Compared to all the other states in America, California has some of the most stringent laws on impaired driving. The penalties range from a minimum of two days in county jail to sixteen months in state prison when you repeat the offense a third time. The fines and other penalties are also strict, serving as a deterrent for others to commit the same crime. Commercial drivers charged with operating common carrier vehicles face even more stringent punishments if accused of the offense.
Understanding DUI law is essential in you avoiding the offense and for assisting you to determine the way forward when faced with the allegations. One of the most important things to do when charged with a DUI is to plan for your defense. When in Jofegan, contacting a San Diego DUI Attorney is critical in getting a great defense.
Overview of the DUI Laws
In California, when charged with a DUI, it means you were arrested driving a vehicle while impaired by an intoxicant. An intoxicant, in this case, maybe hard drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol. Any prior DUI conviction largely determines the penalties for a DUI in California and if injuries occurred.
DUI Due to Alcohol
If you take alcohol and drive, you violate VEH 23152(a). Under this statute, the state forbids drunk driving. When a police officer stops you for any probable cause, they may find evidence suggesting you are driving intoxicated by alcohol. Some of the things that would lead to such observations are:
- When an officer smells alcohol on you or in the car
- There are empty alcohol bottles or alcohol flask in your car
- Your eyes are bloodshot and watery
- Your speech is incoherent and slurred
- When responding to the officer’s questions, your responses are slow
- When asked to produce your license, you fumble
When an officer notices your impairment even if you were stopped for another reason, it will prompt them to carry out further investigation to determine impairment. In such a case, you will be asked to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). When asked to do this, the officer is typically looking to see:
- If your motor skills are alert
- If when getting out of the car you stumble
- If the PAS registers alcohol consumption
When the officer is satisfied that there is a clear indication of alcohol impairment, he or she will place you under legal arrest. This means you will be taken to the police station for further investigations. At this point, you must realize that it is almost certain that you will be charged with a DUI offense. For this reason, you need to start thinking of a local Jofegan DUI attorney that will defend you over the allegations.
Once at the police station, you will be expected to submit to the breathalyzer chemical test according to the implied consent law. This law indicates that as long as you are a holder of a California driver’s license when arrested on a DUI offense, you must agree to a chemical test to indicate your intoxication level. This means your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must be determined.
It is important to note that as much as the state adheres to the implied consent rule, you will not be forced to take the test. However, a refusal will lead to the following consequences:
- Increased punishment when found guilty of the offense
- An automatic suspension of your license by the DMV
A refusal to submit to the test is highly advised against, especially when you want the jury to find you innocent of the allegations. Many people refuse to take the test in protest because they believe to be innocent of the offense, and taking the test may result in doctoring the results to indicate intoxication. Regardless, your Jofegan DUI attorney will advise you to submit to the test as there are many legally acceptable ways to challenge the BAC results successfully.
It is also important to note that, even when you refuse to take a BAC chemical test, it will not mean you will escape the charges. The law provides for suspects to be charged with DUI if they had clear indications of impaired driving. The BAC results, in this case, are only used to support the charges against you but are not the primary indicators that you were driving impaired.
The state has further given guidelines for the various BAC limits. When found driving with your BAC levels at or above the state limit, you will automatically face per se charges. This means, you will face VEH 23152(a) and VEH 23152(b) charges simultaneously. The BAC limits vary for various categories of drivers. These levels are:
- Regular vehicle drivers are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.08% or over
- Common carrier vehicle drivers or holders of CDL are prohibited from operating these vehicles with a BAC of 0.04% or higher
- Minors in this case persons below 21 are prohibited from driving when their BAC is at 0.01%
- Drivers serving probation for a DUI offense are prohibited from operating their vehicles with a BAC of 0.01%
Taking the chemical breathalyzer tests is typically to establish the BAC levels. If your BAC indicates intoxication, you face charges of VEH 23152(b). If your BAC was not at the limit or above it, but you were impaired, you get charged with VEH 23152(a) violations. This is, however, once they eliminate intoxication by drugs, as will be discussed below.
