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How To Go About Your 1st DUI in California

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Beginners' Guide To DIUs in California

Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled drugs (DUI) is illegal in California, and the penalties are severe. It's important that your rights are secured by a professional California Criminal Defense Attorney who is familiar with California DUI rules, whether you've been arrested for your first DUI crime or have been down this path before.

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There are several options for successfully contesting a DUI charge, but the laws are complex and confusing. Unfortunately, you are likely to find yourself in a case you can't win if you don't hire an experienced California DUI Lawyer.

After your DUI detention, you will be given a 30-day provisional driver's license. You can be able to keep your driving rights if you mount an ignition interlock system (IID) during that 30-day timeframe. While most drivers will be able to install this unit, some will not. You may also seek an administrative per se (APS) hearing with the DMV to appeal the detention. If you do not install an IID or request a DMV hearing during the 30-day temporary license duration, your license will be automatically revoked. The IID alternative is not available if you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.

It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible following your DUI arrest to discuss your options. Since the DMV only allows ten calendar days to request a hearing, time is of the essence. With years of experience defending DUI arrests, a DUI Lawyer will easily evaluate the specifics of your arrest and inform you of your options.

The Fundamentals of California DUI Law

If you are over the age of 21, driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of.08 or higher is illegal in California. Driving a car when under the influence of medications, including prescription drugs, is also illegal if the drugs impair the ability to drive. The several "driving under the influence" code sections contained in the California Vehicle and Penal Codes apply to all of these rules. There's no such thing as a "good drunk driver" in California. If your BAC is above.08 percent (or you are under the influence of drugs), you will be charged with a DUI, even if you feel entirely sober and confident that you can drive without impairment.

It's so common for a driver gets behind the wheel after "a few drinks," convinced that he or she is fully capable of driving. Perhaps the driver is driving in a seemingly safe way, breaking no traffic laws, but is unexpectedly rear-ended by another vehicle. A passing police officer comes to a halt at the crash and detects a faint odor of alcohol on the driver's breath. Consider the case of "Dave Defendant," who recently left a promotion party feeling just slightly "buzzed."

Your 1st DUI Offense

Many people are unaware that a BAC of.08 percent does not always result in apparent intoxication. Many people believe they should drive after a few drinks and don't recognize the possibility of seeing a cop for reasons other than being pulled over for a traffic violation. California's DUI laws are stringent, and even a first-time offender will face severe penalties.

If you have been charged with DUI for the first time, you can contact a first offense California DUI Lawyer right away. In the situation described above, an experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney might be able to question the officer's fair suspicion and get the DUI charge withdrawn or argue for a lesser charge (such as a driving infraction) based on the borderline BAC.

An indictment under Vehicle Code section 23152 subdivisions (a) and (b) is typically filed after a first-time DUI detention (b). The driver's license will be confiscated, and a 30-day provisional driver license will be issued, with driving privileges being suspended 30 days after the arrest. Most DUI arrestees can now escape license suspension by installing an ignition interlock system (IID) on their car, according to the rule. The driver prevents any driving restrictions by choosing this choice within 30 days of the arrest.

Only first-time DUI offenders have the option of opting for the IID (for subsequent DUIs, it is required if they do not want their license suspended or restricted). If a first-time DUI offender chooses the IID alternative, he or she will be unable to appeal the DMV's suspension of his or her license at an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing.

Even if the first-time offender decides not to install an IID, the court will order its installation later; however, the court-ordered installation cannot last longer than six months. It's also worth noting that the IID option only applies to DUIs involving alcohol. The per se DUI rule does not apply to a driver prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs.

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If a first-time DUI offender wishes to appeal the license suspension, he or she must do so within ten days of the arrest. The hearing with the DMV is unrelated to the criminal proceedings. A DUI arrest may be questioned on the basis of the illegality of the initial stop or the arrest itself.

If the driver refuses to install an IID and/or appeals the arrest at an APS hearing and loses, his or her license will be revoked for four months 30 days after the DUI arrest. The driver can, however, apply for a restricted license after one month of suspension, which will allow limited driving to school, work, and DUI classes for a period of five months.

