Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Driving under the influence of alcohol in California is a serious offense. It is best to speak with an attorney immediately after you are issued a citation. This process can be very complicated and you want to be sure that you feel fully confident throughout the duration of your case.
Driving under the influence in California can be prosecuted as misdemeanor but the offense may be charged as a felony. The penalties for DUI’s depend on whether you’ve had prior DUI offenses and whether anyone was injured as a result of you driving under the influence. Driving with blood alcohol content (BAC), greater than 0.08% is considered driving while under the influence. It is not just alcohol that counts as potentially dangerous, but so is marijuana or any illegal drug which can impair your driving ability. California law also applies to anyone who is impaired and is driving the vehicle with the keys in it. You can be arrested or charged with DUI if you are being caught driving while under the influence.
In this article, we’ll be covering the steps that you should take if you are issued a DUI citation, the types of penalties that you are eligible for if convicted, and tips on how to navigate your case.
What to do if you get a DUI in California
It is best to cooperate with officers on the spot if you are pulled over for suspected DUI. When asked to take a field sobriety or breath test, be polite and give your name or any information the officer asks. Never resist officers as this can make the situation worse or additional charges can be added as well. If you refuse to take a blood sample, you could be taken to a hospital where it will be done against your will and without consent.
If caught driving under the influence, a DUI results in two types of legal consequences. Two sets of proceedings can be brought against a driver who is arrested for driving while under the influence or drug use. One of which is a jury trial, or court trial in a California penal court. The second is a hearing to suspend a California DMV license. The California DMV can’t fine or place a defendant in jail. DUI’s result in automatic suspension of license unless the defendant requests a hearing.
DMV hearings cannot be granted automatically and MUST be filed within 10 days of being arrested, the defendant is responsible for requesting this.
Types of Penalties for a DUI
There are two types of penalties that can be applied to DUI arrests. You will be subject to the usual criminal penalties for violating the law. However, there are also unrelated civil sanctions. The Courts handle the criminal penalties, while the Department of Public Safety's Driver License Division handles the administrative (or "Perse") penalties. Administrative penalties are distinct and can be used in lieu of any criminal penalties. Your age, BAC (or chemical testing results) and previous arrests will determine the length of your license suspension.
Common civil penalties include jail time, driver's license suspension, multiple fines plus Court cost, community service, impounded vehicle fee, treatment for substance abuse (regardless of whether you have a problem), Ignition Interlock Device, and any related fees. Based on your criminal record and the circumstances surrounding your arrest, the Court may increase or decrease your penalties. A prior conviction for DUI could result in additional fees and criminal charges. For example, a misdemeanor can become a felony if this is your first DUI offense.
Contact an Attorney
There are several steps involved in getting your driver's license reinstated as well as dealing with criminal proceedings and court dates. An attorney will help you ensure that everything is done correctly and allow you to drive again while also assisting you in defending yourself at criminal hearings to get the best chances at fighting your criminal charges. Even if you don't think you will ever do this, it is a good idea to be familiar with California DUI laws in case you find yourself or someone you know in this situation. The high and lengthy fines for breaking these laws could be an effective deterrent to not drinking and driving.
Arete Law can help you every step of the way if you find yourself in this situation. We have experience with helping clients deal with DUI’s. We're able to help streamline your process and walk you through each step from arrest to court hearing.
At Arete Law, we offer flat-fee costs for cases and streamline your process as much as possible. Get in touch with our legal team for a quote today and set up a consultation if you're in need of legal assistance.