California statutes against driving under the influence (DUI) are among the harshest. California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC, which punishes driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and Vehicle Code 23152(b), which prohibits drivers from driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or above, are the two core legislations that apply to motorists.

The severity of your sentence for breaking DUI laws depends on your prior DUI convictions and whether your crime resulted in someone else’s injuries. Due to the serious and life-altering nature of the penalties, you want to hire a DUI attorney to represent you. At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we leave no stone unturned when representing DUI suspects.

DUI Laws in California

Driving under the influence is the offense of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The most common DUI conviction is driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. The court could penalize you under one of the misdemeanor drunk driving charges, including:

1.  California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC, DUI of Alcohol

Under VC 23152(a), you could face a DUI arrest and charge if a traffic officer stops you while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to this statute, if mentally impaired to the point where you cannot drive as cautiously as a sober person, you qualify as being under the influence.

In addition, drinking alcohol is not the only substance that could impair judgment. The law also covers the intoxication drugs cause, whether legal or not.

Per the statute, the prosecution need not present evidence of the specific substance that caused your impairment. The prosecution must show that you, the defendant, were intoxicated, making it impossible for you to drive safely.

A violation of this legislation attracts misdemeanor charges and harsh penalties upon conviction. The court could sentence you to jail and fine you hefty amounts. Other consequences include accruing points on your driving record that raise insurance costs, losing your driver's license, and receiving a criminal record, all of which could negatively impact your future and ambitions.

You cannot find meaningful employment, obtain a promotion, or keep your professional license if you have one after having a criminal record. If you have any prior drunk driving convictions or have served a prior prison term for a felony DUI conviction, you could face felony charges under VC 23152(a).

2.  California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, Driving With Excessive BAC

The Per Se Law, also known as Vehicle Code 23152(b), criminalizes driving while their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or more. The law is divided into two sections:

  1. One that specifies that the motorist must be driving while intoxicated alone.
  2. Another is that the adult driver must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08%.

Depending on your case's specifics, you could face a felony or a misdemeanor charge. Your criminal past, the severity of your drunk driving, and whether you injured anyone while driving are all considerations that will affect your charge.

Usually, if an arresting officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated, they will stop you. The police officer will ask you to submit to at least one field sobriety test (FST), a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, or a more thorough chemical test on your blood, breath, or urine sample to determine whether you are drunk.

Remember that breaking Vehicle Code 23612 by refusing to submit to a blood or chemical test is illegal. However, as of right now, neither VC 23152(b) nor 23153(b) violations may be brought against someone who refuses to provide a chemical or blood sample for testing. Instead, they are charged under VC 23152(a), which automatically suspends their driving rights for at least a year.

To prevent drivers stopped on suspicion of DUI from refusing to submit to Breathalyzer or chemical testing, the NHTSA is working on legislation that will grant arresting authorities the authority to collect blood at the scene.

3.  California Vehicle Code 23152(c) VC, Driving While Addicted to Drugs

Driving under the influence and driving while addicted may differ in ways that could result in different consequences. However, there may be similarities between the effects of addiction and drug influence while driving.

The drug in the system and its necessity could impair the driver, resulting in an accident. The urge or withdrawal of an addict may still cause an accident, which could result in property damage and injuries to any drivers or passengers involved in the collision. To proceed with a claim, each side may then require legal representation.

In California, the prosecution must prove that addiction occurred simultaneously as the driving incident to prove driving while addicted. This is possible when a person is physically dependent on a substance and may experience severe withdrawal symptoms if denied access.

First, second, and third DUI offenses are misdemeanors, as is Vehicle Code 23152(c) driving while addicted. DUI charges for the fourth and subsequent offenses are felonies.

4.  California Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC, DUI & Commercial Drivers License

It is against the law for drivers of commercial vehicles to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or above, according to VC 23152 (d). This law sets more stringent requirements for those who have commercial driver's licenses.

Vehicle Code 23152(d) is in effect only when a driver is operating a commercial vehicle. The typical "legal limit" in California is.08% when a driver operates a non-commercial vehicle, such as a car or motorcycle. Commercial drivers guilty of a first-time California DUI may face the following possible court-ordered sentences:

  • Serving time in jail for at most one year
  • At least $400 and at most $1,000 in fines
  • Informal or summary probation
  • Enrolling in a California DUI school for three to 36 months

With each subsequent conviction, the penalties get worse. A commercial driver could face a felony charge if found guilty of DUI causing injury in any vehicle under Vehicle Code 23153.

Additionally, a commercial driver found guilty of DUI will have their license suspended for at least a year. Even if the offender was not operating a business vehicle at the time of the violation, this suspension still applies.

It will also apply if the driver is pulled over for a DUI and declines to perform either of these tests:

  • A breath test for DUI in California
  • A blood test for DUI in California

As a commercial driver, you permanently lose your license if found guilty of a second DUI. Therefore, it is crucial that a commercial driver strongly contests any DUI allegation.