DUI Due to Drugs
The state recognizes that alcohol is not the only intoxicant that causes impairment. Possession of drugs for personal use is an infraction in California. However, consuming the drugs and proceeding to drive, you pose a danger to the public and yourself as well. When you are impaired, it means your motor skills are not as alert as those of a sober driver.
When arrested and suspected of impaired driving as a result of drugs, you are likely to face two types of charges. These are:
- VEH 23152(f), which makes it a criminal offense to drive when impaired by drugs or
- VEH 23152(g), which prohibits the operating of a motor vehicle while impaired by both alcohol and drugs.
Just like when stopped for impaired driving by alcohol, the procedure of arrest remains the same when arresting you for drugged driving. The police officer on legally stopping you will look for similar signs as those discussed above.
When at the police station, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test. In California, under the implied consent rule, you must submit to a breathalyzer test. However, a refusal results in various consequences, as earlier discussed. When an officer establishes you are not intoxicated by alcohol, they will want to carry out further tests to determine the presence of drugs in your system.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that subjecting a person to a mandatory blood test is unconstitutional. However, the arresting officer can obtain a court order that forces the arrestee to agree to a blood chemical test. Once the test is carried out and determined that you have drugs in your system, you will face charges on a DUI with drugs.
A drug is defined as any substance aside from alcohol that affects the brain, muscles, or the nervous system. This effect, in return, causes impairment and their ability to operate a vehicle as a sober person would with reasonable care. Drugs, in this case, include:
- Illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine
- Legal drugs like marijuana
- Prescription drugs even when they don’t get you high
- Over the counter drugs such as cold medicines or antihistamines
In California, however, most of the people arrested for impaired driving by drugs often are found to be high on:
- Prescription drugs like Oxycontin or Vicodin
- Methamphetamine and
- Hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
These drugs are known to affect the driver’s muscles, brain, and nervous system, causing them to be a danger on the road.
Legal Limits for Drugs while Driving
One of the common questions concerning DUI with drugs is if there is a legal limit as found in alcohol DUI. Unfortunately, there is no specification of the legal limit because experts fail to agree on the amount of concentration that causes impairment. As a result, the state prohibits one generally from:
- Driving when under drug influence
- Driving when impaired by both alcohol and drugs or
- Driving while addicted to drugs unless you are undergoing treatment for the addiction
When arrested for the offense of impaired driving by drugs, a Jofegan DUI attorney can assist you with your defense by having various strategies that work in your favor.
DUI with drug arrests happens in a typical manner as those of alcohol. A police officer will stop you only when there is a legal reason to do so. Once stopped, the officer will look to see if there are any signs of intoxication that may explain your driving pattern or general outlook. Aside from the symptoms of intoxication discussed earlier, the officer will check to see if the car has paraphernalia indicating drug use. Additionally, the officer will carry out field sobriety tests to find out if you are impaired.
DUI Charges in California
As earlier indicated, when arrested on a DUI charge, the officers determine if you are impaired and the cause of your impairment. DUI penalties in California are tabulated for over ten years. This means the penalties you receive depend on whether you have committed the offense within ten years.
Typically DUI offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors for the first three of ten years. However, a fourth offense over the same period attracts felony penalties when convicted. Whether convicted for driving impaired by drugs or alcohol, the penalties remain the same unless there are aggravating elements. These penalties are harsh, but with an experienced Jofegan DUI attorney, you can get the sentences reduced, or the charges dismissed. These penalties include:
The First Offense in Ten Years
When charged and found guilty of your first DUI without aggravating factors, misdemeanor penalties are handed down to you. These include:
- Jail time not beyond six months
- A minimum of $390 and a maximum of $1,000 in fines besides other court penalties
- A suspension of your license by the DMV and the court
- Informal probation time instead of jail time
- Attending a DUI program for a minimum of three months
Second Offense in Ten Years
After your first offense, the next one is punished harsher than the first one. Some of these penalties include:
- Ninety days of jail time to a maximum of one year
- A fine not below $390 or over $1,000. This excludes other charges by the court
- The court suspends your license for two years besides the DMV suspension
- Misdemeanor probation with some jail time
- Installation of IID in your vehicle
- Attending a DUI school and completing the program
A Third Offense in Ten Years
As you keep repeating the offense, you receive harsher penalties. A third conviction, in this case, will result in the following sentences:
- A minimum of four months in jail to a maximum of a year. Sometimes depending on the circumstances of the offense, a defendant may face state incarceration for not more than sixteen months.
