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California DUI Laws and Penalties

Information Regarding DUI Laws in California

In California, you can get a DUI (driving under the influence) if you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired.

California has two basic drunk driving laws, found in Vehicle Code section 23152, sections (a) and (b):

  • 23152 (a) – it is a misdemeanor to drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • 23152 (b) – it is a misdemeanor to drive with .08% or more of alcohol in your blood.

Although it is possible to be found guilty of both charges, in most cases, you can only be sentenced on one because the criminal penalties for the most part are identical. If you refuse to be tested for blood alcohol, the only crime charged will be DUI, VC 23152 (a).

Blood Alcohol Content is the percent of alcohol, by weight, in a person’s blood. It is based upon grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

If you are convicted for a first-time California DUI or driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or greater, the penalty starts with the possibility of a jail sentence for as much as six months.  You will be ordered to pay a fine of roughly $1600, representing the statutory amount plus a “tax” called a “Penalty Assessment.”  The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend your driver’s license for four (4) to ten (10) months.  In addition, the court may also require a separate 6-month suspension.  The Court will also require you to attend a state-approved DUI school for three to nine months.  In addition, the DMV will also require attendance at a DUI school in order to allow a reinstatement of your driver’s license.  Usually, this class is three months, but it may be increased to six or nine months depending on your blood alcohol level.  Other possible California DUI penalties include installation of an “ignition interlock device” (IID) on all cars you own or have access to, work program, community service, or attendance at a “MADD victim’s panel” or “Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  Finally, you will likely be placed on probation for a period of three to five years.

DUI Under 21

DUI Laws in California make it a crime for anyone of any age to drive with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or greater.  Drivers under the age of 21 in California face additional penalties beyond those faced by drivers over the age of 21. Sonoma County DUI under 21 laws apply statewide.

There are actually three different criminal offenses related to underage DUI in California:

  • A driver under 21 who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .01% or higher, may face a 1-year license suspension (California Vehicle Code Section 23136).
  • A driver under 21 years of age who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC of .05% or higher may face a 1-year license suspension as well as a mandatory rehabilitation/alcohol education program (California Vehicle Code Section 23140)
  • A driver under 21 years of age who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher is a criminal offense that may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. The offender may be faced with imprisonment, driver’s license suspension, fines, probation, community service, and more (California Vehicle Code Section 23152).

A DUI under 21 driver must comply with law enforcement and cannot refuse the field handheld preliminary breathalyzer test.  Having experienced legal counsel is crucial to obtaining a just result when faced with these violations.  To have the best opportunity of avoiding driver’s license suspension as well as possible criminal DUI penalties, it is important to entrust your case to a Santa Rosa DUI Under 21 Attorney who can accurately evaluate your charges and determine exactly how to approach your defense.  Contact Vandyk Law, PC today for a confidential legal consultation.

After the citation or arrest, the driver will be issued a pink document called a notice of suspension/temporary license.  A DMV hearing must be requested within 10 days or there will be no way to avoid a mandatory license suspension.

In California, a conviction for the offense of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) carries stiff penalties and punishments.  Like every other state, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle on California roads if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher.  As a result, any person caught driving with a BAC above this percentage is considered legally impaired – regardless of his or her ability to drive.  However, state law also prohibits underage motorists, those under age 21, from driving with any amount of alcohol in their system at all, while commercial drivers are deemed impaired with a BAC of .04% or higher. It is important to be cognizant of the specific laws that your State enforces, and the penalties that accompany them if violated. Sonoma County DUI penalties directly correspond with California state DUI laws, as outlined below.

Sonoma County DUI Penalties Outline

First DUI Offense

  • Defendant shall be placed on informal probation for a period of 3-5 years. During the probationary period, the defendant shall not drive with any “measurable” amount of alcohol in their blood.
  • Defendant shall pay a fine of $390 to $1,000, with possible penalty assessments.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 6 months.
  • Defendant shall attend and complete a first-offender DUI school that is 3, 6, or 9 months in length.  You can not get your driver’s license reinstated until you have proven to the DMV that you have completed an alcohol treatment program.

Second DUI Offense

  • Defendant shall be placed on summary probation for a period of 3-5 years with the same terms and conditions as listed in the first offense.
  • Mandatory of 96 hours to 1 year in the county jail.
  • Defendant shall pay a fine of $390 to $1,000, with possible penalty assessments.
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 2 years.
  • Defendant shall attend a second-offender DUI school that is either 18 months or 30 months in length.

Third DUI Offense

  • Defendant shall be placed on summary probation for a period of 3-5 years with the same terms and conditions of the first or second offense.
  • Mandatory of 120 days to 1 year in the county jail.
  • Defendant shall pay a fine of $390 to $1,000, with possible penalty assessments.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 3 years
  • Defendant shall attend a third-offender DUI school that is 30 months in length.

Fourth DUI Offense

  • Commitment to the California Department of Corrections (State Prison) for a term of 16 months, 2 years or 4 years.
  • In lieu of State Prison time, the judge may sentence the defendant to a mandatory minimum of 180 days to 1 year in the County Jail.
  • The term of probation shall be 5 years and may be mandated as formal probation requiring the defendant to report regularly to a probation officer.
  • Defendant shall pay a fine of $390 to $1,000, with possible penalty assessments.
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 4 years.

Enhanced penalties may occur depending on the circumstances that tend to aggravate the case.  There are certain factors that may cause a judge to increase, or enhance, the legal penalties.  These factors include:

  • If the driver caused the accident
  • If the accident resulted in injury, death, or extensive property damage
  • If the driver’s BAC was above .20%
  • If the driver refused to submit to a breath or blood test
  • If the driver has any prior DUI arrests or convictions on his or her record
  • If a child was a passenger in the vehicle
  • If the accident was a hit and run
  • Speeding more than 30 mph over the posted speed limit
  • Driving on a suspended license

If you or a passenger who is also younger than 21 has alcohol in your car, you face an additional and separate misdemeanor conviction.  The penalty includes:

  • Up to a 30-day impound of your car
  • Minimum one-year license suspension
  • Up to six months in a county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

By law, if charged with suspicion of DUI in Sonoma County you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and you retain the right to be defended by a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer.  It is extremely important to talk with an experienced DUI attorney who has recent experience in the county, city, and court where you will face your charges.

If you are charged with DUI (driving under the influence) in Sonoma County, you will immediately need to take steps to protect your rights.  DUI penalties are severe both in criminal and administrative matters.  An experienced Sonoma County DUI lawyer will be able to assist you in navigating through criminal and administrative cases.  The DUI defense attorneys at Vandyk Law, PC have been successfully defending people accused of driving under the influence in California for many years.  Our DUI defense lawyers provide client-centered, cutting-edge, and cost-effective legal representation for clients in Sonoma County DUI cases.  When seeking the assistance of a DUI attorney, you should be looking for a determined and experienced DUI attorney in order to create a winning defense for your DUI case.

Vandyk Law, PC offers highly experienced and aggressive driving under the influence defense attorneys that win cases.  If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, time is of the essence.  Contact our Santa Rosa Dui Lawyers at (707) 528-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced Santa Rosa defense lawyer.