Updated: Jun 5, 2021
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Getting charged with a DUI in California is a serious problem, and it can result expensive fines, jail time and it can tarnish your image. The California Criminal Code punishes people accused of DUI harshly. Following a DUI charge, you can face an administrative driver's license revocation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, in addition to fines and jail time (DMV).
DUI refusal situations, which occur when a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test, have special considerations. If you are charged with DUI or DWI in California, you should have an experienced DUI defense lawyer to help you through it.
The Basics of DUIs in California
Anyone operating a vehicle in the state of California is breaking the law if the following conditions exist:
If you are an adult who is 21 years of age or older and driving a passenger vehicle in the state, you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
If you have a commercial driver's license and are driving a commercial vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer or other big truck, the BAC must be 0.04 percent or higher.
If you're under the age of twenty-one, your BAC should be at least 0.01 percent.
DUI laws in California refer to more than just alcohol. You cannot legally drive a car in the state if you are under the influence of illegal substances or have taken an excessive amount of over-the-counter or prescription drugs that contain alcohol, such as cough medicine.
DUI Hearings at the California Department of Motor Vehicles
The arresting officer is allowed by statute to suspend or revoke your driver's license immediately and submit a copy of your suspension, as well as your driver's license and a copy of the police report, to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV would then conduct its own inquiry into the facts against you presented by the arresting officer in order to decide if the suspension or revocation of your license should be upheld.
The officer will give you an Order of Suspension/Revocation after suspending or revoking your license. This will act as your temporary license for the next 30 days, after which the suspension or revocation will take effect. The California DMV would mail you an Order of Suspension/Revocation if the arresting officer did not give one.
To request an administrative hearing with the California DMV, you will have ten days from the date of your license suspension or revocation. If you do not request an administrative hearing during the ten-day timeframe, the DMV will retain the suspension or revocation, and you will lose your driving privileges.
An administrative hearing is the opportunity to provide proof that challenges the evidence given to the DMV by the arresting officer in order to demonstrate that the suspension or revocation is unjustified and that the driver's license should be restored.
If you want to have a chance of winning your administrative hearing, you'll need to hire a DUI defense lawyer who has experience scheduling and defending clients at administrative hearings. You do not want to request a hearing and then represent yourself at the hearing; this is a losing proposition. You would want to ensure that the DUI defense lawyer you employ has experience defending clients at administrative hearings.
If you or your DUI Attorney request an in-person hearing, the California DMV will schedule you for a telephone hearing by default. You and your DUI defense lawyer should prefer an in-person hearing rather than a telephone hearing because it is difficult to efficiently present evidence in your favor and contest the evidence against you over the phone.
When you or your DUI Attorney schedules your administrative hearing, you can ask for copies of the DMV's documentation of evidence so that you and your DUI defense lawyer can prepare an effective defense against the DMV's evidence before your hearing date.
Getting A Restricted California Driver's License
Requesting a restricted license at your DMV hearing is not the time or place to do so. Your license is revoked by the hearing officer. You can apply for a restricted license at a California DMV office. For you to be eligible for a restricted license, you must have had your first DUI offense within the last ten years, have passed a chemical test, have a.08 percent or higher on the test, and be at least 21 years old at the time of the test. Just travel to and from work and the first offender DUI program with a limited license.
To get a restricted non-commercial license, you must first:
Enroll in a first-time offender program that has been approved by the state. (In order to apply for a restricted license, you must notify the program administrator.)
Request that the program administrator submits an electronic Proof of Enrollment Certificate (DL 107) to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Obtain California SR22 insurance and present it to the DMV as evidence of financial responsibility. (Your insurance agent will either file the SR22 form with the DMV directly or provide you with a copy to file with the DMV.)
You would also have to pay the DMV a reinstatement fee.
Before applying for your restricted license, you must wait until the 30-day suspension period has expired.
DUI Penalties in California for First Offenses
In California, a first offense DUI charge means you haven't been convicted of a DUI in the previous ten years. A first offense charge is known as a misdemeanor, and the following penalties apply:
Jail Time: The minimum sentence is 96 hours in prison (48 hours must be served continuously), with a maximum sentence of 6 months. In place of jail time, the court can grant you a 3 to 5-year probationary time, depending on the circumstances of your case. You will be on court probation, which means you will not be required to report to a probation officer.
Fines: With a first offense charge, the overall fines and assessments would range between $1,400 and $1,600. For an extra charge, the court would allow you to pay your fines over time. Both fines must be paid within 45 days if you do not want to be charged an extra fee. Depending on the court, you might be able to work off a portion of the fine by doing community service.
A first-time offender found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than.20 percent would be eligible to enter a state-approved 30-hour first-time offender program. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was higher than. 20 percent, you would be forced to complete a 60-hour state-approved first-time offender program.
Ignition interlock: If your blood alcohol content was.15 percent or higher at the time of your arrest, the court might order you to install an ignition interlock system on your car.
Suspension: If you are at least 21 years old, made to take a chemical test, and you were found out to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was.08 percent and higher, your driver's license will be suspended for four months. Your license will be suspended for one year if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC reading was.01 percent or higher.
Your license will be suspended for one year if you are at least 21 years old and refuse or fail to perform a chemical examination. Your license will be revoked for one year if you are under the age of 21 and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination.
If the California DMV issues you a restricted license, you can only travel to and from work or school with it. Before the California DMV will grant you a restricted license or reinstate your license at the conclusion of your suspension time, you must provide evidence of financial responsibility in the form of a CA SR22 insurance policy. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.
DUI Penalties in California for a Second Offense
In California, a second offense DUI charge means you've already been convicted of one DUI over the last ten years. A conviction of a second offense is known as a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:
Jail time: A second offense conviction will result in a sentence ranging from 10 days to a year in prison. The court can grant you a 3 to a 5-year probationary period and reduce your jail sentence duration depending on the circumstances of your case. You will be on court probation, which means you will not be required to report to a probation officer.
Fines: A second offense conviction would result in fines and assessments ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. For an extra charge, the court would allow you to pay your fines over time. Both fines must be paid within 45 days if you do not want to be charged an extra fee. Depending on the court, you might be able to work off a portion of the fine by doing community service.
A second-time offender may be eligible to enroll in and complete an 18-month state-approved multiple offender program. During the first 12 months of the program, participants must complete 52 hours of group therapy, 12 hours of alcohol and substance education, 6 hours of community reentry screening, and biweekly individual interviews.
After completing 90 days of the probation period, second-time offenders can be eligible for a restricted license. To be eligible for the IID restricted license, they must be enrolled in an alcohol treatment program.
Suspension: If you are 21 years old or over and have taken a chemical examination for a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 percent or higher, your license will be revoked for one year. Your license will be revoked for one year if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC reading was.01 percent or higher.
Your license is going to be suspended for two years if you are at least 21 years old and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination. Your license will be suspended for the same amount of time if you are under the age of 21 and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination.