A driving under the influence, or DUI arrest is something that you should take seriously. However, if you live in Southern California and this is your first DUI arrest, chances are your charge will be a misdemeanor. Sometimes, being arrested two or even three times can still result in a misdemeanor charge. It is fairly certain, though, if an injury or death occurred due to your drinking and driving, you will have a felony charge.
In California, almost all DUI charges result in a misdemeanor. That being said, a misdemeanor charge should not be taken any less seriously. Any time you are convicted of a crime, it is a serious matter and should be treated as such. Having a DUI on your record can affect your life as employers and financial institutions may consider your past when you are trying to get a job, a security clearance, a professional license, or a credit card or loan. Not only that, but a criminal conviction can make it challenging to travel abroad. Plus, the cost of your auto insurance will likely raise significantly.
As time passes, a misdemeanor DUI may be able to be expunged. This is different than getting rid of it all together, as the California DMV usually will not remove this conviction from a driving record. Internet databases, as well, may not remove an expunged DUI conviction. Since these entities continue to report the offense, potential employers or lenders can continue to access this information.
The basis for a California DUI misdemeanor is Vehicle Code section 23152. Driving under the influence, of any drug or alcohol, is a crime under subsection (a). Under the influence is defined as any driver who is impaired and unable to drive as safely as someone who is sober.
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC of 0.08% or more is illegal under section 23152(b).
Subsection (a) makes it possible for a driver to be convicted of a DUI even if their BAC is lower than 0.08%. If this occurs, it is important to challenge the charges. Many times juries know the “0.08%” and have the idea that anything below the legal limit is not considered under the influence.
Being charged with a DUI can be done under both of these subsections, but penalties can only be imposed on one set.
A jail sentence is likely for receiving a DUI for the second or third time. Driving privileges will likely be suspended and hefty fines will be assessed. Also, it is not uncommon for a treatment program or alcohol abuse education to be required by the judge. Depending on the charges, some drivers may be required to install an ignition interlock device or vehicle impoundment.
Many factors determine the penalties for misdemeanor charges, including:
- Any previous DUI convictions and the amount of time since they occurred
- Whether or not you were on probation for a previous DUI
- The substance involved, drugs or alcohol, or both
- Your BAC if alcohol was involved
- Your compliance to submit to blood or breath chemical testing
- If there was an accident
- The rate of speed you were driving and if it was above the legal limit
- Who was in the vehicle and if any passengers were minors
- Your driving ability, including endangering others
- If you are under 21
There are guidelines following by prosecutors and judges when they recommend or impose DUI penalties. There is variance to the guidelines so someone convicted in San Diego may not receive the same penalties as a person in Los Angeles.
Criminal defense attorneys that defend these charges can expect a lot of negotiations with prosecutors. These cases don’t normally go to trial. If you do go to trial, your client must have very deep pockets or has a job that requires a clean criminal record.