Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher can result in a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction in California. A BAC less than 0.08% could also qualify as DUI, if the level is enough to impair a driver. Driving under the influence of impairing drugs, including prescription medications, could also break the law. A DUI conviction can come with various penalties depending on the degree of the offense. A prior history of DUIs can worsen the consequences in California.
A first DUI conviction in California is a misdemeanor crime, punishable with fines of $390 to $1,000 (plus additional fees and penalties). First offenders may spend 48 hours to six months in jail depending on the nature of the crime. More often, however, the judge will order mandatory probation without jail time. First DUI offenses come with a six-month driver’s license suspension, along with an additional four-month suspension from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for BAC levels at or above 0.08%.
First-time DUI offenders may face mandatory probation periods, during which they must remain sober and complete alcohol education classes. During probation, defendants may have to attend weekly check-ins or wear a device that tracks their alcohol intake. They may also have to use an ignition interlock device to drive their vehicles, even after getting their driving privileges back. Defendants with BACs above 0.19% face nine-month alcohol programs rather than three-month ones.
About one-third of drivers convicted of DUI are repeat offenders, according to MADD.org. To curb the number of repeat offenders in California, state lawmakers increase the penalties for DUIs with each subsequent conviction. If you receive a second DUI conviction in California, you could face the following penalties.
Note that in most cases, driver’s license suspensions may overlap, rather than the defendant serving out both sentences separately. If a repeat DUI offender drives drunk on a suspended license, the penalties could be more severe. The defendant could face additional consequences for driving without a valid license, such as heftier fines or a longer jail sentence.
A third DUI conviction can result in 120 days to one year in the county jail, with the same fines as previous DUIs. The defendant will face three years of driver’s license suspension, along with 18 months from the DMV. Fourth or subsequent DUIs are no longer misdemeanors, but felony charges. A felony DUI comes with harsher penalties, including 16 months to three years in prison. Fines increase to up to $5,000 plus assessments. Four DUIs will also result in four years of driver’s license suspension.
Causing a car accident as a DUI offender could also result in a felony DUI charge. Causing an injury while drunk driving can have serious criminal consequences. The defendant could face charges such as vehicular homicide or manslaughter. An injury DUI conviction can lead to more than $10,000 in fines, while causing a fatal DUI could result in 15 years to life in prison for murder. The more serious the car accident, the harsher the penalties for the DUI driver.
California takes repeat drunk driving infractions seriously. Hire a Riverside DUI defense lawyer if you are facing charges, whether this is your first, second, or fifth DUI. A lawyer may be able to help you combat the chargers or negotiate a fairer sentence.