California DUI – Penalties, Defenses, and Help

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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DUI laws in California imposes strict penalties on those who are caught driving under the influence. With even a single DUI conviction, you can face jail time, fines, and a suspended driver’s license. If you have been arrested for DUI in Los Angeles, it is essential you take the criminal DUI charges seriously and consult with an experienced Los Angeles DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

What is DUI?

In California, there are two criminal charges for driving under the influence:

  • Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of at least .08. This is referred to as the “per se” offense.
  • DUI (driving under the influence). This is typically the offense you are charged with if you refuse to take a blood test or breathalyzer test, although if you are found to have a BAC above the legal limit, you will be charged with the per se offense as well.

In addition, those under 21 years of age who are found to have a BAC above .01 can be subject to civil penalties (not criminal penalties) and can lose their license for up to one year. Teens with a BAC of .05 or above can be subject to criminal penalties as well.

Penalties for DUI

The penalties for a California DUI vary depending on the nature of the criminal DUI offense:

  • For a first conviction, you can face between 96 hours and six months in jail; a $390-$1000 fine (plus court fees) and a license suspension for up to six months.
  • For a second conviction, you can face between 90 days and one year in jail; a $390-$1000 fine, and a license suspension for up to two years.
  • For a third DUI conviction within 10 years, you face jail time of 120 days to 1 year, a fine from $390 to $1000, and a license suspension for three years.
  • For a fourth DUI conviction within 10 years, you face prison time of 180 days to 1 year; a fine from $390 to $1000, and a license suspension of up to 4 years.

In addition to the criminal DUI penalties of jail time and fines, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device, complete DUI or drug and alcohol rehab programs, carry a restricted license, or be labeled a habitual offender. You may also face a probationary period of three or more years, more stringent sentences for high blood alcohol content, required community service, and mandated attendance at drunk driving victims’ panels.

How a DUI Case Works

A criminal DUI case begins when you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). The police may pull you over if you are weaving or driving irregularly and may require you to complete field sobriety tests. The police may also subject you to a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test, or to a breathalyzer or blood test.

Police may also give you a sobriety test when you are involved in an accident or if they pull you over for an unrelated violation, such as not wearing a seat belt or a broken tail light, and your personal appearance, your actions, or an odor of alcohol gives the police cause to believe you may be driving while drunk or under the influence.

If you are found to be driving under the influence, the police will generally impound your vehicle and take you to jail. You will be released, usually the following day, although in some cases you may have to pay bail to be released. You will usually have to surrender your license immediately and you will be given a court date at which you must appear.

As soon as you are arrested for DUI, it is a good idea to contact a Los Angeles DUI attorney. A Los Angeles DUI attorney can determine the best defenses to DUI in your situation, and can help you begin collecting evidence immediately to help strengthen your DUI defenses.

DUI Defenses

The appropriate DUI defenses depend on the nature of your California DUI and the criminal DUI charges you are facing. In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain when there are no available DUI defenses, which may reduce your sentence or the severity of the DUI criminal penalties.

In other cases, your Los Angeles DUI attorney may be able to contest evidence, including the accuracy of your breathalyzer or of the measurements taken to evaluate your BAC. For example, the “rising BAC” defense maintains that since your blood alcohol level continues to rise for a period of time after you have finished drinking, your BAC at the time you were tested may actually be higher than the BAC at the time you were driving. Your Los Angeles DUI defense attorney may also be able to offer additional evidence that calls into question the accuracy of your BAC test, and which can potentially result in your being acquitted of DUI criminal charges.

Getting Help

If you are arrested for DUI, it is essential to contact a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Since you want an experienced DUI defense attorney, consider the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor. Lawrence Taylor has been specializing in DUI defense since 1979. In addition, Lawrence Taylor is one of only four attorneys in California who is board certified as a DUI defense specialist. The Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor can put that expertise to work for you, helping you to minimize the damage a criminal DUI charge can cause to your life.

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