It is a criminal offense for someone to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. If you lose the ability to drive safely because of alcohol or other drugs, and your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or more, you will be charged with a DUI offense. Unless you are convicted of this offense, you cannot face the penalties, but the consequences for a legal DUI arrest are often severe. Talk to an Engineer Springs DUI Attorney at the San Diego DUI Attorney law firm to help you understand the various DUI charges one can face, penalties, and possible defenses.
Felony DUI Charge
The majority of people arrested in Engineer Springs for driving under the influence are charged with a misdemeanor. However, specific scenarios can make a defendant charged with a felony DUI. Some of these circumstances include:
An accident causing bodily harm to someone else
If an accident causes severe harm to another person or leads to a fatality, you will be facing felony DUI charges. In case the victim is just bruised, or cut, the DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor. It is not easy to determine what injuries are severe or not in these cases. However, the prosecution must submit the charges and prove that you were at fault when the accident occurred, and the injuries or harm caused to the victim were severe. Failure to verify that the injuries were severe, the charges will be reversed to a misdemeanor.
Four or more DUI convictions
If one has been previously convicted of a DUI in a foreign state, or convicted of reckless driving under the influence more than four times within the last three years, he or she is charged with a felony DUI. When a driver whose license is suspended and decides to violate the suspension by driving, they will be charged with a felony. Violating probation can also lead to these charges.
Prior felony DUI charge
If somebody was previously charged with a felony DUI, when they are arrested again within ten years, they face the same charges.
Penalties for felony DUI
- Sixteen months, twenty-four months, or thirty-six months in state prison.
- Fine of $390 to $1000.
- Maximum of five years of license suspension.
- Eighteen to thirty months in DUI school
First-time DUI offense with injuries when convicted can lead to sixteen months to sixteen years in state prison, a fine of $1050 to $5000 and a restitution fee for the injured.
Misdemeanor DUI Charge
It is the most common charge that many drivers arrested for driving under the influence in Engineer Springs face. Causing cuts and bruises after an accident will be considered a misdemeanor. If no aggravating factors are involved, you will only be charged with a misdemeanor DUI offense.
Penalties for misdemeanor DUI charge
- Six months or less in jail for first offense misdemeanor.
- Fine of $390 to $1000.
- Three to nine months in DUI school
Second offense misdemeanor DUI penalties include 4 to 364 days in county jail, one year IID period, or eighteen or thirty months in DUI school. Third offense misdemeanor penalties include 120 to 364 days in county jail, two years mandatory IID or three years license suspension and thirty months in DUI School.
The majority of drivers who drive under the influence often think that they are in control. What they fail to understand is that driving while intoxicated can be fatal to them and other road users. Under California Penal Code 191.5 PC, one will be charged with vehicle manslaughter if they drive while drunk and in the process of driving, commit a criminal felony or misdemeanor that leads to another person’s death.
If a driver causes an accident due to drunk driving that leads to death, he or she will face two types of manslaughter laws:
DUI manslaughter with ordinary negligence
Drivers who do not commit extremely negligent acts are charged under this law. Defendants being accused under this type of manslaughter DUI are those that violate simple traffic rules like using a phone while driving then end up causing a fatality.
DUI manslaughter with gross negligence
To be charged under this law, you must commit an extremely negligent act while driving under the influence. The defendant in this charge must have done something like driving up a sidewalk while intoxicated to avoid traffic and in the process, hit a pedestrian and caused a fatality. A driver who over speed on the wrong side of the road and kills people is also accused of DUI manslaughter with gross negligence.
An ordinary or gross vehicular negligence will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If you are convicted:
- For misdemeanor DUI manslaughter, the sentence is jail time of up to one year
- You spend sixteen months, two years, or four years in jail for felony DUI manslaughter
California zero tolerance policy prohibits persons under the age of 21 from driving while under the influence despite the amount of alcohol or alcoholic beverage consumed. If any amount of alcohol of BAC 0.01% or above is detected in an underage, if convicted, the person may have the license suspended for one year, compulsory DUI School or three to five-year probation or a fine not exceeding $250.