5.  California Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC, DUI by Taxi, Limo, or Ride-Sharing Drivers

A taxi or Uber driver driving a passenger in a passenger for-hire car while intoxicated violates California Vehicle Code 23152(e). The law prohibits these drivers from driving while their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.04% or above with a paying passenger inside the car.

If found guilty of a 1st offense DUI, you are charged with a misdemeanor offense. Possible sentences include serving a jail term of up to six months or between $390 and $1,000 in fines. A 2nd misdemeanor DUI crime attracts fines between $300 and $1,000 and a jail term of 96 hours to one year.

Upon a 3rd misdemeanor DUI conviction, you could serve time in jail for 120 days to one year or be penalized with a fine of between $390 and $1,000. A felony DUI conviction attracts a 16-month or 3-year jail term or $390 to $1,000 in fines.

6.  California Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC, Driving Under The Influence of Drugs

In California, driving a car while under the influence of drugs is illegal, as per Vehicle Code 23152(f). Any substance that inhibits a person's ability to drive, whether illegal or prescribed, can result in DUI charges. According to California law, misdemeanor convictions predominate. However, some DUI charges may be felonies.

Illegal drugs and their metabolites include cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and heroin. Examples of prescription drugs are Vicodin, Ambien, Oxycodone, and Oxycontin. Examples of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are sleeping pills, allergy medicine such as antihistamines, and cold medicine. The law also classifies marijuana under this statute.

7.  California Vehicle Code 23136 VC, Zero Tolerance Law/ Underage DUI

The zero-tolerance law for drunk driving is VC 23136. To address the problem of minors’ DUI violations, the legislature passed this law in 1994. According to VC 23136, anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 is not allowed to drive after consuming any alcoholic beverage if their blood alcohol level is 0.01 percent or more.

Even a small amount of alcohol can quickly increase your blood alcohol level from 0% to.010%. Additionally, an alcoholic beverage for VC 23136 purposes includes alcohol derived from any source, not only alcoholic beverages.

In addition to alcoholic beverages, alcohol can also be included in homeopathic remedies, cough syrups, and over-the-counter cold medications like Nyquil. The BAC level can be determined through a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test under the zero-tolerance law.

The roadside test is not required for drivers twenty-one years or older. This implies that the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will automatically revoke or suspend your driving privileges for a year if you are under twenty-one years old, pulled over for DUI, and refuse to take the PAS test. You are not eligible for a restricted hardship license if your driving privileges have been suspended because you refused to take the PAS test.

The Implied Consent Law of California

Under this law, California drivers legally detained for intoxicated driving must submit to a breath test to ascertain their blood alcohol content (BAC). If a driver violates this law by refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, they are subject to the following penalties:

  • A mandatory driver's license suspension, regardless of your DUI case outcome.
  • Additional 48-hour jail term and at least nine months enrolled in a DUI program for first-time offenders.
  • Second DUI offenders face an additional 96-hour jail term.
  • Ten more days in prison for third-time DUI offenders.
  • A further 18-day jail term for a 4th or subsequent DUI.

In the Birchfield v. North Dakota decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that offenders cannot be penalized for refusing to submit to a blood test where the arresting officer has not secured a lawful warrant. The court's ruling, however, was relevant in places where refusing to submit to a DUI blood test after a valid arrest constitutes a distinct violation.

Conditions That Allow Police to Request a Driver to Submit to a Blood Test for DUI

There are three situations where a law enforcement officer could demand that you submit to a DUI blood test, including:

  • A court order authorizing the test
  • The suspicion that a driver may have used drugs before
  • A possible criminal DUI

If a police officer obtains a warrant for chemical testing, they may ask you to submit a blood test for DUI. The warrant, which provides legal authorization for a chemical DUI test, is issued by the judge.

The implied consent rule applies only to breathalyzer tests after a valid DUI arrest. Before being arrested, you could refuse to take a roadside (PAS) breath test. Unless you are under twenty-one or on probation for a prior DUI conviction, there are no repercussions for refusing to submit to a PAS test.

Additionally, a driver's refusal to take a PAS test may not be used as evidence of guilt at trial if they are under twenty-one years old, on probation for DUI, or both. However, it should be noted that if you consent to the PAS test, the results may be used as evidence to support your DUI conviction.

If you're facing charges for refusing a DUI chemical test, there is one popular legal argument you can use. Your arrest was unlawful, the defense will claim. It was illegal if the traffic officer had no good reason to believe you were driving under the influence when they stopped or arrested you. You never provided implied agreement to a DUI breath test if the arrest was illegal. Additionally, the court could dismiss your charge if the defense is successful.

