California's laws on drinking and driving are strict. Even a first-time offense could alter every aspect of your life. There are ways to fight DUI charges but it is important to understand the extent of the penalties you could be facing. Here is what every driver should know about California DUIs:
BAC levels and penalties
If you are suspected of drunk driving, a police officer will probably ask you to submit a breath test, a preliminary alcohol-screening (PAS) test, after they pull you over. If you refuse to provide a breathe sample for the PAS test or if your BAC result from the PAS test is 0.08 or higher, then the police officer will most likely give you the option of submitting a breath or blood test. Refusing a breath test at this juncture does not necessarily prevent you from being charged with a DUI and in fact can carry harsher penalties than you may otherwise face. A BAC of 0.08% or higher while operating a vehicle is an illegal level and will result in DUI charges.
For a first-time DUI offense, you could face any number of these penalties:
- Up to 6 months of jail time
- Up to $1000 in fines plus penalty assessments
- Required DUI education program
- SR-22 form, which may increase your insurance rates
- Other fees
- License suspension of up to 4 months or longer for refusal and high BAC results
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
The severity of the penalties increases with each offense.
California operates under an Admin Per Se program that requires your license to be suspended if you have been charged with a DUI. This means you will also have dealings with the DMV after a conviction. You have ten days to request a hearing regarding your license after you receive an Order of Suspension. An attorney can help you build a strong case and work through this process, but it is imperative to move quickly once you have been charged.
If your license is suspended, it may be possible to get a restricted temporary license. Generally this would only allow you to drive to work and your mandatory DUI classes (if applicable). However, keeping reliable transportation to work is often worth the effort of seeking a restricted license.
Defense against a DUI
Just because you are charged with a DUI does not mean that you will be convicted. Many factors could reduce or drop the charges you face, such as incorrect breath test results or incorrect procedure during the stop. DUI cases are complex. If you are facing charges, you should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.