What Happens When You Get a DUI in CA?

What Happens When You Get a DUI in CA?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is dangerous for the intoxicated driver and everyone around them. Even if a DUI driver does not cause an accident, they can still face severe legal penalties if they are arrested and convicted for DUI in California. The penalties for DUI escalate with multiple offenses. If you have a DUI conviction and then commit another DUI offense within ten years, the penalties for the second offense will be substantially harsher than the first. It is vital for all drivers to understand the risks of DUI and the penalties that are likely to follow DUI conviction in California.

Arrest and Booking

In California, police cannot compel a driver to submit to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) such as a breathalyzer exam to establish probable cause for DUI. While other states have stricter implied consent laws, California’s implied consent law for DUI testing only applies when the driver has been lawfully arrested for DUI. This means the arresting officer must establish probable cause without relying on a PAS test. The only exceptions to this law are drivers under the age of 21 that demonstrate evidence of intoxication behind the wheel and drivers who are on probation for DUI.

Once a driver has been lawfully arrested for DUI in California, the arresting officers will proceed with booking and administering a chemical test for DUI. At this point, the driver should take full advantage of their rights to legal counsel and to remain silent. Anything said during arrest or booking can be used against the suspect by the prosecution. An experienced attorney can help their client navigate the early stages of a DUI case, including their preliminary hearings and pre-trial motions.

Potential Penalties for Conviction

California enforces several punishments for DUI, and these penalties increase when a driver has multiple DUI convictions within a ten year period. These penalties include:

  • Fines. which start at $390 and escalate in light of aggravating factors or due to previous DUI convictions. Fines can also increase when a driver’s BAC level is at an “extreme” level of .15% or higher.
  • Jail time. California enforces a two-day minimum jail sentence for DUI conviction, including first-time DUIs.
  • Penalty assessments. The court will assign additional penalty assessments when sentencing a defendant for DUI based on court costs and other aspects of the case.
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) installation. A judge may sentence a defendant to compulsory IID installation. An IID prevents a vehicle from starting until the driver provides a breath sample to prove they are not under the influence of alcohol before driving. The defendant must pay for the device and the installation cost.
  • Mandatory education courses. Conviction for DUI will usually entail mandatory attendance in a drug and alcohol education course and/or driver safety course. The defendant must pay enrollment fees for these courses and complete the required amount of course hours.
  • Driver’s license suspension. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue an administration suspension of a driver’s license when a driver is convicted of DUI, or refuses to submit to a chemical test after a lawful arrest. A judge overseeing a DUI case will also issue a driver’s license suspension, the length of which depends on the severity of the offense and whether the driver has a record of prior DUIs.
  • Personal and professional consequences. Being convicted of DUI can lead to a loss of standing in your community, and if you hold a professional license you may face disciplinary action, including license suspension or revocation, from the oversight board with jurisdiction over your license.
  • Increased penalties for future DUIs. Every DUI committed within ten years will lead to increased penalties. Your fines, jail time, and other penalties will all increase in severity if you are convicted of another DUI within ten years of the first conviction.
  • Additional felony penalties for associated offenses. A DUI charge may just be one of several criminal charges a driver would face if they caused an accident and injured or killed another driver. It is possible for a DUI driver to face a charge of involuntary manslaughter if they unintentionally killed another person because of driving under the influence, and this charge will significantly increase the legal penalties they face.

It should be clear that the penalties for DUI conviction in California are more extensive than most people initially realize. This is why it is so crucial to secure reliable legal counsel when you have been arrested for DUI, especially when you are certain that the arrest was wrongful or unjust and you have done nothing wrong.

How to Defend Against DUI Charges in California

Defending yourself from a DUI case in California requires the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney. Your attorney must carefully review the details of your situation, including the circumstances of your arrest and booking, to ensure the arrest was lawful and followed the rules of due process. If it did not, or if the police violated your Constitutional rights in any way, your attorney provides the best opportunity possible for avoiding the severe penalties that come with conviction.

A good attorney will look for weaknesses and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence and highlight them to maximum effect. They will also coordinate expert witness testimony on their client’s behalf, if necessary, to prove their innocence. For example, if there is any reason to call the handling of your chemical test results into question, or challenge the testing lab’s findings.

While it is possible to secure legal counsel for free from a public defender, you can expect a more robust degree of legal representation when you choose an experienced private defense attorney to handle your case. Most public defenders handle multiple cases at a time and will not be able to offer much individual attention to your DUI case.

If you or a loved one have been charged with DUI in California, it is vital to speak with an attorney immediately to determine your best available legal options. The Law Office of Daniel P. Flores can provide the comprehensive and compassionate defense counsel you need when you are concerned about the severe consequences a DUI conviction could have on your life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how our firm can assist in your defense.

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