There are many instances of drunk driving in California, and law enforcement is keen to combat this problem that is claiming lives while leaving others injured. Traffic accidents involving drunk drivers are a commonality on highways, inside the city, and on residential streets. San Diego DUI Attorney in Calavo Gardens is highly experienced in litigating such cases and reaching the best possible outcome.
If you are facing drunk driving charges, hire the best legal representation to keep you from jail so your life can resume normalcy. In this guide, we discuss the various laws on DUIs in California, the corresponding penalties, and how we can defend you.
What is “Per Se Count” Law in California?
California Vehicle Code section 23152(b) states that a driver is legally impaired if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. This law is popularly known as the per se count, and for the charges to stick, the prosecutor has the burden to prove the following:
- You were indeed driving the vehicle
- Your BAC level was 0.08 percent or more during that time
Types of DUI Charges within Calavo Gardens
Driving under the influence can happen under many circumstances, and they are treated differently by the law. You could be charged with a wet reckless, prescription drug DUI, misdemeanor DUI, or a marijuana DUI. In this section, we discuss these various types of DUIs and what they mean for you.
- Wet Reckless
According to the California Vehicle Code Section 23103.5, a "wet reckless" is usually issued after taking a plea bargain. Therefore, nobody is charged with a wet reckless directly; it only happens after pleading no contest to Section 23103. A wet reckless attracts lesser charges than a regular DUI, but it still goes on your record.
Usually, you will be charged with a wet reckless if the blood alcohol concentration was almost hitting the legal limit of 0.08% or when the prosecution lacks substantial evidence. Bogus arrests by officers who are chasing quotas can also trigger this lesser charge. Sentencing is more lenient, and your license may not be suspended, but there are repercussions that you need to understand.
A wet reckless is a prior able offense which means it will affect sentencing for other DUI charges. Therefore, we strongly advise clients not to take this seemingly easy way out before speaking to a qualified Calavo Gardens DUI attorney.
- Misdemeanor DUI
The first and second DUIs are customarily charged as misdemeanors provided there are no aggravating factors. An example of such factors has an active probation sentence for a previous DUI conviction. Hurting someone in the crash also counts as an aggravating factor that could escalate the charge to a felony. Misdemeanor DUIs consider the blood alcohol content as measured by a certified Breathalyzer and checks for the presence of drugs in your system.
- Marijuana DUI
Medicinal and recreational use of marijuana is legalized in California. Nonetheless, getting behind the wheel while under the influence of this stimulant is still deemed unlawful. Law enforcement officers are always on the lookout for motorists who operate vehicles after or while smoking marijuana.
Since there is no legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana, impairment levels are determined on an individual basis. This lack of a standardized legal limit which is deemed "safe for driving" has created loopholes that can get innocent people in unnecessary legal woes. If convicted, you will face harsher sentencing guidelines for subsequent DUIs, and this will create more problems for you in the future.
If you are apprehended for a marijuana DUI, get a hold of a great lawyer immediately, and do not plead guilty. Our Calavo Gardens DUI Attorneys understand how the criminal justice system works. Their job is to protect your rights at all costs, so law enforcement officers do not bully you.
- Prescription Drug DUI
Some prescription medications have side effects that make it impossible to drive safely. You may experience drowsiness or dizziness when driving, and this may lead you to veer off the road or crash. Abusing prescribed medications such as painkillers is common, and people become dependent on these drugs so much that they consume them even when they are not in pain. Antidepressants, sleep aids, decongestants, and antihistamines are other examples of drugs that can impair your driving skills.
If you are apprehended for driving under the influence of prescription drugs, this crime is still punishable under California law. The conviction will stay on your record for ten years, this way affecting your life in many ways. For instance, prospective employers will do a criminal background check and may use these findings to reject your application, depending on the nature of the job.
Securing housing may also prove difficult for someone with a criminal record. More so, having a prescription meds DUI exposes you to harsher penalties in future DUI charges. For these reasons, it is advisable to enlist an experienced Calavo Gardens DUI attorney to work on your case so you can avoid these repercussions.
