Driving under the influence (DUI) has been a prevalent social problem for a long time, leading to some of the most stringent laws in the country. While DUI laws are aimed at reducing fatalities and other consequences of driving under the influence, these laws also protect you if you are arrested and charged illegally. However, you will need an attorney who understands California DUI laws to help defend you against DUI charges.

For many years, San Diego DUI Attorney has represented and protected the rights of people arrested on false DUI accusations, illegal checkpoints, police misconduct, among other issues. We will base your defense strategy on the most effective defense after going over the details of the case. If you are facing DUI charges in San Marcos, CA, consider getting in touch with our San Marcos DUI attorney immediately.

Overview of DUI Law

California Law prohibits drivers from operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You are considered to be under the influence if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .08% or more. You may either be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. Still, under California DUI laws, it is illegal to ride motorcycles or scooters while under the influence. It is also unlawful to operate boats while intoxicated.

California has strict laws relating to impaired driving. For instance, if you commit a first DUI offense without bodily injuries, you may face penalties such as license suspension for several months, forty-eight hours in jail, completion of a three-month alcohol education training, and almost $2000 in fines and assessments.

Subsequent DUI offenses will have more adverse consequences than a first offense. A DUI record remains active for ten years; during this time, it counts as a prior offense. If you commit a third or subsequent offense within ten years after committing another DUI offense, you risk facing sixteen months in state prison. You may incur $18,000 in fines and assessments. You may also have to undertake a 30-month alcohol treatment program.

Understanding the basics of DUI laws will help you avoid committing a DUI crime and help you know what to do if you face a DUI conviction. The key elements of DUI law in California include:

Per Se DUI Law

Under the Per Se DUI law, the law considers you intoxicated if you record a BAC of .08% or above. No further evidence is necessary to prove you guilty of impaired driving. The Per Se DUI law is applicable across many states in the U.S. As a driver, you should understand that even if you feel sober and alert, as long as your BAC results exceed the set limit, you will face DUI charges. For DUI cases, it is easy for the prosecution to prove that the offender was driving while impaired based on BAC results. Unlike other criminal activities, intense on-scene evaluation is not necessary. 

Zero Tolerance Laws

 For drunk drivers under the age of, there is a separate set of legal standards. The law prohibits persons under the age of 21 to purchase and possess alcohol. For underage drivers, it is unlawful to drive even with the smallest blood alcohol concentration. The strict laws help to combat the detrimental consequences of underage drinking.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, almost one-third of all deaths of persons between 15 and 20 years result from road crashes. Around 35% of the road crashes are alcohol-related, often resulting from impaired driving. The alcohol involvement rate for young people is so high that it doubles that of persons over the age of 21.

For persons under 21, a BAC of .02% is the per se offense. As long as an underage driver's blood alcohol concentration is above this limit, no further evidence of intoxication is necessary. The introduction of zero tolerance laws led to a major decline in alcohol-related fatal road crashes. 

Beyond the obvious negative impacts of underage driving on your health and safety, DUI charges may ruin your life as a young person. DUI offenses have long-term implications that could reach far into your future. DUI charges will have implications on your employment background checks and may cost your dream job. The charges may also affect your vehicle insurance charges. However, even if you are facing DUI charges, do not give up; a competent San Marcos DUI attorney may help you negotiate a favorable outcome.   

Aggravated DUI

Normal DUI offenses are serious enough and often have severe penalties. However, certain situations may result in additional penalties that go beyond the common consequences of DUI convictions. The presence of an aggravating factor will lead to higher penalties for your DUI conviction. Some situations that may lead to aggravated DUI include:

  • Very High BAC Levels – The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is .08%. If you operate a vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit, you have committed a DUI offense. If BAC test results are very high, two times or more the legal limit, you will face aggravated DUI charges. Also termed as extreme DUI, this offense carries longer prison terms and heavier penalties.