Penalties for a 1st DUI

A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor that can result in criminal charges in addition to administrative penalties. The result of these trials is determined by the prosecution's testimony and your California Criminal Defense Attorney's negotiating skills. A first offense DUI usually results in a plea, despite the fact that the defendant is constitutionally entitled to a trial. A professional L.A. Criminal Law Attorney will also negotiate a reduced fee or dismissal when the proof is poor, or the chemical tests are borderline.

  • Probation or incarceration.

    • A first-time DUI conviction will result in up to six months in county jail. This infrequently occurs, if at all. Instead of a prison term, the court will normally sentence the first-time offender to be informal (unsupervised) probation. The probation period for most first-time DUI offenses is three years. Although informal probation does not entail daily visits to the county probation office, it does forbid you from engaging in certain activities, most notably driving while under the influence of alcohol for the duration of your probation. Violations of a probationary period may lead to more severe consequences. Fines and damages will also be assessed by the judge.

  • DUI education.

    • A first offender with a BAC of less than 0.20 percent must engage in a three-month or longer program that includes schooling, community therapy, and individual interview sessions, according to the law. A first offender with a BAC of 0.20 percent or higher, or a first offender with a BAC of less than 0.20 percent but who declined to take a chemical test, must complete a nine-month program. Other directions, such as attendance at AA meetings, are often issued by the court.

  • Penalties raised.

    • A first-time DUI will result in harsher penalties in some circumstances. A BAC of more than.15 percent, having a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, causing an accident, and reckless driving are all examples of these conditions. If you are under the age of 21 at the time of your DUI conviction, you will face harsher punishments. If you fail to take a chemical test and are convicted of DUI, you could face a 48-hour prison term as well as additional DUI education courses. Furthermore, you will be subject to a mandatory license suspension, which can be reduced from a year to six months if you install an IID.

Law on Ignition Interlock Devices (IID)

Most drivers arrested for DUI will be forced to mount an interlock ignition system, also known as an "IID," on their car beginning January 1, 2019, if they want to drive during their license suspension. Prior to the passage of this legislation, drivers arrested for DUI had their licenses suspended for a period of time before being qualified for a restricted license that allowed them to drive to and from work, school, and DUI education classes. Under the new legislation, qualifying drivers whose licenses have been revoked as a result of a DUI conviction will now apply for a restricted license without having to serve any time in jail (i.e., no driving privileges at all).

What exactly is an IID?

IIDs are small devices that a state-authorized installer installs in a car. It functions like a breathalyzer, preventing the car from starting before the driver blows into it and no alcohol is detected. These gadgets are extremely intelligent. A dashboard camera, a "rolling (or running) re-test" feature, and other mechanisms make bypassing the system difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, if a driver is caught using one of these devices to cheat, the consequences may be serious.

Who needs to have an IID?

If a driver has been arrested for a DUI offense and is eligible for a restricted license during the suspension period, they must install this system in order to drive. If there are no aggravating circumstances, this includes nearly all first-time offenders and most multiple-time offenders.

How Long Does the IID Have to Stay in the Car?

The amount of time a driver must keep an IID in his or her car is determined by the type of offense committed. First-time DUI offenders who have not caused accidents resulting in injuries while driving under the influence will opt to have an IID installed for six months and regain full driving rights without limitations during that time.

The IID must be installed prior to the suspension's effective date or within 30 days of the DUI detention. This offender still has the option of not using the IID but will only be permitted to drive for one year with limitations (a limited license). If they wish to drive, all other DUI offenders must install the IID.

First-time offenders who suffer an accident as a result of their drunk driving must wear an IID for six months or longer if the court orders it. Under court order, second-time offenders must install the device for one year, third-time offenders for two years, and fourth-time offenders for three years. A Los Angeles DUI Attorney who is familiar with the new ignition interlock system law will advise you on the provisions that apply to your specific offense.

Checkpoints for DUI

A DUI Checkpoint is inherently a breach of the Fourth Amendment because it allows the police to have fair suspicion when detaining anyone. Many civil rights organizations disagree, and many states, except California, have prohibited their use.

