California has two major DUI laws — VC 23152(a) and VC23152 (b). It is a crime under VC 23152(a) for a driver to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The California VC 23152(b) makes it an offense to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or more. California VC 23152(f) outlines the crime of driving under the influence of drugs. California has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. The potential penalties for driving under the influence include jail time, fines, and license suspension. If you face DUI charges, Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can help you create a good defense to fight the charges.
Per Se DUI in California
According to the per se DUI laws in California, once a person records a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 008% or more, they are intoxicated according to the law. No other evidence is necessary to prove intoxication under the law. The per se DUI laws imply that no matter how sober you feel, as long as your blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08%, you'll face DUI charges. This law makes it easier for law enforcement officers to prosecute intoxicated drivers.
However, the per se DUI laws don't mean that all drivers who register a BAC of 0.08% and above are guilty of DUI. Even if your BAC results are above 0.08%, you can challenge the BAC results’ validity with your attorney's help. You can challenge the validity of the machines used to collect the results and the procedures the law enforcement officers followed while obtaining the results.
Underage DUI Crime
According to the California law VC 23136, it is an offense for a driver below 21 years to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or more. The zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers seek to combat underage drinking and driving. A small amount of alcohol can elevate your BAC to 0.01%. In underage DUI, alcoholic beverages include other beverages with alcohol content and not just alcoholic drinks. Other beverages that may raise a driver's BAC levels include mouth-numbing formulas, cough syrups, and mouthwash.
The law enforcement officers conduct a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test while measuring BAC in underage drivers. This is a roadside test that the police administer using breathalyzer equipment. A PAS test is mandatory for a driver under 21, but the test is optional for drivers over 21. Failing to submit to a PAS test may result in the suspension of an underage driver's license for one year.
Underage DUI or violation of VC 23136 is a civil offense whose only penalty is revocation or suspension of a driver's license by the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). If you don't have a driver's license when violating VC 23136, you'll be subject to a one-year delay before obtaining the license.
The arresting officer will take your driver's license after an arrest for DUI and send it to the DMV. You will get a temporary license, valid for 30 days. The license revocation or suspension will take effect within thirty days if you don't request a DMV hearing within ten days of the DUI arrest. You can also request a DMV hearing after a license suspension for a refusal to undertake a PAS test. During the DMV hearing, you will negotiate with the DMV not to suspend your driver's license.
Misdemeanor DUI Crimes
Most DUI crimes in California are misdemeanor DUIs. The consequences for intoxicated driving will vary depending on the presence of previous DUI convictions on your record. The penalties will also vary based on if another individual sustained injuries because of your intoxicated driving.
First Misdemeanor DUI Crime
When you commit a misdemeanor crime of driving under the influence for the first time, the likely consequences under California DUI laws are:
- Informal or summary probation for a period ranging between 3 years and 5 years
- A jail time of not more than six months in a California county jail
- Fines ranging between $390 and $1,000
- Enrollment in an approved alcohol or drug education program for three to nine months
- The judge may order you to put an IID in your car for six months. Installing an IID may allow you to continue driving without restrictions. You might also have your driver's license suspension converted into a restricted driver's license. A restricted driver's license will allow you to drive to and from school, work, and DUI School.
After an arrest for intoxicated driving, you'll have ten days from the arrest to request a DMV hearing. Requesting for a DMV hearing will postpone your license suspension until after the conclusion of the hearing. You don't have to request or attend the hearing personally. Your attorney can book the hearing for you and represent you at the hearing.
Second Misdemeanor DUI Crime
DUI is a priorable offense. Therefore, every subsequent DUI crime that you commit within ten years will attract harsher penalties than the previous offense. Therefore, a second DUI misdemeanor crime will have severe penalties than the first misdemeanor offense. The likely consequences for a second DUI misdemeanor crime in California include:
- Summary probation for three to five years
- A jail time ranging between 96 hours and one year in a California county jail
- Fines starting from $390 to $1,000
- California DUI School starting from 18 months to 30 months
- Installation of an IID device for a minimum period of 1 year – If you prefer not to install an IID, the DMV will suspend your license for up to two years. After one year of license suspension, the DMV might convert your license into a restricted license.
Third Misdemeanor DUI Crime
What are the penalties for a third misdemeanor DUI crime in California? If you have a third DUI violation in ten years, the penalties for the offense include:
- An informal or summary probation ranging between three and five years
- A minimum jail time of 120 days to a maximum jail period of one year in a California county jail
- Fines starting from $390 to $1,000
- A 30-month DUI School program approved by the court
- Mandatory installation of an IID device for two years – an IID device will allow you to drive without restrictions. If you are unwilling to install an IID device, the DMV will suspend your license for up to 3 years. After 18 months of license suspension, the DMV will convert your license into a restricted driver's license.
