California has strict laws on driving to avoid unnecessary fatalities. One of the most significant areas of concern is driving under influence. Even though the state has had a general decline in the number of DUI arrests and convictions, there are still cases of these arrests and other related driving offenses. Consequently, the state considers most driving offenses as serious crimes that, in most cases, lead to limitation of your driving privileges – not to mention hefty fines, felony imprisonments, or mandatory probation that follows a conviction. Thus, you need legal representation to battle out these charges, and Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is ready to help you. We have a wide array of experienced criminal defense lawyers for handling DUI related court cases in Vista, CA and the whole of North County.
What is DUI?
DUI defined means any crime in which a driver operates an automobile while under the influence of drug, alcohol, or any prescribed clinical medication. Some states refer to DUI as DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). The legal term in California for the offense is DUI, driving under influence, or drunk-driving in occasions where the intoxicant is alcohol. For first time offenders, jail terms may be up to six months. Additional court fines may apply by up to $1000. The second and subsequent DUI offenses call for severe penalties including suspension or revocation of driving license by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The issue of driving license is paramount in any driving crime, and specifically, a DUI crime. Once your license is suspended, you have to apply for a reissue, which would cost $125. In California, license suspension in DUI cases are governed by the Admin Per Se legal compliance, and can either be suspended immediately or after a conviction.
Apart from fines and imprisonment, the punishments for driving under influence are centered on making the convicted responsible when it comes to drinking, using drugs, or operating vehicles. Thus, courts can affect punishments such as a mandatory attendance of a DUI program and fitting of an Ignition Interlock Device on the convict’s vehicle. Nevertheless, the period that a person is required to stay in a DUI program is determined by the level of their blood alcohol content at the time of arrest. The number of prior convictions and the type of the DUI offense will also influence this mandatory period.
Which Statutes Will I be Violating When Driving Under Influence?
The primary statutes that a person is likely to be charged with are provided in the vehicle codes as follows:
- Section 23152(a) – Any person under the influence of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited from driving a vehicle;
- Section 23152(b) - Any person with 0.08% or greater of alcohol content in their bloodstream is prohibited from driving a vehicle.
Note that most DUI charges emanate from the use of alcohol. But still, driving under the influence of drugs can lead to a conviction since the person would be violating section 23152 (f) of vehicle codes. In addition, DUI causing injury would be charged under CVC 23153 and Refusing to take a chemical breath or blood test would be charged under CVC 23612.
Before convicting a person for a DUI related offense, the court must first establish whether the intoxication impaired the person in question in any way, and if the impairment resulted in the person not being to operate an automobile in a usual manner.
Of course, each case has varying defense strategies. While being charged under section 23152(a) may pose only a few potential defenses, defending yourself from a section 23152 (b) trial would involve challenging BAC test results. For instance, claiming that the BAC results were tampered with or could not be counted on to give accurate results would help defend the charges.
Terms Associated with a DUI Case in California
While it is important to fashion out the description of DUI, it is wholly important to iron out the terms that are associated with a DUI case. Understanding these terms will not only help you to know the critical legal aspects but also to find an experienced DU attorney. Below is an overview of some of the terminologies used inside a DUI trial.
- Implied Consent – Implied consent describes a motorist's or a driver’s consent to agree to a police stop. The consent also puts in place a non-conditional BAC test as one of the requirements to maintain your driving license. Failing to meet both conditions set for implied consent means breaking the legal agreement. Hence the suspension of the driving license.
- DUI checkpoints – DUI checkpoints are police set roadblocks that are usually organized on busy roads during alcohol-related events like New Year's Eve, Valentines, or Christmas. Motorists and drivers are, therefore, checked and tested for any DUI impairment at random.
- Admin Per Se – When a defendant's BAC level is tested to be higher than the stipulated content, the DMV complies with the Admin Per Se law to automatically suspend the suspects driving license. The compliance requires that the person tests negative to a suspected intoxication and does not refuse to take the test. A police officer will issue a suspension order or write a temporary license for the offender. The officer eventually submits a written report, the temporary license, and the suspension order to the DMV. The department finalizes the process by conducting a review of the defendant's case. In most cases, the reviewing process may set aside the suspension order. The department also grants the defendant rights to request a hearing where the suspect believes the officer's report was unjust. The accused should file for an administrative hearing within a ten-day duration after the suspension order has been issued.
- Drug Recognition Expert – Drug recognition experts are enforcement officers with tailored knowledge and specialization on determining impairments levels of DUI suspects.
- Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) - Refers to the concentration of one’s alcohol content in the bloodstream that helps a Drug Recognition Expert to determine the driver’s content level of alcohol impairment.
According to California State laws, the defined legal limit of BAC is a limit of 0.08%. Drivers holding a commercial driving license are allowed a lower BAC limit of 0.04%. The California vehicle code section 23152 b also approves even a lower legal limit of 0.01% to drivers under the age of 21. Previous DUI offenders with a history of being tried under California vehicle code section 23136 and 23140 are also allowed a BAC limit of 0.01%.
