DUI Punishment

New DUI Sentencing Laws

The laws surrounding driving under the influence have changed a number of times over the years. Three of the more recent changes include: increased focus on drugged driving, which has been on the rise, change in treatment of drunk driving as a substance abuse issue, and the extended pilot program requiring installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).

History of DUI Law in California

The laws surrounding driving under the influence have changed a number of times over the years. California became one of the first states to adopt laws against drunk driving, but at the time there weren’t clear standards for what would be considered intoxicated driving. Around the time of prohibition, the first breathalyzer devices were developed, and eventually became a common tool to test drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.

In the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was founded, and pushed for stricter laws against drunk drivers. California, along with other states, eventually adopted legislation which reduced the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to 0.08% nationwide, and created mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers who caused injury or death. Since that time, the state has been adding mandatory education and substance abuse counseling programs to sentencing.

Drugged Driving

While the number of DUIs have decreased over the years, drugged driving has seen an increase. According to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of drugged driving accidents now rivals the number of drunk driving accidents. California lawmakers have changed the language of the DUI laws to reflect this increasing trend.

As of January 1, 2014, the California Vehicle Code Section 23152 added language that makes it “unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” This includes illegal drugs, such as methamphetamines or marijuana, as well as prescription medications, and over-the-counter medicine.

Ignition Interlock Devices

While some states have mandatory ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for all DUI convictions, California has a pilot program operating in four counties to require an IID for first-time DUIs. The pilot program went into effect in July of 2010, to last until January 1, 2016.

The program was recently extended until July 1, 2017. Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties all require drivers who have been convicted of a DUI to install an IID in their vehicle in order to keep their driver’s license. Drivers will be responsible for paying to install the device, and for regular maintenance. The IID will require a clean breath (no trace of alcohol) in order to start and continue driving the car. There are penalties for trying to bypass the device or tampering with the IID.

DUI Treatment Courts

Some counties in California, including Orange County, are testing out DUI treatment courts. As part of another pilot program, with funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety, more counties may begin to use DUI treatment courts rather than the traditional criminal courts.

DUI courts operate similarly to drug courts, which recognize that repeat drunk drivers may have a substance abuse problem and may benefit from treatment rather than just penalties alone. DUI courts combine drug or alcohol treatment, substance abuse education, testing, and supervision programs in order to increase accountability among participants. The goals of DUI treatment include reducing recidivism, reducing alcohol and drug abuse, and increasing rates of rehabilitation.

DUI Defense Lawyer

DUI laws are regularly changing. You need a California DUI defense lawyer who understands the new and changing laws and who can identify the best strategy for you to win your case. A DUI arrest does not have to end in a DUI conviction. If you have been charged with a DUI, your experienced California DUI defense attorney will fight for your rights, so you don’t have to go through a DUI alone.

'Lookback' Period of Priorability

The penalties for a first-time DUI can be unpleasant. However, a second DUI is treated even more harshly. Whether or not a subsequent DUI will be charged as a regular DUI or multiple DUI will depend on the amount of time that has passed between the DUI arrests. This is known as the lookback period of priorability.

Lookback Period in California

When determining what charges to bring against a person with a prior DUI, it will depend on far in the past the prior DUI arrest occurred. In California, that time period is ten years. The ten year term is counted from the first date of arrest to the subsequent date of arrest. However, if the second arrest occurred on July 5, 2015, the DUI would be charged as a first offense DUI.

Prior DUI Charges

When considering whether a previous arrest will count as a prior charge, the determining factor is the prior vehicle code violation and the details surrounding the violation. For a DUI charge, it will include a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, DUI with injury, DUI with a BAC over 0.08%, out-of-state DUIs, and/or a wet reckless. A wet reckless is a plea bargained charge that generally has lesser penalties compared to a DUI conviction. However, it is still treated as a priorable offense.

Multiple DUI Offenses

Multiple DUI offenses carry increasing penalties. A first time DUI may result in a one-year license suspension and DUI school for 3 months. A second DUI within a ten-year period may result in a minimum 96 hours in jail, DUI school for 18 months, and a two-year license suspension. A third DUI may include 120 days in jail, 30 months of DUI School, and a three-year license suspension. A fourth DUI within a ten year period is actually charged as a felony, with a prison sentence of more than a year, and a four-year license suspension.

Your California DUI defense lawyer will better be able to explain the potential penalties and strategies for avoiding jail time and a license suspension. If a subsequent DUI involves a plea deal down to a “wet reckless,” then you may be able to avoid any jail time. License suspension, shorter probationary period, lesser DUI School, and lower fines may also be benefits of a plea deal. Your attorney may also advise you that you have a good chance of having all charges dismissed with no conviction on your record.