What would it take for a police department in California to set up a DUI checkpoint?

While each department develops its own set of guidelines, there are certain guiding principles.

  • The duration of the roadblocks must be restricted.

  • The police must give drivers the option to "escape," which means they can potentially bypass the checkpoint if they so choose.

  • The arrest should be brief and solely for the purpose of assessing sobriety.

  • The police must issue a warning that a checkpoint will be set up in a specific location.

  • The neighborhood must have a high rate of DUI arrests.

How cops figure out if anyone is inebriated

Police will conduct field sobriety tests, in which they ask a person to perform a series of physical tests in order to ascertain whether or not they have consumed alcohol. A preliminary breath test can also be done on the spot by police. If the results of this test or any of the field sobriety tests show that an individual is under the influence of alcohol, they would be asked to submit to a blood or chemical breath test at the police station.

While a blood test is considered the most precise choice, it is not 100 percent accurate all of the time. When a person consents to a blood test, a technician will be sent to draw blood from the suspect's vein. The sample is combined with various chemicals, analyzed, and a report is produced and sent to law enforcement officers.

However, many things can go wrong during this phase, which is why it is important to consult an experienced California Criminal Law Attorney who can ensure that you have the best possible defense. When testing a blood sample, things can go wrong: contamination, the sample not being preserved properly, the chemicals not being mixed into the sample properly, or the test itself not being done correctly. There's also the chance that one sample would be mixed up with another. There could also be problems determining a sample's chain of custody, which means there are gaps in the record that law enforcement is expected to maintain while processing the sample.

While the legality of checkpoints has been debated for the past 25 years or so, the United States Supreme Court established the precedent, finding that the public interest outweighed the "minor" invasion of an individual's privacy. The dissent argued that there was no evidence that checkpoints actually reduced driving while intoxicated (DUI) and that they posed a greater privacy danger than the majority stated. California has developed guidelines (above) in an effort to govern the implementation of the case law in the intervening years.

But remember this: the typical sobriety checkpoint encounter necessitates bringing the vehicle to a complete stop. Furthermore, when the officer is in direct contact with you, he or she has the ability to peek into your vehicle without your permission. He has the authority to arrest you if he sees anything he thinks is illegal in his subjective view. That means he has the authority to order you to pull over to the left, get out of your car, and check the vehicle and its contents.

California's DUI Refusal Laws

If you're arrested for driving while intoxicated, you might face some serious consequences. If you are arrested for DUI and then refuse to take a chemical test, you will face even more severe consequences. If you drive a car in California, the Implied Consent Law allows you to agree to a chemical examination of your blood, breath, or urine if you are arrested for driving under the influence. This is used to figure out how much alcohol and/or drugs were in a person's system at the time of their arrest.

It's worth noting that you're only supposed to take a chemical test after you've been arrested. Anyone is not required to take a field sobriety test, which involves the roadside hand-held PAS system that police officers use to help them decide whether or not to arrest anyone. The only exception is if you are under the age of 21, in which case you must apply to a roadside PAS inspection.

You may assume that a "refusal" means that someone refuses to take a chemical test verbally. Although this is valid, there are other circumstances under which a refusal claim may be made. Here are a few scenarios to keep in mind:

  • When asked to take a chemical test, you do not respond. In other words, if you do not respond to the officer's offer to take the exam, it would be deemed a rejection.

  • Failure to pass the exam. For example, if the officer asks you to take a breath test and you don't complete it correctly, you can be charged with refusing.

  • It is not necessary to give someone a choice on which test to take.

However, most will still offer breath or blood tests when they have a suspicion that you are under the influence of alcohol. If a breath test is chosen, but the result is lower than the officer believes it should be, the officer will ask you to take a blood test. A denial will be given if you refuse to take the blood test despite having passed the breath test. Similarly, if your breath test shows no signs of alcohol, the officer can ask you to take a urine test. When anyone is suspected of being under the influence of narcotics or alcohol, urine tests are used. And if you agree to a breath test, refusing to take the urine test would result in a rejection.