The penalties for zero tolerance are more severe than those of underage DUI. One would be accused of underage DUI if they were driving with a BAC 0f 0.05% or more during the time of the arrest. The penalties for this include a one-year license suspension or a fine of $100 to $300. For individuals above eighteen years but below 21 years if convicted, it is compulsory they undertake an alcohol education program.
Commercial Driver’s License and DUI
As codified under the California Vehicle Code 23152(d), it is unlawful to drive a commercial car when your BAC is 0.04% or higher. Commercial vehicles are of two types; those that require drivers to have a class B license and the ones that need them to hold a class C license. A commercial vehicle driver will be considered under the influence when:
- Their mental or physical abilities are impaired
- They cannot be in a position to drive the vehicle in a cautious manner, similar to that of a sober person
- They were driving another car with a BAC of .08%
Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04% or another car with a BAC of .08% is referred to as “per se.” The reason being as long as the BAC level reaches the legal limit, you will be charged with a DUI even if there is no evidence to show that you were impaired.
Penalties for Commercial DUI
Commercial drivers convicted of driving while under the influence but no third party gets injured are punished with three to five-year probation, a maximum of six months in county jail, a fine of $390- $1,000, or a three-month alcohol or drug education program. Your license also might be suspended for not less than one year.
If you commit a second commercial DUI and you are convicted of the charges, you lose your commercial driver’s license permanently. In case the commercial vehicle driver fails to take a chemical test, he or she gets an automatic one year driver’s license suspension. Other additional penalties for refusal to take a drug test include:
- Additional two days in county jail and an extra six months in a DUI school for failure to take a breath test for first-time offenders
- Second-time offenders get an additional four days in jail plus two years license revocation for a chemical test refusal
- Third-time offenders get ten extra days in county jail plus three-year license revocation for declining a chemical test
- Fourth and consecutive offenders get eighteen extra days in jail and three-year license revocation for failure to take a chemical test
Wet Reckless Driving or Reckless Driving
The penalties for DUIs are severe, and at times the District Attorney might decide to reduce your DUI charges after a plea bargain. In such cases, they reduce whatever the accusation you are facing reckless driving or wet reckless. You are charged with wet reckless when you make a plea bargain or include a note referencing alcohol or drug use.
There is dry reckless and wet reckless, and the two differ in that for wet, a note indicating the criminal record of the offender is included, but in dry, it isn’t. Also, wet reckless is a priorable offense, meaning if the offender is convicted of another DUI within ten years, the penalties will be more severe.
The advantage of being charged with wet reckless is that:
- No mandatory license suspension by the court
- Reduced jail time of 5- 90 days
- Low fines of $145- $1,000
- Six weeks of compulsory DUI School, which is significantly shorter
- No mandatory IID installation
- No DUI on the offender’s criminal record
Although a plea bargain of wet reckless has its benefits, the consequences are also severe. They include:
- Being considered a repeat offender whose penalties are similar to those of a second and third DUI if you are convicted with driving under the influence within ten years
- Cancellation of the driver’s insurance policy or paying higher premiums to your car insurance company
- Provoking administrative per se (APS) hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles
- Getting an extra two points on your DMV driving record
California has enacted further laws against DUI offenders whose blood alcohol content is above .15% or higher. So, if your BAC is 0.15% or greater, you will be charged with a high BAC offense. If convicted, the penalties and sentences are harsher. In California, if you are arrested with high BAC of .15%, the court will put into consideration high BAC unique factor to impose enhanced sanctions. The education programs under these charges are prolonged too.
