:
- License suspension for at least four months.
- Imprisonment for up to six months.
- A maximum fine of $3,600.
- Three months’ court-mandated DUI school attendance.
- Installation of an ignition interlock device.
- Up to five years’ DUI probation.
These penalties may not sound harsh, but you’ll still have a DUI conviction on your record. This can affect your ability to get into certain careers alongside other consequences. For this reason, you need a DUI attorney to help you fight the charges and get off the hook.
Second DUI Offense
If you’re facing DUI charges for the second time in ten years, possible penalties include:
- License suspension for a maximum of two years.
- One-year imprisonment in jail.
- Fines of up to $4,000.
- Up to 30 months’ attendance in a DUI school.
- Up to five years DUI probation.
- Mandatory fitting of an ignition interlock device on your car.
Indeed, these penalties are significantly harsher than what you’d receive as a first-time DUI offender. If you’re getting convicted of a DUI offense for the second time, you’ll undoubtedly face at least one of these penalties.
Third-Time DUI Offenses
If you’re facing DUI charges for the third time in less than ten years, penalties may include:
- License suspension for a maximum of three years.
- A maximum of one year in jail or 16 months in state prison.
- Penalties of up to $18,000.
- Thirty months’ attendance at a DUI school.
- Mandatory fitment of an ignition locking device on your car.
- A maximum of five years DUI probation.
The court won’t be lenient on you when you get charged for the third time. The penalties that apply to such offenders are stringent, and you’ll need an experienced DUI lawyer to help you win the case.
Subsequent DUI Convictions
Typical penalties for fourth-time and subsequent DUI offenses could include:
- Driver’s license suspension for up to four years or possible lifetime suspension.
- Up to 16 months’ imprisonment in state prison.
- A maximum fine of $18,000.
- Up to five months DUI probation.
- Mandatory fitment of an ignition interlock device on your car.
- 30 months’ attendance at a DUI school.
- You’ll be considered a convicted felon.
Fourth and subsequent DUI offenses carry harsher penalties and punishments. If you find yourself in this tricky situation, you’ll have a criminal record, which means accessing loans, job opportunities, and education opportunities will be hard. Hiring an aggressive DUI attorney is a no-brainer because they can help you avoid these penalties.
What Factors Can Aggravate Your DUI Penalties/Punishment?
Under California’s DUI laws, the presence of certain facts and circumstances at the time of your arrest can aggravate your potential penalties. These factors come into play regardless of whether you’re getting convicted of a first, second, or subsequent DUI charge. They include:
- Refusing to cooperate during the chemical test.
- Having a BAC of over 0.15%.
- Causing an accident while driving under the influence.
- Over speeding while under the influence.
- DUI with a minor below 14 years in the car (this can also attract an additional child endangerment charge under Penal Code 273a).
- Being below 21 years old at the time of the offense.
Generally, the enhanced penalty you’ll receive for the aggravating factors depends on the facts and circumstances of your case and your criminal history. By criminal history, special emphasis is placed on your prior DUI history in the last ten years.
Penalties for Under-21 DUI Offenders
California regards your DUI case as an “underage” DUI if you’re yet to attain the legal drinking age (21 years) at the time of the offense. For this reason, any amount of alcohol or similar intoxicants in your system can have you convicted. Possible penalties include:
- The above-mentioned criminal penalties.
- A one-year license suspension.
If you’re yet to attain the legal drinking age, you can also get charged under California DUIs laws for carrying alcohol in your car. Typically, the charge attracts a $1,000 fine alongside a one-year license suspension. That also applies to commercial drivers below 21 years.
California DUI Laws Always Get Amended
As with other state laws, California’s DUI laws often get amended regularly. It’s hard for you to keep up with these changes. As a result, many drivers get caught unaware when new regulations get implemented. For instance, there was a recent amendment to regulations on ignition interlock devices.
Previously, you were required to install the device after the first DUI conviction. Afterward, you could continue to operate your vehicle even after having your license suspended as part of the DUI conviction. However, the regulations on ignition interlock devices have gotten amended, something you may not know.
Several proposals have also been made to California’s DUI laws. For instance, State Bill 1713 got proposed in 2019 and seeks to lower the acceptable BAC levels in the state. If it gets enacted, California will have even stricter DUI laws.
Don’t Fight a DUI Conviction Alone
California has a long history of handing down harsh penalties to those convicted for DUI offenses. Never try to fight the charges alone, whether you’re facing charges for the first or fourth time. An experienced attorney from the Seyb Law Group can help you fight for your rights and ensure you get cleared of all charges.
We can fight the charges by challenging the results of the chemical and breathalyzer tests or even proving that the police overstepped their mandate when they arrested you. Thanks to our experience handling DUI cases in California, we can call upon expert witnesses to support your side of the story and ensure you end up with a favorable hearing.
Call Us Today to Get Off the Hook
Your career, family, and even school life hang in the balance when facing DUI charges in California. Don’t go through this challenging period by yourself because our attorneys are here to help. We’ll stand up for your rights and help you win the DUI charges you face.
The DUI attorneys at Seyb Law Group are ready and willing to stand up for your rights. We always leverage our experience and expertise to win favorable settlements for our clients. So, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation and receive the help you deserve.