So, what are the ramifications of refusing to take a chemical test? The penalties are serious, so if you're facing a charge like this, you should speak with a California DUI Lawyer. Your driving privileges will be suspended for a year by the Department of Motor Vehicles, with no option to obtain a restricted license.

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After completing a one-month "hard suspension" for a first offender DUI, a person may apply for a restricted license, which allows them to drive to and from work and to and from an alcohol treatment facility. For a refusal, though, this is not the case. Furthermore, if anyone has a previous DUI conviction and then refuses to consent to a drug test for a second offense, their license will be revoked for two years by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If you refuse to submit, the Court will punish you severely. If you plead no contest or guilty to DUI, the court will apply the following refusal enhancements:

  1. An extra 48 hours in prison is levied on a first DUI, and instead of a three-month program, a nine-month program is imposed.

  2. A second DUI would result in an extra 96 hours in prison, as well as an extended alcohol program.

  3. For a third DUI arrest, the court will sentence you to ten days in prison and a mandatory alcohol program.

  4. A fourth or subsequent DUI arrest would result in 18 days in prison and mandatory alcohol treatment.

For the reasons mentioned above, a DUI Lawyer will advise you that refusing to submit to a chemical test if arrested for DUI is never a good idea. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to remember that the arresting agency must obey certain guidelines and protocols when arresting someone for DUI, as well as procedures for obtaining a chemical test.

There is a risk that the DMV would not revoke the license if the protocols are not followed correctly, and the officer is not vigilant in reporting the procedures. This is why it's important to employ a professional California DUI Defense Attorney who has defended these types of charges in both the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Implied Consent

Anyone legally arrested for driving while intoxicated in California is forced to submit to a chemical examination of their blood, breath, or urine. The legislation is known as the "Implied Consent" law. Refusing to take a chemical test will result in severe repercussions from the DMV as well as the courts. It's important to note, though, that the implied consent rule only allows a driver to submit to a chemical examination after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. While anyone legally arrested for DUI must submit to a chemical examination, not all arrests are made in this manner. The distinction is difficult to grasp, but it is important.

Field sobriety tests, such as balancing and endurance, are optional and can be rejected. You may be shocked to hear that the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) unit, a roadside hand-held breathalyzer, is considered an FST and may be rejected. That's right: if you haven't been arrested for DUI, you aren't supposed to take any of these FSTs. The primary object of the FSTs, as a DUI Lawyer, is to assist the officer in informing probable cause to arrest the driver for DUI.

If the officer decides that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics and arrests the driver, the driver is forced to submit to a chemical examination of their blood or breath under the Implied Consent Law. This decision can be made without the use of field sobriety tests. A driver who smells of alcohol and/or slurs sentences, or who has bloodshot eyes and seems disoriented, for example, both provide evidence to arrest for DUI. Since a breath test cannot detect drug use, urine samples are usually used only when there is a reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence of drugs.

Sobriety Tests

If police officers are able to determine probable cause, they may arrest anyone. When police officers establish probable cause, that means they've been able to confirm a reasonable belief that someone has committed a crime.

Following an arrest for DUI, a police officer can perform a warrantless search incident to the arrest and request that the individual submits to a chemical breathalyzer or blood test. The results of these tests are admissible in court and are often used by prosecutors to prove their cases, provided that the police officer administers the tests properly. However, since these tests can often produce inaccurate results, you should always contact an experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney to support you with your case. They can help you contest these results.


If a person is arrested on suspicion of DUI, they have the option of taking a chemical breathalyzer or a blood test. However, if an officer believes a driver is under the influence of drugs, the driver has no choice but to consent to a blood test because a chemical breathalyzer test can not detect the presence of drugs in the body. Breathalyzer tests can be provided at the scene of the arrest or at the police station.

The amount of alcohol in your breath as you exhale is used to calculate your blood alcohol content (BAC). About an hour after drinking, a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) is at its peak. A breathalyzer test's reliability can be influenced by a variety of factors, including certain medical conditions, the police officer only conducting one test, the time elapsed between the suspect's arrest and the test, and whether the test was correctly administered.

