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Penalties for DUI

California DUI Penalties

When facing drunk driving charges, the prosecuting attorney is dedicated to seeing that you are convicted. It is strongly advised that you have a quality DUI defense lawyer working to protect you against the attacks of the prosecution. You need someone to fight aggressively for your defense. Los Angeles DUI attorneys at Gold & Witham have more than 40 years of combined legal experience. We understand the entire DUI court process and know how to guide the clients through from start to finish.

Call now for your free consultation with our law firm!

Is a DUI a Misdemeanor?

In California, a DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor offense if:

  • The driver had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or less while operating their vehicle;
  • There were no other drugs present in their system at the time of arrest; and
  • No one was injured or killed in an accident caused by the driver's impaired driving.

However, individuals with prior DUI convictions may be subject to felony charges for subsequent DUIs even if none of the three conditions above are met. Furthermore, drivers with extremely high BAC levels may also be charged with a felony DUI regardless of whether anyone was harmed due to their impaired driving.

In order to be convicted of a DUI, the prosecution must prove that the driver was in fact impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time they were operating their vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, this may include chemical tests to verify BAC levels, breathalyzer tests, field sobriety tests, and other evidence.

If convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in California, individuals can face steep fines, jail time, driver’s license suspension or revocation for up to one year (or longer depending on prior convictions), and mandatory completion of an approved educational program related to alcohol abuse/DUI awareness. In some cases, individuals may also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle for a certain period of time.

Penalties for Violations of § 23152: Driving Under the Influence

The maximum penalties a driver may face for a DUI conviction are as follows:

First DUI Offense

  • License suspension – 4 months
  • Jail sentence – 48 hours to 6 months
  • Fines and court fees - $1400 to $1800
  • Probation – 1 to 5 years

Second DUI Offense 

  • License suspension – 2 years
  • Jail sentence – 96 hours to 1 year
  • Fines and court fees - $1800 to $2800
  • Probation – 3 to 5 years
  • Ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle

Third DUI Offense 

  • License suspension – 3 years
  • Jail sentence – 4 months to 1 year
  • Fines and court fees - $1800 to $2800
  • Probation – 5 years
  • Ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle

Fourth DUI Offense 

  • Felony DUI charge
  • License suspension – 4 years, or permanent
  • Jail sentence – 6 months to 3 years

DUI with Injury 

  • 3 years in state prison
  • 1 additional year for each additional person injured in the accident
  • 3 additional years for great bodily injury

Vehicular Manslaughter 

  • 4 years in state prison
  • With gross negligence, up to 10 years in state prison

Enhanced Penalties for DUI

A DUI "sentencing enhancement" is an allegation of legal or factual factors that includes greater punishment to the defendant because their specific DUI posed a greater threat to law or public safety.

  • Multiple DUIs - The classic "legal" enhancement in this regard is that of the "prior DUI conviction" within 10 years of the current arrest (CVC sec. 23540 and following), which imposes mandatory jail time up to one year, an 18-month alcohol education program, and fines up to $4000.
  • Property Damage - An example of a "factual enhancement" would be an allegation of property damage in the current case, which can impose court-ordered restitution, community service, and higher fines.
  • High BAC - The "high blood alcohol enhancement" discretionarily (at or above .15%) or mandatorily (at or above .20%) poses up to 9 months of a court-ordered alcohol education program, up to $4000 in fines, and prospectively 10 months of license suspension.
  • Refusing a Blood or Breath Test - The "refusal enhancement" codifies the DMV's prohibition against refusing, or failing to complete, an officer-requested chemical test, the allegation of which requires a minimum of 48 hours/ 2 days jail.
  • Child Endangerment - The "child endangerment enhancement" mandatorily poses 48 hours (up to 90 days) jail for those convicted of DUI while driving with a passenger under 14 years of age.

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Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction

Aside from the above, there are many other collateral consequences of DUI convictions.

If you've been arrested, know that you are facing the possibility of the following:

  • Auto Insurance: Being arrested for drunk driving means your insurance company now sees you as a liability. If they do not completely cancel your policy, they may raise your rates.
  • Vehicle Impoundment Fees: After being arrested, law enforcement will have your vehicle impounded. You will have to pay for the impoundment and pay to get your vehicle out.
  • Alcohol Education Program: Many individuals who are arrested for drunk or drugged driving are required by the judge to participate in a certified alcohol or drug education program. The costs of these education programs are the sole responsibility of the offender.
  • Court Costs: Since a DUI is a criminal offense, your case will be handled in court. You will be responsible for paying court costs and administrative hearing costs.
  • Mark on Your Criminal Record: The primary reason most people want to avoid a DUI conviction is so that they can avoid a mark (or another mark) on their criminal record.
  • Employment Harms: A DUI on your record could impede your ability to gain employment or keep your current position (especially if driving is a part of your normal job duties).
  • Civil Damages: If your DUI involved another vehicle (DUI accident), then you may be required to pay civil damages as a form of relief to the victim(s).

Why retain a Los Angeles DUI attorney?

At Gold & Witham, our Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys are dedicated to providing you with aggressive legal representation so that you are not convicted for driving under the influence. With over 40 years of combined experience, you can be confident that we have the background and resources to get your DUI charge dropped. Even if you have already been convicted for DUI, we could work with you to file for expungement or an appeal.

To learn more, contact a Los Angeles DUI attorney from our firm for a free consultation regarding your case.

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