Multiple DUI Defense

There are a number of possible defenses to multiple DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategy to win your case. A DUI arrest does not have to result in a DUI conviction. If you have been charged with your second, third, or even fourth DUI, your experienced California DUI defense attorney will fight for your rights, so you don’t have to lose your license or end up behind bars.

Jail

Jail Time for DUIs

While most people convicted of a first offense DUI will not face a lengthy jail sentence, multiple DUIs carry mandatory minimum jail time. Additionally, if there are aggravating factors, even a first time DUI can mean time behind bars. If you have been arrested for a DUI in California, your experienced DUI lawyer will be able to review your case and fight for your rights so you don’t have to spend time in a jail cell.

Aggravating Factors for DUI Jail Time

Depending on what happened at the time of your DUI arrest, aggravating factors may result in a prison sentence that is longer than the mandatory minimum. This includes a DUI combined with:

  • A car accident;
  • The presence of children under the age of 14 in the vehicle;
  • While on probation;
  • Driving with a suspended license;
  • DUI causing bodily injury;
  • Hit and run;
  • A BAC of 0.2% or higher; or
  • Reckless driving.

First DUI

Most people facing their first DUI, they will be charged with violation of the California Vehicle Code Section 23152, Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Depending on the county, drivers may face mandatory jail time of 48 hours in jail. However, based on the circumstances, penalties can include jail time of up to 6 months. A plea bargained charge known as a “wet reckless,” under Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 generally carries no mandatory jail time.

Second DUI

A second DUI offense within ten years of a prior DUI or wet reckless arrest can include mandatory jail time of 4 days in jail, with the possibility of up to one year in jail.

Third DUI

A third DUI arrest within ten years of the two priorable offenses can include mandatory jail time ranging from 120 days up to one year in a county jail.

Fourth DUI or Felony DUI

A fourth DUI within ten years of three prior DUI offenses is charged as a felony DUI. Under the California Vehicle Code Section 23550, penalties for a felony DUI include a minimum jail time of 180 days, with the possibility of as much as one year in jail.

DUI Causing Bodily Injury

A DUI that causes bodily injury can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a misdemeanor, jail time can range from five days to a year in jail. As a felony, a DUI that causes great bodily injury can result in up to 10 years in a state prison.

Avoid Jail Time for a DUI

There are a number of defenses available for your DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategies to win your case. If you have been charged with a DUI, multiple DUIs, or even a felony DUI, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges reduced or dismissed, allowing you to stay out of jail.

Fines

Fines and Fees for a California DUI

Most people who are convicted of a DUI are concerned with possible jail time and losing their licenses to drive. However, a DUI can also be expensive. The fines, fees, and costs associated with a DUI conviction can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

Aggravating Factors with Possible Increased Fines

Depending on what happened at the time of your DUI arrest, aggravating factors may result in being fined for an amount higher than the minimum fine. This includes a DUI occurring in combination with:

  • A motor vehicle accident.
  • If children under the age of 14 were in the vehicle, with repeat charges for each additional child.
  • A DUI while on probation.
  • Arrested for a DUI while on a suspended license.
  • DUI causing bodily injury, great bodily injury, or even death.
  • Hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Having a BAC of 0.2% or higher. or
  • Speeding or reckless driving.

First DUI or Multiple DUIs

For a first-time DUI, depending on the county, drivers may face a mandatory fine of from $390 up to $1,000. However, the courts also include penalty assessments. The judge has some discretion regarding these penalty assessments, which can add up to more than $3,000 for the fine and additional percentages and fees.

A plea bargained charge known as a “wet reckless,” under Vehicle Code Section 23103.5 also carries a fine from $145 to $1,000. A second or subsequent DUI offense within ten years of prior DUI or wet reckless arrests can also include mandatory fines from $390 to $1,000, in addition to any penalty assessments.

Additional Costs

If your car is impounded, you will be responsible for the towing and storage costs, in addition to administrative charges. Depending on the county, this could add up to more than $500 for just a couple of days of towing and storage. A 30-day impound may add up to almost $2,000, and if you don’t have the money to pay to release the vehicle, it may be sold to cover the costs.

Auto insurance rates may double or even triple after a DUI, and the higher costs may last three years, even if you have no other violations or accidents. After a DUI, a driver will also have to pay the fees associated with having their driver’s license reinstated.

DUI convictions also require DUI School, which may cost over $500 for a first offense DUI, or over $1,000 for a second offense DUI school. A DUI in some counties will require an ignition interlock device (IID), which the driver is responsible for covering the costs of installation, monthly rental, and regular maintenance, which can add up to a few hundred dollars or more.

DUI Defense

There are a number of defenses available for your DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategies to win your case. If you have been charged with a DUI, multiple DUIs, or even a felony DUI, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges reduced or dismissed, to keep you out of jail.