When conducting breathalyzer checks, officers must also adhere to Title 17 standards. A response against DUI charges may be made if they do not comply with the conditions, whether or not their acts were deliberate. However, since these defenses can be complicated, it is important to speak with a California Criminal Defense Attorney who is familiar with DUI cases to ensure that you have the best possible defense.

Blood Test

You also have the option to apply to a blood test if you want a chemical breathalyzer test because breathalyzer samples cannot be stored for later sampling as blood tests can. If you consent to a blood test, the forensics team can keep a sample of your blood, which can later be re-tested by an unbiased source if you want to contest the results of the study. Blood tests, on the other hand, are not always accurate and can result in inaccurate evidence if errors are made.

Breathalyzer Reliability

There are many reasons to avoid drinking and driving, both for your own safety and the safety of other road users. Even if you haven't been drinking, you might be pulled over for suspicion of DUI. A roadside breathalyzer test, also known as a preliminary alcohol screening test or PAS test, is one of the tests that police officers can conduct after stopping a car. It measures a person's blood alcohol content. The PAS test results are shown almost immediately after the test is completed.

If a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving a car, he or she will most likely be released rather than convicted for a DUI. If the person's BAC is higher than 0.08 percent, the person will most likely be arrested and taken to the police station, where the police will conduct a blood or chemical breathalyzer test to validate the results of the PAS test.

The accuracy of breathalyzer results is critical, and they are often the most powerful piece of evidence used against a defendant since these tests offer concrete, quantifiable proof that an individual was affected. The time between when the driver takes the PAS exam and when the test is done at the station may be many hours.

Many people doubt the efficacy of breathalyzers because of rumors and a lack of knowledge of how they function. Since there are several variables that influence the accuracy of breathalyzers, if you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI in California, it is critical that you contact an experienced California Criminal Law Attorney as soon as possible for assistance.

Are PAS Tests Allowed?

The most important thing to note after being stopped by the police for suspicion of DUI is that you are not required to take a PAS exam. Refusing the PAS test can be beneficial to your situation, and there is no penalty for refusing. However, refusing the chemical breathalyzer or blood test at the police station would almost certainly result in a one-year suspension of the driver's license.

If you haven't had anything to drink or are fairly confident that you are under the legal limit, it's a good idea to take the PAS test to avoid being stopped on suspicion of DUI and taken to the station for further examination. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23612, police officers must inform drivers accused of DUI that they have the right to reject the PAS exam.

Persons under the age of 21 can not decline a PAS exam, and if they do, their driver's license may be revoked for a year. During the course of an investigation, arrest, and subsequent breathalyzer or blood test searches, a number of errors may be made, resulting in inaccurate evidence.

An L.A. DUI Lawyer who is familiar with DUI law will assist in developing a defense plan to get this proof removed from the trial. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, it is important that you contact an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to review your case as soon as possible.

Hearings at the Department of Motor Vehicles

The DMV can attempt to get a person's driver's license revoked if they are arrested for DUI. Drivers under the age of 21 who are arrested for DUI or fail to take a chemical test will almost certainly lose their license for a year.

Furthermore, if you are arrested for a DUI and then travel out of jurisdiction, the repercussions will follow you to the new state's DMV. Drivers will schedule an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing with the DMV to try to avoid having their license suspended. However, you must schedule this Administrative Per Se hearing within ten days of the DUI detention, or your license will be automatically suspended after thirty days.

If you don't have time to contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney, you can arrange the Administrative Per Se hearing yourself; however, experienced DUI Lawyers can represent you at this hearing and could be the reason you hold your license.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you will be eligible to get your driver's license back if you install an ignition interlock system in your vehicle. Drivers who are arrested for DUIs involving drugs, on the other hand, are usually ineligible to use an IID to reclaim their driving privileges. Only DMV-approved facilities can install ignition interlock devices, which must be inspected every sixty days. If you fail to comply with the ignition interlock system policies, your license will be suspended or revoked.

Find A DUI Defense Attorney in California is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a California DUI Lawyer best fit to handle their unique DUI case. You can reach us through our 24/7 Live Chat (or complete our case details form) for a free initial review.


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