- License suspension of 20 months
- Mandatory DUI School and drug or alcohol education program
- First offenders may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device for a period of up to three years
- First offenders refusing to take a chemical test if convicted face probation to participate in a licensed program with a minimum of 30 hours of program activities
- For the first-time offenders who are under probation and at the time of arrest failed to take a chemical test or had a blood alcohol content of .20%, the penalties include at least nine months in alcohol or drug education program with a minimum of 60 hours of program activities.
Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by an Individual Under 21
California Vehicle Code 23224 states that no person below the age of 21 shall knowingly drive any vehicle carrying alcoholic drinks unless they are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or adult. Therefore, if you knowingly possess or be in control of alcoholic beverage while a passenger in a car or deliberately drive a vehicle with alcoholic beverages in it, you will be charged with possession of alcohol in a vehicle.
You will not be guilty of violating Vehicle Code 23224:
- If you are carrying a sealed container of alcoholic beverages in the company of your parent or a responsible adult
- If you are transporting closed alcohol containers for your employer who is licensed to sell liquor and you are driving within working hours
- If you were carrying the closed alcohol containers following the instructions of a parent or legal guardian to dispose of
Penalties for underage possession of alcohol in a vehicle
- A period not exceeding six months in county jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Impoundment of your car for thirty days
- License suspension for up to one years
Common Legal Defenses for California DUI
There are several ways of fighting the various types of DUI charges listed above in California. They include:
- Arguing that reckless or bad driving does not automatically equal to driving under the influence
- FSTs are not an accurate measure of impairment or intoxication
- The use of physical symptoms of intoxication is not the same as intoxication
- False high BAC level was due to mouth alcohol resulting from things like medicine or mouthwash
- Failure by the arresting officer to run a fifteen-minute observation before conducting a breath test for drunk driving
- The blood and breath test was not conducted according to the California Code of Regulations Title 17
- Rising blood alcohol
- Arguing that you were not driving under the influence because you were physically impaired and not mentally impaired
- Medical conditions like diabetes and fasting can falsely increase your blood alcohol content leading to a DUI
- The arresting officer violated the proper arresting procedures, which involve a probable cause for stopping you in traffic, reciting of Miranda rights and adhering to Title 17 procedures
What the Prosecution must prove in DUI Cases
After being arrested for driving while under the influence, the prosecution files charges based on the level of impairment and the alcohol or drug content in your blood. These two charges are filed to ensure that one of them goes through. Proving these charges is not a piece of cake. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving or operating an automotive and that he or she was under the influence.
Showing the defendant was under the influence
In per se DUI charges, the prosecution must prove the court that the defendant had a certain level of blood alcohol concentration. In case the offender is a minor or underage, the lawyer should show test results indicating 0.01% or above for zero tolerance law or 0.05% or higher for underage DUI. A high BAC charge will require the prosecution to provide test results of the defendant reading 0.15% or higher. For commercial DUI, the BAC results should read 0.04% or higher.
On the issue of impairment, the prosecution must prove that the offender was drunk or under the influence of drugs. DUI laws will apply whether the substance is lawful or unlawful.
Showing the Driving Aspect
The prosecution must attest to the court that you had physical control over the car or you were operating it. They need to show the court:
- That you were awake when they appeared on you
- That the car was running at the time, the arresting officer showed up
- The car keys were in the ignition
- That you were close to the steering wheel
The jury will evaluate these factors and decide if you are guilty or not. They look at all possible factors that can prove you were operating or in actual physical control of the car.
Find an Engineer Springs DUI Attorney Near me
You shouldn’t plead guilty to DUI charges because you assume that your case is hopeless. All you need to do is call 619-535-7150 to talk to an Engineer Springs DUI Attorney at the San Diego DUI Attorney law firm. The expertise they have in DUI cases will help them evaluate the type of charge you or a loved one is facing, the penalties for being convicted with the offenses, the best legal defense and what the prosecutor must prove to the jury in such cases. That way, they will help you avoid the consequences of a DUI conviction like a bad driving record or a permanent criminal record.