Mandatory License Suspension

Administrative License Suspension

For many California drivers arrested for a DUI, losing their license is the toughest part of getting a DUI. You may be surprised to learn that you only have 10 days after the arrest to stop your license from being automatically suspended. Your license suspension does not depend on whether or not you were eventually found guilty by a court of law, only whether you were arrested for a DUI. Even if you are later found not guilty, you may find that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has already suspended your license to drive.

Per Se License Suspension

  • Anyone who refuses a chemical test for a DUI will have their license administratively suspended.
  • Anyone who takes the chemical test showing a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher will have their license administratively suspended.

The arresting police officer will confiscate your driver’s license and provide you with a notice of suspension or revocation. This form also acts as a temporary driver’s license. You should read the notice carefully. Although it is good for 30 days, you only have 10 days to prevent an automatic suspension of your license. Within 10 days of your arrest, you must request an administrative per se (APS) suspension hearing from the DMV.

If you do not request an APS hearing, or you do not file your request within 10 days, your license will be administratively suspended by the DMV.

If you took a chemical test that showed you were over the legal limit (0.08% BAC for most drivers), and it is your first DUI, then your suspension will last for four months. If you are under 21-years-old, and had a chemical test showing 0.01% BAC or more, your license will be suspended for one year.

If you request a hearing within 10 days, your temporary driving privileges will be extended until you have the DMV hearing.

A DMV hearing is different from a court hearing; it has different rules and procedures. The DMV hearing is not a place for you to argue that you need your car for work, school, or family. The license suspension hearing is not about need or inconvenience, it is about whether there is a basis for your license suspension. Your California DUI lawyer can represent you at both the DMV hearing and the criminal hearing, to fight to keep your driving privileges.

DMV Hearing Defense Lawyer

There are a number of defenses available to you during the DMV hearing, just as there are to any criminal DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to advise you of the best strategies to win your case, and keep your license. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges reduced or dismissed, to keep your license to drive.

Alcohol Education Program

DUI Alcohol Education Program

Anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) will be required to attend DUI School. The program will consist of an assessment, classroom education, and counselling. A “wet reckless” requires completion of a 12-hour program. Most first-time offenders have to complete a 30-hour program. Drivers who had a DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.20% or higher will be required to complete a 9-month program. Drivers with more than one DUI may be required to go through an 18-month or 30-month program.

The judge has some discretion whether to impose a longer DUI School program. Proof of enrollment in a DUI school is usually required within 21-days of sentencing. The judge may also require proof of completion of your DUI program before a certain date. Failure to complete the DUI program within the required timeline may result in a probation violation.

DUI school programs are intended to educate and help individuals reflect on their attitudes and behavior involving alcohol and drugs. Approved DUI schools are found throughout California. There are more than 50 DUI schools in Los Angeles County alone. The California Department of Health Care Services licenses and monitors certified DUI programs. There are currently no online DUI programs that meet state requirements and any online DUI school will not be accepted. A list of licensed DUI schools can be found on DHCS website here.

First Offender DUI School

First-time DUIs may require a 30-hour, 44-hour, or 60-hour DUI program, depending on factors including BAC level. The program consists of 12 hours of alcohol and drug education, 10 to 44 hours of group counseling, and individual counseling sessions to evaluate drug and alcohol use and how it impacts driving.

Individuals may be required to complete DUI School as a condition of their probation, and in order to reinstate their driver’s license. They are also required to cover the costs associated with DUI School, which may cost more than $800 for a 30-hour program, or over $1,800 for a 9-month/60-hour program.

Multiple Offender DUI School

A second-offense DUI may require completion of an 18-month program. This consists of approximately 12-hours of drug and alcohol education, approximately 52 hours of group counselling, biweekly individual counselling interviews for one year, and select re-entry monitoring during the last six months of the program. Costs for an 18-month DUI school may exceed $2,000.

Some counties may require a 30-month DUI program on a third or subsequent DUI offense. This consists of approximately 12-hours of drug and alcohol education, 78 hours of group counselling, regular individual counselling interviews, and 120 to 300 hours of community service. The fees for a 30-month DUI school may cost over $3,000.

DUI Defense

There are a number of defenses available for your DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategies to win your case. If you have been charged with a DUI, multiple DUIs, or even a felony DUI, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges reduced or dismissed, to keep you out of jail.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Ignition Interlock Devices

An ignition interlock device, also known as an IID, is like a breathalyzer for your car. It is a device that is installed in a driver’s vehicle that requires a clean, alcohol-free breath in order to start the vehicle, and keep the vehicle operating. Judges in California can order an individual who is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) to install an IID in all of their vehicles. The purpose of the IID is to prevent an alcohol-impaired driver from operating a vehicle.

