California DUI Laws and Penalties

California DUI Laws and Penalties

A number of things have to be considered when one is faced with a DUI offense or conviction and these include fines, penalties and other sanctions. In California, the law being violated is the California vehicle code 23152(a) which states among others that it is illegal for any person to operate or be in control of a motor vehicle while such person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If faced with a case involving DUI, the criminal charges will consist of two offenses which include: (a) driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and (b) driving with .08% or higher blood-alcohol concentration (the so-called “per se” offense). Although an accused can be convicted of the two offenses, the law however only punishes for one offense for the reason that the penalties imposed are the same. A person accused of DUI who refuses to submit himself to chemical testing will be charged only with DUI. In addition to the criminal charges, a separate administrative case for the suspension of the driver’s license can also be charged against a driver for either having .08% or higher of blood alcohol concentration or in refusing to be subjected to chemical test administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The California DUI law provides that a first offense shall be punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of 4 days and a maximum of 6 months. A fine is also imposed along with the mandatory assessment depending on who exercises jurisdiction, some will cost as much as $1500. A suspension may also be imposed up to six months plus 3 months of attendance at a DUI school which is approved by the state. Said penalties may be increased in cases where the driver is found to have high blood alcohol level. There are judges that require community service, installation of ignition interlock device and attendance at “victim’s panels” or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In most cases the period of probation is three years.

In cases wherein so-called “enhancements” are proven or admitted in a California drunk driving case, California law provides for a higher penalty. This involves a scenario wherein the impaired driver drives with a child under 14 years of age in the car, speeding in excess of 20mph on surface streets or 30 mph on highways, refusing to submit to chemical testing, or the driver has previous conviction within the past 10 years. The speed enhancement carries a penalty of 60-day jail sentence. If such case is accompanied with an act of refusing to submit to chemical testing for blood alcohol, the driver’s license shall be suspended for a year and there is no possibility of obtaining a work-restricted license. One or more previous convictions aggravate the offense to a felony and it shall punishable by commitment to state prison.

A license suspension of 4 months shall also be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), but such punishment may be reduced to 30 days followed by 5 months of work restriction if a driver submits proof of insurance and enrolment in an approved DUI school.