  • You might face aggravated DUI charges if you had a minor in the vehicle at the time of committing the offense. There are different age ranges for defining a minor. However, in most cases, any person under the age of sixteen years is a minor. If you commit the DUI offense around school zones, you may face aggravated DUI charges even if you did not have a minor in the car.

  • You may also face aggravated DUI charges after multiple DUI offenses. Even if the previous DUI offenses occurred in another state, they would still count. Punishments for repeat DUI offenders are very harsh; this helps discourage first time DUI offenders from repeating the offense.

  • Revoked License- If you drive on a revoked or a suspended license, you risk facing aggravated DUI charges. Driving on a revoked license is an indication that you have no regard for the law

  • Excessive Speeding- You may face aggravated DUI charges if you drive at very high speed while under the influence. You will face harsher charges than you would if you were driving at a minimal speed.

Implied Consent Laws

After stopping a vehicle, the officer looks for any signs of impairment. On suspicion on suspicion of DUI, the officer may request the driver to submit to a test to determine the blood alcohol concentration. Some driver refuses to submit to the test, yet the police officer cannot force them to do so. According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 20% of drunk drivers refuse to take the sobriety tests. 

As per the provisions of implied consent laws, upon applying for a driver's license, drivers agree to voluntary sobriety tests and necessary tests to determine impaired driving. Therefore, a driver should not refuse to submit a BAC test if an officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence. Refusing to submit to testing may lead to license suspension and other penalties.

What are the Penalties for DUI?

After the conviction of driving under the influence, the penalties you face will vary depending on several factors. The court will examine both your aggravating and mitigating factors. The maximum and the minimum penalties that a judge can impose are set by statute. The sentence you receive will greatly depend on your prior DUI convictions:

First DUI Conviction

A first DUI conviction is a misdemeanor. For a first offense, you may pay fines ranging from $390-$1000. You will incur further costs in penalty assessments, and these may increase the figure to almost $2000. You may also face 48 hours to six months in jail. In most cases, however, judges order probation for first-time offenders. Since it is the first offense, the judgment may not include jail time.

You may have your license suspended for up to six months for a first time DUI conviction. If you had a BAC level of .08% or more, you might face a four-month administrative suspension imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Refusing to submit to BAC may lead to a one-year license suspension. If you face two suspensions at once, the law allows overlapping; you will not have to complete two full suspensions.

The first time DUI conviction also attracts three years of informal probation. The probation may be up to five years, depending on the DUI case.

Second DUI Conviction

A second DUI conviction still counts as a misdemeanor, and the fines are similar to those of first-time offense; they range from $390-$1000. The figure goes up after adding the penalty assessment fees.  You may face between 96 hours and a one-year jail term for a second DUI offense. The jail time may be served on jail-alternative work programs or house arrest.

The criminal court may suspend your license for up to two years. You may also face a 12-month administrative license suspension.

As a second DUI offender, you will complete three years of informal probation and an 18 to 30-month DUI school program.

Third DUI Conviction

The jail time for third DUI conviction ranges between 120 days and one year. However, if probation is granted, you may face 30 days of jail time. You will also pay fines and penalty assessment fees. The criminal court may impose a three-year license suspension. You may also face a 12-month administrative license suspension. The judge may order a thirty-month DUI School and between three and five years of probation.

DUI With Injuries

You will face more severe penalties if you injure someone in a DUI accident than you would for a standard DUI case. An injury DUI may count either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. For a felony, you may face prison time of 16 months to 4 years. Depending on your prior DUI history, the fines for a felony ranges from $390 to $ 5000.

DUI with Fatalities

You will face the state's vehicular manslaughter or murder laws conviction if you kill someone in a DUI accident. The possible charges may include negligent vehicular manslaughter due to intoxication, gross vehicular manslaughter, or second-degree murder. The penalties for the offenses vary from case to case. For manslaughter, you will pay fines and can serve up to one year in jail. However, for a second-degree murder conviction, you may face 15 years to a lifetime of jail time.