Some states require all drivers convicted of their first DUI to have an IID installed in their car as a condition of being able to drive. In California, drivers who are convicted of their second or subsequent DUI within a 10-year period will usually be required to drive with an IID.

Judges have some discretion whether to require an IID for first-time DUIs. Factors including how high the driver’s alcohol level was, and whether the driver has any history of substance abuse may affect the judge’s decision. However, in four California counties, a pilot program requires an IID for all first time DUI offenses. Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Tulare counties are participating in the program with the intention of helping legislators determine whether to take the program statewide.

Alcohol-Free Breaths to Start and Operate the Car

An IID works by requiring a breath sample before the car can start. The driver has to blow into the device, which analyzes the amount of alcohol in the blood. If any alcohol is detected, the device will register a failed breath test, and the car will not start. With a clean breath, the car will start. However, the device still requires clean breaths with “rolling samples” every 5 to 15 minutes or so. If the IID receives a failed sample while driving, the device will record the failed sample, and the violation may result in a probation violation to the court.

A first-offense DUI may require an IID on the vehicle for a period of about five months. A second DUI may require an IID for up to two years, three years for a third conviction, and up to four years for a fourth DUI conviction.

There are some devices and urban myths that some people believe will allow the IID to be tricked or bypassed. Many of these tricks do not work, and any attempts to tamper with, or disable the IID will be recorded, and reported to the court. Tampering with the IID will likely result in additional penalties; including fines, criminal charges, and a longer license suspension.

Costs of an IID

The driver convicted of a DUI is responsible for paying the costs of installation, rental, regular calibration and maintenance of the IID. This can add up to hundreds of dollars, plus the hassle and burden of taking your car in for the IID to be installed and serviced.

DUI Defense Lawyer

If you do not want an IID in your car to be able to drive, you need to fight your drunk driving charges. There may be many legal defenses available to you, and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategies to win your case. If you have been charged with a DUI, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side.

Public Shaming

Public Shame of a DUI

A DUI arrest can result in jail time, fines, costly fees, probation, loss of your driver’s license, and/or an ignition interlock device. However, even after spending the time and money to pay the price of a DUI, the public shame of being branded a “drunk driver,” can persist for years to come.

Some local California newspapers contain a “DUI Log” which features the names and arrest details of anyone charged with driving under the influence in a local area. Police in Huntington Beach made national headlines when they announced they were exploring a campaign to publicly shame people arrested on DUI charges by publishing the information to Facebook.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone in our legal system. If someone accuses you of a crime, it is up to them to collect the evidence and prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This acts to safeguard a person from the police or prosecutors penalizing them without any evidence. This should also apply to people charged with a DUI. It is up to the prosecutor to prove that someone met the elements of a crime before they are found guilty. However, society may not always wait until someone is proven guilty before they dole out the punishment.

An arrest for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not mean you are guilty. Unfortunately, arrest records are public. A local newspaper or TV station can sort through the arrest records and report who was arrested for what, sometimes even publishing mugshots. When the public sees that their neighbor, co-worker, or school teacher is arrested for driving under the influence, they will not likely wait for the court to make a determination of guilt.

Instead, most people see an arrest as a presumption of guilt. A mugshot can make anyone look guilty. Publishing arrest records publicly shames the individual arrested, regardless of whether they have committed a crime. If the driver is later found not guilty, the newspaper has no interest in reporting that the person they outed weeks earlier is, in fact, not guilty. For the individual arrested, the damage has already been done, and they have little recourse to repair their damaged reputation.

Public Shaming Does Not Work

Ever since anti-drunk driving advocates sought to make the laws tougher on people arrested for DUIs, the stigma for DUI arrests has increased. Some people think that drunk driving implies selfishness; a person who knowingly got drunk and decided to drive because they don’t care about anyone else. However, DUIs often involve people who have only had a couple of drinks, and are unaware that they are over the legal limit. In other cases, a person could be taking a new prescription, unaware that it may affect their ability to drive, until they are arrested for drugged driving.

Some states are considering increasing the public shame of a DUI. A few proposed ideas include: “whiskey plates,” which indicate to others on the road that a driver has been convicted of a DUI: a drunk driver database, similar to a sex-offender list; or making someone stand a busy intersection with a sign stating their DUI conviction. However, for states that have tried these tactics, there is little indication that it does anything to decrease DUIs.

Drunk driving may be better treated for some as a substance abuse issue. Treatment, counseling, and education have a great deal of success in preventing repeat drunk driving incidents. This is better for the individuals arrested, as well as the public in general. Public shaming of someone before the facts are decided unjustly penalizes the driver and their family.

DUI Arrest Defense

There are a number of defenses available to someone facing DUI charges. Before you even have your day in court, you need to fight to prevent your license from an administrative suspension by the DMV. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to have your charges dismissed, and keep your record clean.