New DUI / DWI Sentencing Laws in California
California has created new laws regarding driving under the influence cases. If the driving under the influence or the driving while intoxicated happened on September 20, 2005 or later, the driver will be subject to the new laws. Leave it up to a qualified California DUI / DWI attorney to sort out the differences for you. To have your case evaluated contact The Kavinoky Law Firm.
Before the new law took effect, both the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles could suspend driver’s license. Now that is not the case. Only the DMV may suspend or restrict a driver’s license. The DMV will suspend or restrict a license following a DMV hearing (administrative per se hearing) or once the D.M.V. has information regarding a drunk driving conviction in the criminal courts. A DUI / DWI lawyer can handle both criminal court and Department of Motor Vehicles hearings.
The new laws in California provide for the DMV to automatically suspend a driver’s license for six months for first time DUI offenders. The driver may request a restricted license to allow for driving to work and to alcohol education classes. Previously, there was a one month wait before a driver could request a restricted license. Now the restricted license may be requested immediately.
Previously, in deciding the length of alcohol education classes, the courts would use a blood alcohol content of .20 percent as their magic number. Now the magic number is .15 percent, which means that any driver whose BAC is .15 percent or higher should expect the possibility of extended education programs.
Generally in a DUI / DWI case a driver is offered probation instead of jail time. There are still some cases where even if a driver accepts probation, the judge may impose a jail sentence. The new California law requires that a driver who refuses probation to serve a mandatory 96 hour jail sentence. 48 hours of that sentence must be served consecutively. The remaining 48 hours must be served within six months of the sentence. A California criminal defense attorney will be able to advise a client convicted of drunk driving on whether or not to accept probation or to take the jail sentence.
Whether or not a driver accepts or rejects probation, fines will still be imposed on the first time offender. The first time offender will face fines ranging from $390 to $1,000 plus penalty assessments. Penalty assessments will practically triple the fine. The current rate for the penalty assessment is 171 percent of the fine.
The second time offender, meaning a driver who has a prior DUI or wet-reckless conviction within 10 years of the second charge, will face an automatic two year license suspension by the DMV. After one year of the license suspension a driver can apply for a restricted license so long as the driver is signed up for alcohol education classes, files a proof of insurance, has an ignition interlock device and has paid all the costs associated with the conditions. It used be the case that a victory at a DMV hearing would mean no suspension of the license for a second time offender, so long as the court also agreed to a restricted license, but times have changed.
Second time offenders will face 10 days in jail or a 96 hour jail sentences even if they accept probation. If probation is declined by the driver, the driver will face a jail sentence of 90 days to one year. Work release or alternative sentences may be appropriate and a California criminal defense attorney will work to achieve such alternative punishments where appropriate.
While third and fourth time offenders are not affected by the new California legislation, drunk drivers or drivers otherwise intoxicated who cause injuries to another do face new regulations. Those new regulations include five days to one year in jail, alcohol education classes, and fines even if the driver accepts probation. When probation is not accepted by the driver, the jail sentence will range from 90 days to one year. The license of a drunk driver who injures another person will be suspended for a full year with no opportunity for them to seek a restricted license.
If a second time DUI / DWI offender injures a person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that driver will face a 30 day to one year jail sentence with alcohol education classes, or 120 days to one year in jail with no education courses. These sentences apply if the driver chooses probation. When a driver declines probation they will face 120 days to one year in jail. Any second time offender who injures another will also face a three-year suspension of their driver’s license with a possible restricted license following 18 months if the driver has completed 18-months of alcohol education classes. Fines will also be applied whether the driver accepts probation or not.
The new laws in California drunk driving cases require the expertise of a California DUI / DWI attorney if a person seeks to have the best possible outcome. The new laws affect the courts and the DMV and pose unique issues that should be handled by professionals.