Other DUI Penalties

Besides fines, license suspension, jail time, or probation, there are other possible penalties for impaired driving. The penalties include:

Vehicle Impounding

After committing a second or a third DUI offense, you may have your vehicle impounded. The vehicle confiscation aims at preventing future drunk driving by removing the vehicle from the driver's control. Confiscation is mainly for repeat offenders. Courts classify confiscation as a severe penalty and some to some extent limit its use.

Ignition Interlock Devices

The ignition interlock device will prevent you from operating your vehicle if it senses the presence of alcohol in your breath. The device is installed on a vehicle and acts as a Breathalyzer machine that prevents the ability to start a car if you are impaired.  The device uses a lockout period to prevent vehicle ignition if it detects more than a low threshold of alcohol content in the blood.

DUI School and Alcohol Treatment

At times, as part of the suspended sentencing arrangement, a judge may order you to attend DUI school and alcohol treatment. During the training, you will learn about alcohol dependency and the consequences of DUI. The DUI School may reduce, replace, or eliminate harsher penalties like jail time, license suspension, or fines in DUI cases. Your San Marcos DUI attorney may help you attain fair sentencing such as alcohol treatment instead of harsher penalties.

How Can Your DUI Attorney Assist?

With no legal education and training, it is difficult to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a DUI case. The laws relating to DUI are intricate, and they are constantly changing. The facts that surround every DUI case are unique. It is therefore wise to have an attorney represent you if you are facing DUI charges. An attorney may assist in:

DUI Plea Bargain

After a DUI charge, your San Marcos DUI attorney may negotiate to have your case dismissed altogether. However, prosecutors will rarely agree to a complete dismissal unless the court throws out evidence that is crucial to prove a DUI case. In some instances, your DUI charges may reduce to wet reckless. A wet reckless is an alcohol-related driving offense whose severity and penalties fall between those of standard reckless driving charges and DUI charges.

In minor cases of DUI, there may be some hope for a plea bargain. The state may agree to a plea bargain instead of going through a trial process with a possibility of losing. Trials take up space on the docket, and they are expensive. It is possible to accomplish a plea bargain without legal assistance. However, you may find it hard to negotiate with the prosecution, but an experienced DUI attorney can negotiate easily. In some instances, prosecutors with weak cases tend to bluff to induce a guilty plea even in situations where a plea bargain would be ideal. Your attorney will stand up to the prosecution and ensure you do not receive harsher penalties than you deserve. 

Sentence Bargaining

The court may be willing to bargain down your DUI case in exchange for a guilty plea. For instance, if you are facing DUI charges for second or third DUI, you may land in prison for a few months or years. Instead of undergoing the trial process, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecution to reduce your sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. If your DUI case involves other drugs besides alcohol, your attorney may negotiate away random drug testing and other requirements of probation. Sentence bargaining is hard to conduct in the absence of an attorney.

License Reinstatement

After license suspension due to driving under the influence, your San Marcos DUI attorney may negotiate for reinstatement of your license.  The attorney works with your insurance company in filing an SR22 with the Department of Motor Vehicles. An SR22 is a certificate that indicates that you have met the minimum insurance requirements. When seeking a hardship license that allows you to drive in places such as school or work, an SR 22 is a requirement. 

Challenging the Breathalyzer Tests

Even after recording BAC of .08% or above, you can still challenge the BAC results with the assistance of your DUI attorney. The attorney can challenge the equipment used to conduct the alcohol tests and challenge the validity of test results. For instance, the Breathalyzer machine should undergo routine maintenance. In addition, the calibration of the test machines should be accurate. If your attorney suspects that the test devices had not undergone routine maintenance, he/she will have good ground to challenge the BAC results. The attorney may request the maintenance records of the test machine. The absence of such records is a clear indication that the test devices do not undergo regular checking and maintenance. Being able to prove the fault of test machines may result in the dismissal of your DUI case. 

Contact a DUI Attorney Near Me

If you are in San Marcos, CA, and you need legal assistance in any DUI related case, contact the San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150 and speak to one of our lawyers. We are available to serve you at any time and ensure that you get a favorable outcome of your DUI case.