Possible Penalties for Violating DUI laws

1.  Penalties for a First Offense Misdemeanor California DUI

The following are possible punishments for a first-offense DUI in California when a defendant is found guilty of driving under the influence:

  • Three to five years of informal probation.
  • A jail term of up to six months.
  • $390 to $1,000 in fines.
  • The judge could order that you install an IID in their automobile for six months to continue driving without restrictions.
  • A three- or nine-month court-approved program for alcohol and drug education.

You are allowed ten days after your arrest for any drunk driving-related incident in California to petition for a DMV hearing. This motion delays the suspension of your license until the DMV concludes your hearing and could result in your license suspension being overturned. If you employ a California lawyer within those ten days, they could represent you at the hearing.

2.  Sentencing for a Second Offense Misdemeanor DUI

Below are the penalties for a second DUI conviction in California within ten years:

  • Summary probation for three to five years.
  • Ninety-six hours' minimum and a year's maximum jail term.
  • $390 to $1,000 in fines.
  • Finishing an 18 or 30-month California DUI program approved by the court.
  • Install an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year, during which you can drive anywhere.
  • Failure to comply with these requirements will result in a two-year license suspension from the DMV, after which a restricted license may follow.

3.  Possible Sentencing for a Third Offense Misdemeanor DUI

Following a third DUI conviction within ten years, California may impose the following penalties:

  • Three to five years' worth of unofficial probation.
  • One hundred twenty days at the least, and up to a year in jail.
  • Fines of $390 to $1,000.
  • Undertaking a 30-month DUI education course certified by the court
  • IID installation is required for two years, during which the offender can drive anywhere.

4.  Possible Punishment for a DUI with Injury

Following a third DUI conviction within ten years, California may impose the following penalties:

  • Three to five years' worth of unofficial probation.
  • One hundred twenty days at the least, and up to a year in jail.
  • Fines of $390 to $1,000.
  • Completion of a 30-month DUI education course certified by the court
  • IID installation is required for two years, during which the offender can drive anywhere.
  • The DMV designates you as a "habitual traffic offender" (HTO).

Misdemeanor DUI with injury

Penalties include:

  • Summary probation for three to five years.
  • Five days to a year in county jail.
  • A fine of $390 to $5,000.
  • A 3-, 18-, or 30-month alcohol treatment program.
  • IID is required for six months to keep driving without limitations; if not, the defendant's license will be suspended for a year.
  • Restitution to all parties who were harmed.

Felony DUI with injury

Depending on the circumstances, possible sentences include:

  • Sixteen months to ten years in a California state prison.
  • Additional concurrent one to six years in prison depending on:
    • The number of people you hurt.
    • The severity of their injuries.
  • A potential "strike" against you under California's Three Strikes Law
  • Fines of $1,015 to $5,000 if
  • An alcohol/drug program that lasts 18 to 30 months.
  • Three years of habitual traffic offender (HTO) status.
  • Installing an IID for two to three years to keep driving
  • Compensating all harmed parties.

Possible Punishment for a Felony DUI

If a person receives four or more DUI convictions in ten years, they are charged with felony DUI in California. The following are possible criminal court punishments for felony DUI:

  • Sixteen months, or two to three years, in a state prison in California.
  • $390 to $1,000 in fines.
  • IID installation is required for at least a year; if not, driving privileges may be terminated for up to four years.
  • The DMV's designation of an "HTO."

Additional Probation Conditions

When California courts sentence a DUI case that includes probation, the following terms are always included, in addition to the criminal penalties mentioned above:

  • Driving is prohibited if there is even a trace of alcohol in your blood.
  • If you are caught for a repeat DUI, you cannot refuse to take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or, in scarce circumstances, urine.
  • You are not allowed to commit any further offenses.

The following DUI probationary requirements could be enforced, depending on the situation:

  • Participation in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
  • Involvement in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Program.
  • Restitution (in the case that you were driving drunk and caused an accident)30
  • You could face penalties for violating your DUI probation if these conditions are broken.

Aggravating Factors that Could Enhance Your Sentence

There are some situations and facts that, if they existed at the time of your DUI arrest, would lengthen your term in county jail or state prison. These aggravating factors will raise your penalty if you have been convicted of a first, second, third, or subsequent drunk driving offense.

The most typical of these is as follows:

  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.15 percent.
  • Rejecting taking a chemical test.
  • Causing an accident.
  • Overspeeding
  • DUI with a passenger under the age of 14
  • Being under 21 when you commit a DUI.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

California DUI statutes are intricate and constantly evolving. Hiring a knowledgeable DUI attorney familiar with DUI legislation and the criminal justice system maximizes your chances of defending against the claimed DUI accusation.

At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we offer our clients excellent legal services while utilizing our in-depth understanding of DUI legislation to achieve a positive outcome in your DUI case. If you or a loved one is detained for a DUI crime, contact our knowledgeable DUI attorneys at 951-946-6366.