- Committing a third misdemeanor DUI crime may lead to a designation as an HTO (habitual traffic offender) by the DMV.
Felony DUI in California
In most instances, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a misdemeanor offense, according to California law. However, under certain circumstances, a DUI crime may attract felony charges. You might face felony DUI charges if:
- You have three prior misdemeanor DUI crimes, and you commit a fourth offense with a ten years.
- You have a previous felony charge for driving under the influence.
- You cause an accident, and another person suffers severe bodily injury or dies.
When you drive under the influence, and another person suffers injuries or dies, the prosecutor can file criminal charges against you in three ways:
- The prosecutor might charge you with DUI with injury outlined under VC 23153
- You might face charges for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under the California PC 191.5(a) or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under the California PC 191.5(b)
- The prosecutor might charge you with Watson murder, also known as DUI second-degree murder.
In deciding how to charge your DUI crime, the prosecutor might consider your case's specific facts and your past criminal history.
DUI Causing Injury
The California VC 23153 VC outlines the crime of DUI causing injury. A violation under VC 23153 is a wobbler offense, meaning that the crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the crime of DUI with injury is a misdemeanor or felony depends on your past criminal history and circumstances of your arrest. You'll face DUI charges with injury if you drive while intoxicated and another person sustains injuries.
Misdemeanor DUI Crime With Injury
If the prosecutor charges you with misdemeanor DUI causing injury, the potential consequences for the offense are:
- Summary probation, ranging between three years and five years
- A jail time of five days to one year in jail
- Fines ranging from $390 to $5,000
- Participation in a drug and alcohol and drug education program for three, eighteen, or thirty months
- The court might order a mandatory installation of an IID device for six months to continue driving without restrictions. If you prefer not to install an IID, the court will suspend your license for one year.
- The court might order you to compensate or pay restitution to the accident victims. Paying restitution involves reimbursing the victims for all the costs and expenses they incur because of the accident.
Felony DUI With Injury
What are the penalties for DUI with injury under California law?
- Imprisonment in a state prison in California for sixteen months to ten years- penalty enhancements exist depending on the extent of the victim's injuries and the number of people involved in the accident
- A felony DUI with injury may cause a strike on your recording California's Three Strikes Law
- Hefty fines ranging between $1015 and $5,000
- The California DMV may designate you as an HTO (habitual traffic offender)
- The court might order you to install an IID for three years if you want to continue driving without limitations. If you don't install an IID, the court will suspend your license
- You might also have to reimburse or pay restitution to accident victims
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (California PC 191.5)
You might face charges under the California PC 191.5 if you drive under the influence of alcohol and you engage in additional negligent behavior, causing the death of another person. It should be evident that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor should prove that you committed an additional offense while driving under the influence, either a California misdemeanor or infraction that may cause death. You must have acted with ordinary negligence while committing the additional offense, and your negligent behavior should have caused the victim's death.
A violation of PC 191.5(b) is a wobbler offense, meaning that it's either a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a misdemeanor, the likely consequences for the offense include:
- A summary or misdemeanor probation
- Imprisonment of not more than one year in a county jail in California
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
If charged as a felony, the likely consequences for the offense are:
- A formal or felony probation
- Imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or four years
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
A conviction under PC 191.5(b) also has a harsh penalty of losing your driver's license. For charges of felony ordinary vehicular manslaughter, you will face a license suspension for one year. A misdemeanor violation of PC 191.5(b) may not lead to suspension of your license. If you operate your vehicle on a revoked or a suspended license, you'll face additional charges for driving on a suspended license as outlined by California PC 14601VC.
You can fight charges under PC 191.5(b) using the following defenses:
- You were not under the influence at the time of the accident.
- You did not act negligently.
- The victim's death did not occur due to your negligence.
- You acted in the face of an emergency and the same manner that a reasonable person would have acted.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated PC 191.5(a)
For you to face charges for violating California PC 191.5(a), it should be evident that you operated a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You must have committed another offense, either an infraction or a misdemeanor that may cause death. You should have committed the infraction or the misdemeanor with gross negligence, and the negligence resulted in another’s death.