DUI Charges are a Two-Step Process
Two essential processes ensue when facing DUI charges, and these processes happen autonomously. You will go through a criminal court hearing as well as the DMV hearing. In the criminal court proceedings, the prosecution will be determined to prove you contravened the state's driving laws. They will present evidence that you were drunk at the time of the arrest or accident, by submitting your BAC as tested by the arresting officer. You will need an astute lawyer to challenge the evidence, so the case is dismissed or at the very least, negotiate an agreeable deal.
The next part of your case is attending a DMV hearing which is ostensibly an informal administrative meeting. DMV officials examine your case then deliberate on whether or not you retain your driving privileges. You need great representation at this hearing, so you don't lose the right to drive in the state or elsewhere.
In the next section, we cover how California's law handles DUIs offenses and their corresponding penalties and assessments.
What are the Penalties for DUIs in Calavo Gardens?
The state of California is keen to combat drunk driving on its roads and reduce the carnage that has become the mainstay of local news. To this end, the government is enacting measures to discourage people from getting behind the wheel after drinking. The penalties for DUIs vary depending on whether this is your first conviction or you are a repeat offender.
- First DUI Offense
Being charged with drunk driving attracts harsh penalties and assessments, which increase with every subsequent DUI charge. In many cases, the first DUI is treated as a misdemeanor, and the punishment is as follows:
- A sentence of up to one year in county jail
- Serve informal probation for three to five years
- Pay fines and assessments between $1600 and $2300
- License suspension of at least six months to one year
- Attend compulsory DUI classes for three to nine months
- There may be repercussions with your automobile insurer
- Driving with an IID for up to three years
Apart from the above penalties and assessments, a judge may subject you to extra penalties due to aggravating factors. For example, if your blood alcohol content was well above the legal limit of 0.05% or if you caused an accident. Having a minor in the crash – your vehicle or the other person's vehicle – may increase the penalties. Driving at high speeds when intoxicated can also prompt the court to adjust the penalties.
As of January 2019, Senate Bill 1046 expanded the Ignition Interlock Device laws to cover anyone who is convicted of drunk driving. This new guideline means driving privileges will only be upheld after the driver install this device in their vehicle. We discuss how these devices work further below.
Under this new law, first-time offenders of drunk driving will get their driving privileges sooner without being subjected to the mandatory waiting period. You will get a restricted driving license soon after a certified interlock device is installed.
This endeavor started as a pilot program in 2010, spanning four counties (Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Tulare). SB 1046 will remain active across the state of California until 2026, and if things go well, this duration will be extended.
- Second DUI Offense
A DUI that occurred more than a decade ago does not count when it comes to determining if a subsequent arrest is a second or more DUI offense. If you are charged with a second DUI in San Diego, you can expect the following penalties:
- Jail – you may serve a jail sentence of 96 hours or one year. The judge may sentence you to house arrest or alternative programs in place of staying behind bars.
- Fines – you will be asked to pay anywhere between $390 to $1000 in fines
- Suspended license – you cannot legally operate a vehicle for two years, but you can apply for a restricted license that allows you to drive within specific guidelines.
- Probation – you will serve informal probation that lasts at least three years and a maximum of five years. During this time, you will attend a DUI program for 18 or 30 months. The duration of DUI school is typically upon the judge's discretion.
- Third DUI Offense
If you are charged with yet another DUI inside a duration of ten years, this becomes the third DUI offense, and the penalties become harsher. You can expect the following punishment:
- Fines – the amount of monetary penalties remains the same as with first or second DUI offenses standing at $390 -$1000. The judge can add penalty assessments that add up to $1800, depending on your case.
- Jail – you will serve 120 days in prison or a maximum of one year in jail. If you get probation, you will only serve 30 days behind bars, then attend DUI school for 30 months.
- License suspension – your license will be suspended for three years, and you must complete an alcohol rehabilitation program for 30 months. Also, you will have an IID installed for at least two years.