- A fine to the maximum of $1,000 and not below $390
- Informal probation with a few days of jail time
- Attending a DUI school and completing a thirty-month program
- Having your vehicle installed with an IID
- A three-year driver’s license suspension
Fourth Offense in Ten Years
As earlier discussed, a fourth offense within this period becomes a felony. The penalties are also harsher than those of the previous offense. These include:
- Jail time at the state prison for sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months
- A fine of not less than $390 to a maximum of $5,000. Other court penalties can raise the total to $18,000.
- A four-year suspension of your license with a probable permanent revocation by the DMV
- Your record earning the title of a habitual traffic offender for three years
Aggravating Factors for a DUI Offense
As earlier discussed, the presence of certain factors exacerbates the penalties you receive under the standard DUI offense. When your offense has these factors, your Jofegan DUI attorney must come up with convincing strategies to fight them. Some of these factors include:
When involved in an accident while intoxicated, there is a likelihood of injuries to a third party and damages to vehicles. According to the law, a DUI that leads to injuries becomes a wobbler. This means that the prosecutor can try the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony. The basis of this is on whether the defendant has a prior DUI conviction and how badly the injuries caused are.
When the injuries are minor, and the defendant has no prior conviction, he or she will face misdemeanor charges. When convicted of a felony, however, the penalties become harsher. The sentences are higher, a longer jail time at the state prison, attendance of a DUI school for longer periods, among others.
In both charges, however, the defendant is ordered to pay the victims restitution that includes the losses they incur, treating the injuries and damages to their vehicle.
Having a Minor in Your Car
When arrested for a DUI offense and you were carrying a child below 14 years, you will face additional charges. The state will not only prosecute you on DUI charges but also on child endangerment charges. When you put a child in your vehicle, and you are intoxicated, the state looks at the offense as intentional endangerment of the minor, and the penalties are harsh.
Speeding over the limit by itself is already an offense in California. Driving your car over the speed limits is already a danger to other road users in addition to your being intoxicated. When arrested on over-speeding charges and find that you are drunk, you will face two charges instead of one.
Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test
Refusing to submit to a test will aggravate your penalties. Although it is not a criminal offense, refusing is taken to mean you are guilty. Additionally, having a California driver’s license means you must consent to a chemical breathalyzer test.
Other Consequences of a DUI Conviction
Aside from the penalties discussed earlier, a criminal offense for a DUI offense attracts more consequences. Some of these are:
- Challenges in getting college admissions – Most colleges before admitting a student, they run a background check on them. When your record shows a conviction, many colleges will deny you entry
- Securing a residence – A conviction record is publicly accessible to anyone checking on your background. Landlords are often skeptical about leasing their property to a person with a criminal record.
- Job security – With a criminal record, it becomes difficult to keep a job or get another one. A criminal record shows you to be untrustworthy, making potential employers hesitate from giving you an opportunity.
All these consequences can severely affect your life. Even when a conviction is inevitable, a Jofegan DUI attorney will fight to minimize the penalties and advise on ways to avoid the harsh repercussions.
Find a Defense Lawyer Near Me
The consequences and penalties of a conviction can be detrimental to your personal and professional life. When faced with these charges, you fight against a severe sentence to get lesser penalties to safeguard yourself. A skilled DUI attorney will defend you vigorously against these charges. If charged in Jofegan, call the San Diego DUI Attorney to represent you. Reach us at 619-535-7150, and we will schedule a meeting to discuss your options.