DUI Penalties in California
Protect Your Future with Proven Los Angeles DUI Lawyers
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious crime, and a top priority for law enforcement and prosecutors in Southern California. While there are various charges one can face following an arrest, all DUI allegations have the potential for profound short- and long-term consequences that can significantly impact your rights, freedom, and future.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Southern California criminal defense lawyers have cultivated a reputation for our ability to handle serious and challenging criminal cases, including those involving DUI. When representing clients who come to our firm after an arrest, we not only work to help them explore available options and defense strategies, but to also understand the serious penalties they face. By knowing what’s at stake when charged with DUI, you can better understand why it is so crucially important to work with proven defense attorneys.
DUI Penalties by Offense
California has various laws that apply to cases involving motorists who drive under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs. The charge and penalties you face in your case depend largely on the individuals facts and circumstances involved, including what happened prior to, during, and after being stopped by a law enforcement officer. Below, we discuss some of the general penalties that can accompany various DUI convictions.
- First Time DUI – Most drivers charged with their first DUI in California face misdemeanor allegations. Although certain factors may elevate penalties, a standard first time misdemeanor DUI conviction can result in penalties that include court fines and fees, probation, court-ordered DUI education), driver’s license suspension, and up to six months in jail.
- Multiple Offense – Having been previously convicted of DUI within the past 10 years is grounds for enhanced penalties, including mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment. For example, individuals charged with their second DUI in California can face between 4 days to 6 months in jail, or between 120 days to 1 year in jail for a third DUI. Other penalties, including driver’s license suspension (2 years for a second DUI and 3 years for a third DUI, probation, DUI education courses, and others can also be increased with each subsequent conviction.
- Fourth DUI – California makes certain DUI offenses a felony level allegation. This includes a fourth DUI within 10 years. As a felony, this charge is punishable by 16 months to three years in a state prison, depending on the circumstances, as well as court fines, driver’s license revocation, and designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender by the DMV.
- DUI Causing Injury – DUI causing injury is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, it carries up to a year jail sentence, as well as up to $5,000 in fines, and driver’s license revocation. As a felony, is can carry between 16 months to 10 years in prison, depending on how many victims were injured and how serious those injuries were.
- DUI Causing Death – California has several laws involving drivers who cause death while driving under the influence, including vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Both of these charges impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, as well as up to 4 years or 10 years, respectively, in a state prison.
- Watson Murder – Watson murder is a form of second-degree murder that can be prosecuted when impaired drivers who cause death have previously been convicted of a DUI. This is the most harshly punished DUI charge in California, and it carries a prison sentence of 15 years to life.
- Underage DUI – California has several laws with which they may prosecute drivers under the age of 21 suspected of DUI. The penalties in these cases depend on the facts involved, and can range from a one-year license suspension (for having any alcohol in their system) to the standard penalties associated with any misdemeanor or felony “adult” DUI charge.
California’s tough stance on DUI means that drivers can face enhancements (including enhanced penalties) when their cases involving “aggravating circumstances.” These commonly include:
- Prior DUI convictions (including out-of-state DUIs, wet reckless convictions, and California DUIs within the past 10 years)
- High blood alcohol (BAC) levels (i.e. .15 or greater)
- DUIs resulting in accidents (including accidents that cause property damage, injuries, or death)
- Driving on a revoked or suspended license / driving without an ignition interlock device (IID)
- Being on probation for a previous DUI
- Reckless driving (i.e. excessive speed or evading a law enforcement officer)
- Driving with a minor passenger (under age 14)
- Driving with an open container
- Refusing a Chemical Test
Other Penalties & Consequences
While every case is different, DUI cases have the potential to result in a number of additional expenses and collateral consequences that can impact the well-being of convicted individuals. These extend beyond court-ordered fines and terms of imprisonment, and may include:
- Court-ordered DUI education program, paid for at your own expense
- Installation and calibration of an ignition interlock device (IID), paid for at your own expense
- Increased auto insurance premiums
- Monthly fees for formal probation
- Restrictive terms while on probation (including driving with any amount of alcohol in your system, drug or alcohol treatment, victim restitution, alcohol terms, etc.)
- Employment consequences (including job loss, professional license loss or disciplinary action, and difficulty finding employment)
- Loss of certain civil rights, including loss of right to vote and own a firearm (felony convictions)
- Ongoing financial expenses (including costs of transportation during periods of driver’s license suspension of revocation)
Protecting yourself from the penalties and consequences associated with a DUI conviction begins with taking your case to proven and experienced criminal defense lawyers. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our legal team leverages over 50 years of collective experience to protect our clients’ rights and futures during both their criminal court proceedings and administrative DMV hearings. Learn how we can be of assistance in your case when you contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Our team is available 24/7 and serves clients throughout Southern California.