- Probation – you will be subjected to three to five years of informal probation. The court will likely order you to attend DUI school for at least 30 months.
- Fourth (or more) DUI Offenses
The fourth instance of drunk driving is usually charged as a felony, and it attracts harsh punishment that could alter your life for the worse. Being charged with a fourth DUI within ten years counts as a felony even when there was no loss of life. Here is a list of penalties you can expect the fourth time round:
- Jail – you will serve a sentence of up to three years in state prison.
- Fines – the monetary penalties are steeper at $5,000 and an additional $13,000 in DUI-related sentence
- assessments, which add up to $18,000.
- License suspension – your driving privileges will be suspended for up to 4 years
- Impounding vehicle – your vehicle may remain in police custody for up to 90 days, and there is a chance of losing ownership altogether.
What if Another Person was Injured?
If the DUI resulted in harming another person, such as the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash, penalties are higher than for standard offenses. DUIs accompanied by injury are "wobblers" and can, therefore, be charged as misdemeanors or felonies
What if I Killed Someone in DUI?
If your DUI charge has death attached to it, you are likely to be found guilty of a felony. You will be charged according to the sentencing guidelines of vehicle manslaughter or murder laws in California. The prosecuting attorney will level the following charges against you:
- Negligent vehicular homicide while drunk
- Second-degree murder
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while drunk
This escalated charge means you will serve a prison sentence of up to five years, even for a first or subsequent DUI.
Previous arrests and convictions for DUI where your BAC was 0.08% or more will be factored in when determining how much prison sentence to allocate. Other convictions that relate to reckless driving while intoxicated will also be considered.
What is a Restricted Driving License?
A restricted license is the better alternative to a suspended license. It dictates where and when you can drive, as deemed necessary by the court. If you are allowed a restricted driving permit, you can drive to work, doctor's appointments, and ferrying dependents such as school-going kids.
The license also permits you to drive to court arraignments and to seek counseling for alcohol abuse. If the DUI were due to alcohol abuse, you would have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) to check your breath before driving. If your BAC is not within the desired levels, the engine fails to start, thus preventing you from getting on the road.
How do Ignition Interlock Devices Work?
The mechanism of ignition interlock devices is simple, and experts have deemed it a reliable tool for detecting BAC. There are two methods of checking your blood alcohol concentration: 1) inhale and exhale deeply into the device, 2) blow forcefully into the IID.
Please note, the car will not start until you provide a clean breath sample which is impossible for someone who drank too much alcohol.
Voluntary Installation of IIDs
Apart from court-mandated IIDs, you can choose to install a car breathalyzer to save you from making bad decisions again. For instance, you may have been apprehended for a DUI offense and started seeking counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse. Installing an IID helps you remain accountable to yourself and your loved ones so that you can avoid tragedies.
Whether voluntary or court-mandated installation, the IID must fulfill the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) requirements. Also, the provider must be certified to sell these devices within California. If your driving privileges were suspended, have a representative from the company drive your car for the installation. The installation process takes roughly an hour.
You will have to get an insurance plan for the device to cover you in case of natural disasters, theft, or automobile collisions that may damage the IID.
Find the Best Calavo Gardens DUI Attorney Near Me
Any instance of a DUI charge cannot be taken lightly as the penalties will affect your life now and in the future. You may find it hard to secure employment in specific fields with a conviction on your record. You could also be turned away by landlords, not to mention the social stigma that comes with criminal convictions. Do not attempt to represent yourself as your legal knowledge may not be enough to navigate this complex system, and you may exacerbate the problem.
Our practice in Calavo Gardens has litigated many cases involving drunk driving and saved clients from serving time. We can negotiate a probationary sentence or paying monetary fines in place of jail time. If you are grappling with DUI charges, contacting the best legal minds is a smart move that will improve your chances of walking away unscathed. Contact us at 619-535-7150 for a free consultation so we can examine your case.