Man holding beer while driving

DUIs in CA

A DUI arrest in California can have very serious consequences, even if it is a first offense. Along with potential job loss and incarceration, DUI cases can have a very high bail amount in the case of a felony charge.

After someone is arrested for a DUI, they will be cited and released on their own recognizance or held in jail until bail has been posted. As the bail amount for a DUI can be anywhere from $5,000 for a first offense to up to $100,000 for a felony charge, many people arrested for a DUI turn to a bail bondsman for help. The person arrested for DUI or a family member or friend can choose to post the full bail amount or pay a percentage of the amount for a bail bond to secure a release from jail.

California Drunk Driving Laws

California law prohibits anyone from driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, but people under 21 cannot drive with a BAC of 0.01 or greater. Those driving a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license cannot drive with a BAC of 0.04 or higher. Repeat offenders cannot drive with a BAC of 0.01 or higher.

California law states that anyone driving a vehicle has given their consent to a urine, blood, or breath test to check their blood alcohol content. Refusing a blood or breathalyzer test in California is punishable by a one-year license suspension for a first offense and a two-year suspension for subsequent refusals.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence

California has among the most punitive penalties for a DUI conviction, but the consequences of a DUI conviction will depend on several circumstances.

If the DUI does not result in bodily injury or death, a misdemeanor first conviction can result in up to $1,000 in fines and penalties, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, license restriction, vehicle impoundment for one month, attendance in a 3-month alcohol treatment program, installation of an interlock breath device, and/or license suspension of up to 10 months.

For a second offense, fines may be up to $1,800, the jail sentence may be up to 1 year, and license suspension may be up to two years. The maximum penalty for a third and fourth DUI offense within 10 years are $18,000 in fines and penalties, one year in jail for a third offense and 16 months in prison for a fourth offense, vehicle impoundment for three months, license revocation for three to four years, and a 30-month multi-offender program to restore a license.

Most California DUIs do not require an ignition interlock device (IID), but judges are given discretion to order an IID for up to three years after a license suspension is removed. IIDs are required for all DUI convictions in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Tulare, and Alameda counties.

A DUI conviction will also result in points on the defendant’s driver’s license. Driver’s who receive 4 points in one year, 6 points in two years, or 8 points in three years face a license suspension for six months.

In some cases, a DUI charge can be brought down to a “wet reckless” charge through a plea bargain. A wet reckless, or a charge of reckless driving involving alcohol, is a lighter charge that may be brought if the prosecutor feels the case is weak due to a BAC close to the limit or a field sobriety test that was borderline. Both DUI and wet reckless convictions involve alcohol classes, points on the defendant’s driver’s license, probation, and fines, but this charge looks better o a criminal record and there is no court-ordered license suspension.

Felony DUI Penalties

If someone is injured or killed as the result of someone driving under the influence or with a BAC of 0.08 or greater, the driver may be found guilty of felony DUI. A felony DUI has strict penalties, including a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Prior convictions for misdemeanor DUIs count as prior offenses and may increase the prison sentence. Anyone facing a fourth DUI charge during a 10-year period may also be charged with felony DUI, even if no one was hurt.

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