DUI "Drunk Driving"
Drivers arrested with alcohol levels in their blood
or breath above the legal limit, or who refuse to take a chemical test,
are penalized in two ways. These are:
- Prosecuted in court for the criminal
offense of DUI or refusal. Criminal
penalties imposed include jail and prison, fines, treatment, probation
and license suspension.
- Suspension of driver's license by the
DMV for the civil offense of driving in
excess of the fixed alcohol limit or refusing a chemical test.
- Drivers who exceed the "per se" breath or blood
alcohol content (BAC) limit are prosecuted solely for having an amount
of alcohol in their system greater than that permitted by law. The
driver's level of impairment is not at issue. Drivers are guilty of
DUI simply for having violated the per se ("in and of itself") BAC
limit. California's per se BAC limits vary depending on the driver's
age, and whether he or she is a commercial driver.
- Drivers whose BAC does not exceed the presumptive
BAC limits can still be convicted of DUI if other evidence shows their
abilities to drive were impaired.
- Courts frequently prosecute arrestees for violating
both the per se and presumptive statutes. If evidence from the BAC
test is strong, it promotes conviction on the less complex per se
charge; if BAC test evidence is not strong, prosecutors will still
attempt to use sobriety test evidence to prove that the defendant was
physically impaired, and guilty of the presumptive DUI charge.
According to California's Implied Consent
law, drivers are required to submit to and complete a chemical test when
requested to by a law enforcement officer. Consequences of refusing the
chemical test are severe, including:
- Receiving license sanctions more harsh than for
those convicted of DUI. Even those found not guilty of DUI in court
may receive a license suspension through the DMV.
- Those who refuse a chemical test and are later
convicted of DUI are further punished by longer jail sentences, a
higher fine, or the loss of a probation grant instead of jail.
- As an example, if a First Offender is found by DMV
to have refused a chemical test, a ONE YEAR suspension, with no
"hardship" (work, school, etc.) allowances.
Court-imposed DUI penalties vary in some important
- Misdemeanor offenses are punished less severely
Misdemeanor DUI offenses (California Vehicle
Code 23152) typically do not involve injuries; felony DUI offenses (CVC
23153) typically do. In a felony DUI, someone other than the driver
was injured or killed as a result of the offense. Offenders convicted
of a misdemeanor can be sentenced to jail (but not prison) and fined
up to $1,000; offenders convicted of a felony can be sentenced to
prison and fined more than $1,000. Please note that fines DO NOT
include mandated "penalty assessments" that nearly triple the fine
- Subsequent offenses are punished more severely
than first offenses.
A second, third or subsequent offense is one that
occurs within seven years of a prior DUI offense - or ten years if the
prior was a felony. A prior alcohol-involved reckless driving guilty
plea is counted as a prior DUI conviction when the court determines
Drivers convicted of DUI can receive:
- County jail or state prison
- Fine, penalty assessment and restitution
- Drinking and driving treatment
- Vehicle impoundment or forfeiture
- License restriction, suspension or revocation
- Ignition interlock device requirement
Jail Terms are often imposed in these situations:
- driving at "excessive speed" (30 mph above the
lawful freeway speed or 20 mph above the lawful speed on other
- refusing to take a chemical test
- driving with a minor passenger (under age 14) in
the vehicle. (Applies to misdemeanor DUI offenses only.)
- A DUI conviction typically results in a mandatory
sentence ranging from 48 hours in jail to four years in prison. The
sole exception is for a misdemeanor first offense, where a judge can
substitute a fine, require a treatment program and levy a 90-day
Fines, Penalty Assessment and Restitution:
- Misdemeanor offense fines range from $390 to
$1,000; felony offense fines from $390 to $5000.
- Penalty Assessments are 170% of the offense fine,
that is, $17 extra for each $10 of offense fine imposed
- Restitution fines compensate the injuries and
losses of victims. Fines range from $100 to $10,000.
Vehicle Impoundment and Forfeiture
The court can order that the vehicle of a convicted
DUI offender be impounded if the offender is its registered owner. A
judge can order that an impounded vehicle be forfeited - declared a
"nuisance" and sold. Impounds can also be imposed on vehicle owners
under 21 (even if not in the vehicle) if a driver or passenger of his or
her vehicle is under 21 and illegally possesses alcohol.
As can be seen, SEVERE penalties attach to a DUI
conviction; qualified legal advice is necessary.
DUI Convictions can be
2276 Torrance Boulevard, Torrance, CA 90501
a driving under the influence case, on the surface, is not a
difficult one for the prosecuting attorney. A prosecuting attorney
must prove (1) you were driving a motor vehicle, and (2) your blood
alcohol level was at .08% or greater, or, (3) that you were