Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a common criminal offense among drivers in California, with over one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) DUI arrests made every year in the sunshine state. Although it is common, DUI is considered a severe crime, and if found guilty, first-time offenders can end up serving up to a one-year jail sentence. The second and third DUI offenses are also typically treated as misdemeanors, while fourth DUI charges are treated as felonies, carrying hefty fines and imprisonment terms.

Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony DUI charges, we invite you to contact the San Diego DUI Attorney. Our local Bonita DUI attorney will be ready to help you through your DUI investigation, court proceedings, DMV hearing, and any matters related to driving under the influence.

What is a DUI Charge?

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. A DUI charge means that the motorist was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In the state of California, DUI is taken very seriously and is considered a criminal offense rather than just being a violation of traffic rules. 

DUI is usually treated as a misdemeanor. However, there are instances when a DUI becomes a felony. This happens under the following scenarios:

  • When your DUI results in the injury or death of another person

  • When you already have three (3) or more previous DUI convictions within ten (10) years

  • When you have a prior felony DUI conviction.

Types of DUI Charges

Do you know that you can face DUI charges even if you are below twenty-one (21) years old? In California, as long as you are caught driving under the influence, you will face the DUI charge despite not drinking above the legal limit. To most people, these facts come as a surprise because they assume that they have a strong defense against a DUI charge if they are over twenty-one 21 years, and their blood alcohol concentration is less than 0.08%. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are various types of DUI charges as discussed further below.

DUI of Drugs (DUID)

California law defines a drug as any substance, apart from alcohol, that can affect the brain, muscles or the nervous system of an individual thereby impairing their ability to drive cautiously as an ordinary person would in such circumstances.

DUID strictly deals with intoxication caused by drugs. These drugs include illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine (also known as crystal, ice or meth), legal drugs like marijuana, prescription medications, and Over-the-counter (OVC) medications.

According to California Vehicle Code §23152, you can be charged with DUID if you are found driving under the influence of drugs. The code also applies when you are found driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs or when you are addicted to a particular drug but not taking part in an approved treatment plan.

Unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit for the level of drugs in your system. This means that regardless of the amount of drug you have taken, you can be charged if found driving while under the influence of this drug. As mentioned earlier, the type of drug also does not matter; whether it is an illegal drug like cocaine or a legal drug like prescription drugs, you can face DUID charges in California if found under the influence of these drugs.

“Wet Reckless” Driving

There are times when the prosecutor lessens your DUI charge. When this happens, the charge is then referred to as a ‘wet reckless’ driving charge. The name ‘wet reckless’ driving is some slang used in California to refer to a Reckless Driving with Alcohol Involvement charge and hence you cannot find it in California state laws.

When you plead to a ‘wet reckless’ driving, you can avoid serving the mandatory jail time. Also, probation and fines are reduced. Additionally, the mandatory driver’s license suspension will not apply once you plead to a ‘wet reckless’ driving charge.  Nevertheless, it is crucial to keep in mind that a ‘wet reckless’ driving charge can count as a real DUI if you get arrested for another DUI within ten (10) years.

Instances When You Can Plead ‘Wet Reckless’ Driving

California law allows for the bargaining of the DUI charge. This, of course, means that you will need to have an experienced Bonita DUI attorney for you to stand a chance. If the prosecutor agrees to your plea bargain, you will face ‘wet reckless’ driving charge as opposed to a DUI charge. Wet reckless charge only applies as a plea bargain to DUI charges, and carries lesser punishments compared to DUI charges. 

However, there are restrictions to the bargaining of the DUI charge. Your DUI charge can only be reduced under the following circumstances:

  • Weak evidence for the DUI charge

  • Lack of testimony from a key witness

  • There is no significant change in the sentence after the plea deal.

The ‘wet reckless’ driving charge is not the only plea that the prosecution can offer, but it is the most common plea in DUI charges. The other plea deals involved in DUI charges include Dry reckless, drunk in public, combined traffic offenses or exhibition of speed. It is important to note that ‘wet reckless’ is used to refer to DUI charges involving alcohol or drugs and the term dry reckless to refer to violations where no alcohol or drugs were involved.

Commercial License DUI

When a driver driving a commercial vehicle is caught driving under the influence, they can end up facing other problems on top of the DUI charge. This is because the state of California treats a commercial DUI, found under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d), differently from a regular first DUI. The commercial DUI has a lesser blood alcohol content, and the driver can face additional penalties.

The California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d) states that it is against the law for any individual with 0.04 % alcohol concentration in their blood, to drive a motor vehicle used for commercial purposes.

The penalty for a commercial DUI is similar to the penalty for a first DUI. The additional penalties may include loss of the commercial license for at least one (1) year (meaning that the period can be longer). A second commercial DUI (whether ordinary or commercial DUI) can result in the permanent loss of the commercial driving benefits. This applies in both the Federal law and the California law. Given the harsh consequences of Commercial DUI, commercial divers have no option but to fight the DUI charges vigorously.

Underage DUI

When a driver below twenty-one (21) years is caught driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, and that being their first DUI arrest, they end up facing additional penalties on top of the first DUI penalty. Besides, the blood alcohol content threshold is reduced since the driver has not attained the legal drinking age (which is twenty-one (21) years). This is a severe DUI charge since the driver in question is still below the drinking age, hence the allegation involves a zero tolerance policy.

The penalties for this DUI include additional jail time, compulsory suspension of the driver’s license for a year, fines, mandatory DUI school, and probation. It is worth noting that one can still be arrested and charged with underage DUI if a bottle of alcohol is found in the vehicle they are driving whether the bottle is sealed or not, and regardless of whether they drank alcohol. This is because the driver is a minor. The penalties will depend on your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level. There are different penalties for BAC of 0.01-0.4, 0.05-0.08 and 0.08 and above.