A violation of PC 191.5(a) is a felony offense. The penalties for the offense are:
- A formal or felony probation
- Imprisonment in a state prison in California for four, six, or ten years
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
You will face enhanced penalties for violating the California PC 191.5(a) if you have a previous conviction for ordinary or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. You will also face enhanced penalties if you have prior convictions under VC 23152, PC 192.5 (a) or (b), or VC 23153. If you have a previous conviction for any of the outlined offenses, you will face imprisonment in state prison for 15 years to life imprisonment.
A conviction under PC 191.5 will lead to the loss of your driving privileges in California. For a conviction under PC 191.5 (a), the California Department of Motor Vehicle will suspend your driver's license for three years. You will face additional charges if you drive on a revoked or a suspended license.
It can be devastating if you are involved in an accident while driving under the influence, and another person dies. However, you can still fight the charges because the accident may not have been your fault. With the help of your attorney, you can adopt the following legal defenses to fight your charges:
- At the time of the accident, you were not intoxicated.
- You did not behave or act in gross negligence.
- The victim did not die because of your negligence.
- You acted reasonably given the circumstances.
DUI Murder/Watson Murder
Watson murder is a form of second-degree murder under the California PC 187. Watson murder charges may apply if you kill someone while driving under the influence and you have a previous California DUI conviction. The prosecutor must prove that you acted with malice aforethought, also known as implied malice while committing the crime.
You might be guilty of acting with malice aforethought or implied malice if you commit an act intentionally, like driving under the influence. The natural and probable consequences of the act should be dangerous or pose a risk to human life. When committing the act, you should have known or understood the nature of the act as dangerous to human life. The prosecutor must show that you portrayed or acted with a conscious or intentional disregard of human life.
You will get Watson murder charges if you have one prior conviction of driving under the influence. If you had received a Watson admonition or you attended California DUI School after committing the offense. What is a Watson admonition? It is a warning that defendants guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol receive. The admonition outlines how DUI poses a risk to human life and how a subsequent DUI causing another person's death may lead to murder charges.
The potential consequences for Watson murder charges under California law include:
- Imprisonment in a state prison in California for fifteen years to life imprisonment
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- A Watson murder conviction may cause a strike on your criminal record according to the California Three Strikes Law.
The possible consequences will increase if there were surviving victims who suffered injuries due to your actions.
Aggravating Factors in DUI Cases
If certain facts and circumstances are present at the time of your DUI arrest, they may increase your sentencing. Aggravating factors might enhance your DUI consequences irrespective of whether you are being convicted of a first, second, or third DUI crime. The most common aggravating factors include:
Very High BAC Results
The legal BAC limit in California is 0.08%. If you have exceedingly high BAC results, BAC of 0.15% and above, you will face aggravated DUI charges. BAC of 0.15% is almost twice the allowable limit of 0.08%
Chemical Test Refusal
If you refuse to submit to a DUI chemical test in California, you will face aggravated charges on top of the standard California DUI penalties. A chemical test refusal will also result in the permanent suspension of your driver's license irrespective of your DUI case's outcome. According to California's implied consent laws, you are presumed to have consented to chemical testing upon obtaining a driver's license to operate your vehicle in California. Therefore, refusing to submit to chemical DUI testing has severe legal consequences.
Reckless Driving or Excessive Speed
You will get a sentence enhancement of at least 60 days in jail if you commit a DUI crime and while committing the offense, you drove at a speed that exceeded:
- 30 miles an hour on a freeway
- 20 miles an hour on any other highway or street
The prosecutor must prove that you drove recklessly for the penalty enhancements to apply. After a penalty enhancement under VC 23582, the defendant must attend the California DUI School.
With the help of an attorney, you can fight the penalty enhancements under VC 23582 by pointing out that:
- You were not intoxicated at the time of the arrest.
- You did not drive at a speed above the allowable limit.
- You did not engage in careless or reckless driving.
DUI With a Child Under 14 Years
Defendants who drive while intoxicated in the company of a child below 14 years may face enhanced penalties under California law. The penalty enhancements for DUI with a child include a mandatory jail term of 48 hours for a first-time offense. Therefore, if you drive under the influence while accompanied by a minor below 14 years, you will face a mandatory jail term as follows:
- A mandatory jail time of 48 hours for a first-time offense
- Ten days of mandatory jail time for a 2nd offense
- 30 days of mandatory jail time for a 3rd offense
- 90 days of mandatory jail time for a 4th misdemeanor DUI crime
Other aggravating factors that may lead to enhanced DUI penalties are:
- Underage DUI
- DUI causing an accident
Find a Riverside DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one faces DUI charges, you can create a convincing defense with the help of your attorney to fight the charges. The Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm will evaluate your DUI case and help you develop the best defense. Contact us at 951-946-6366 and talk to one of our attorneys.