Given its nature and the level of seriousness of this crime (not saying that the others are not equally serious crimes), this DUI involves several charges including:

  • DUI of alcohol. According to Vehicle Code 23152(a), this applies to any driver caught driving under the influence of alcohol regardless of their age.

  • DUI of alcohol with BAC of 0.08 and above. Found under Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, it states that it is against the law for anyone to drive a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or more.

  • Underage Possession of Alcohol. Found under Vehicle Code 23224 VC, it criminalizes any driver or passenger below twenty-one (21) years who are caught in possession of alcohol unless they were under reasonable supervision of their employer (when transporting the alcohol), legal guardian or parent.

  • Underage DUI of alcohol. Vehicle Code 23136 VC of the state of California prohibits any person below the age of twenty-one (21) years with a BAC of 0.01% or more, from driving a vehicle. This is also regarded as the ‘Zero Tolerance Law’ that makes it illegal for anyone aged below twenty-one (21) years with any measurable alcohol level in their system to drive any vehicle.

  • Underage DUI of alcohol with 0.05 BAC or more. Vehicle Code 23140 VC makes it an offense for any person below twenty-one (21) years with a BAC of 0.05% or more to drive a vehicle.

It is essential to keep in mind that if you are below the age of twenty-one 21 years, and are caught driving under the influence, you could face all the above charges from one arrest despite the charges overlapping each other. The other DUI charges include riding a motorcycle while under the influence (charges similar to driving a car), operating a boat under the influence, otherwise known as Boating Under the Influence (BUI), hit-and-run DUI and child endangerment DUI.

DUI Penalties

Any DUI in California is a serious crime. You will need a skilled Bonita DUI Attorney to defend you if you find yourself facing any of the above DUI charges in California. With our many years of experience as DUI defense attorneys, you stand a chance to evade some, if not all, of the following DUI penalties.

First Offense DUI

The first DUI penalties involve fines of between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars, jail time ranging from forty-eight (48) hours to six (6) months, license suspension for a period of six (6) months, additional penalties as the court deems fit, mandatory participation in a DUI school as well as other penalties.

Second Offense DUI

This occurs when you are charged with a DUI within ten (10) years of your first DUI. The penalties include fines similar to the first offense, jail time ranging from 96 hours to a year, license suspension of up to two (2) years, probation period ranging from three (3) to five (5) years, DUI school participation and other penalties, as the court will decide.

Third Offense DUI

A third offense DUI happens when caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs within ten (10) years of your two (2) previous DUIs. Penalties include a fine of between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars (like the prior DUI offenses), jail time of between one hundred and twenty (120) days to a year, license suspension for up to ten (10) years, three (3) to five (5) years’ probation, additional penalties as the court deems fit, participation in a DUI school and other penalties.

Fourth Offense DUI

This DUI offense occurs within ten (10) years of the previous three (3) DUI offenses and is considered a felony offense if all the subsequent DUI convictions took place within ten (10) years. The penalties include fines of between three hundred and ninety ($390) and one thousand ($1,000) dollars (like the other DUI offenses), jail time of between one hundred and eighty (180) days and one (1) year, license suspension of up to ten (10) years, participation in DUI school and additional penalties as the court decides.

DUI with Injury

There are times when a drunk driver or a driver who is under the influence of drugs causes an accident that causes injury to a victim. The following are the penalties for DUIs that involve damages of said victim.

First Offense DUI with Injury

For first time DUI offenders, the penalties include a fine of between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars, additional penalties by the court as deemed fit, prison time for a period of one (1) year or longer, one (1) year license suspension, three (3) to five (5) years of probation, Participation in DUI school as well as other penalties.

Second Offense DUI with Injury

The penalties include fines of between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and five thousand ($5,000) dollars, additional penalties by the court, prison time for one (1) year or longer, three (3) years license suspension, three (3) to five (5) years’ probation, participation in DUI school as well as other penalties.

Third DUI with Injury

This offense attracts penalties including a fine between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and five thousand ($5,000) dollars, and other penalties given by court, at least one-year prison term, license suspension of up to ten (10) years, probation ranging from three (3) to five (5) years, designation as a recurrent traffic offender, participation in DUI school and other penalties.

Fourth or More DUI with Injury

For fourth and more DUI with injury, the penalties are similar to the third DUI with injury but the jail time is added.

The state of California recognizes DUI with injury as a ‘wobbler’ offense under California state law. This means that the California courts charge a DUI with injury as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The circumstances of the DUI with injury is what the prosecution uses to determine whether the DUI with injury is a misdemeanor or a felony.

DUID Penalties

Unlike the other DUIs, a DUID attracts a whole different system of penalties, which is rather complicated. This is because a DUID is taken more seriously, unlike an alcohol DUI and is considered a criminal misdemeanor whether on your first, second, or third conviction. However, a skilled Bonita DUI Attorney will be able to get the judge to agree on community service or probation for a part of or your entire sentence.

However, if you have multiple DUIDs, you may have to serve some jail time. Other penalties in DUIDs include the suspension of your driver’s license for a period ranging between six (6) months and three (3) years according to the number of DUIs in your record.

Driving under the influence of drugs conviction also will result in the suspension of your driver’s license for six (6) months to three (3) years, depending on the total prior DUI offenses you have on your record. Getting three (3) DUIDs in ten (10) years will result in losing your driver’s license for four (4) years when you get charged with a fourth DUID. The same case applies to DUI of alcohol.

Find a Bonita DUI Attorney Near Me

If you are a resident of Bonita, California, and you are facing DUI charges, we invite you to contact the San Diego DUI Attorney and speak with our qualified lawyers. We are ready to assist you 24/7/365. Call us today at 619-535-7150!