DUI First Offense
DUI first Offense is categorized as a first-class misdemeanor. There are different penalties that apply to a first DUI offense. It is important that an accused engages a top-level law expert immediately if they have been charged with a DUI. A person arrested and accused of a first time DUI engages two government agencies.
- Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV): The law enforcement officer, after making an arrest, submits a number of formalities to the DMV. The formalities include the revocation form, a copy of the suspension letter, and any confiscated driver’s license to the DMV. The DMV is supposed to carry out an administrative review of the DUI trial. Meanwhile, the accused is given the right to ask for a hearing to contest the review. As mentioned earlier, there are ten days within which the accused must request a hearing. The ten-day duration, therefore, causes a hiatus to the automatic process of scheduling a suspension/revocation. During the administrative review, the DMV may reinstate the defendant's driving license when they find no underlying basis to the suspension.
- The Local Criminal Court: California law grants both administrative and criminal penalties to persons arrested with DUI charges. Specific details surrounding the case influences the severity of the penalty. Apart from the specific details, failure to have taken a chemical test and other aggravating circumstances influence the penalty to be initiated. In the event of prosecution, the court through the prosecutor must be able to establish: That the officer had probable cause for pulling over the defendant from the road; The Blood Alcohol Content was beyond legal limit; That the arrest was lawful and made under guidelines stipulated by California laws.
Most arrests will not automatically result in penalties unless an actual conviction of the crime exists. An actual conviction of the offense might occur either by a plea of bargain or being proved guilty by trial. Arrests made on the basis of DUI would result to administrative penalties as well. Such penalties include suspension or revocation of the driver's license and fees. The administrative penalties comply regardless of whether one is ultimately convicted of the crime. The administrative penalties may timely graduate to criminal offense penalties when one is convicted in a court of law for a DUI offense.
In short, a DUI offense is usually referred to as a first offense when the offender hasn't had a DUI conviction within the last ten years.
DMV Administrative Penalties for First Time DUI Offenses
An arresting agency will confiscate the driver's license upon a first time DUI arrest. The offender must have been, however, lawfully arrested for a first time DUI. The chemical testing must also prove with evidence a BAC of 0.08% or above. However, it is possible to have your driver's license taken even if you had a BAC under 0.08% but drove in a manner that was reckless or under the suspicion of intoxication. The arresting agency also issues a temporary license that remains valid for thirty days. Meanwhile, an issued order of suspension/revocation takes into effect immediately after the thirty days have elapsed. The arresting/law enforcement officer issues the order of suspension/revocation and in case the defendant wants to fight the revocation, a ten-day duration is allowed since the time of issuing the suspension order. The hearing is scheduled by the DMV who take their time to review the specific details of your case once again.
Refusal to submit to a chemical test grants an automatic suspension of one's driving license. The suspension takes into effect immediately after the expiration of the temporary license and remains in effect for one year.
The Department of Motor Vehicles suspends a license for four months when one is found to have exceeded the legal limit of BAC. However, the defendant qualifies for a restricted license. The restricted license is only possible after the offender has successfully completed one month of hard suspension. A restricted license requires you enroll in an education program for DUI, and applicable when driving to and from your workplace and home. The offender must comply with the following conditions to qualify for a DUI restricted license:
- Provision of an SR-22 proof of insurance;
- The defendant must clear payment of a license reissue which amounts to $125;
- The defendant must seek enrollment into a DUI education program.
As a matter of fact, reinstatement of the driving license must be accompanied by the completion of a DUI education program. The duration of the DUI program will depend on specific details of the DUI offense and BAC level. The classes may last for 3-9 months and the price ranges between $600 and $1200.
After completion of the license suspension period, the offender's car must be fitted with an Ignition Interlock device. The device must remain in the vehicle for five to twelve months. Installation costs range from $70 to $150. Maintaining the IID would also call for $60 to $80 per month. The defendant is expected to meet all the costs accrued in the installation and maintenance of the Ignition Interlock devices.
Criminal Penalties for First Time DUI offenders
First DUI convictions are generally treated as misdemeanors. The judge may sentence a first-time offender to a jail term of between two days to six months. When the judge grants a probation, the jail term is not required. A convicted motorist will get fined $390 to $1000. The jury could also place first-time offenders into probation that range between three to five years. For the offender to qualify for probation, the following standards of probation must be satisfied:
- One should never drive with any amount of alcohol in their blood which can be tested and exceed the stipulated levels;
- One should have submitted to a roadway block for alcohol testing by law enforcement officers;
- The driver should strain from further violating the law and including any other traffic infractions that would attract a court trial.
When you violate the terms of the probation, you can incur additional court penalties. A judge might also impose other stipulations. For instance, the judge might require further support group and victim attendance programs. The first time DUI must submit to a six-month license suspension. However, untimely overlapping of the administrative and criminal suspension is allowed by law; but the total suspension duration would never exceed either penalty.
Wet reckless in California is considered a less severe DUI offense. Attorneys have fashioned out facts that one could never get a wet reckless just directly like any other DUI offense. The reason for this remains to be that a wet reckless can only be initiated as a plea of bargain during a DUI trial. It is section 23103 (a) of California Vehicle code that stipulates the conditions that a prosecutor could file for a wet reckless. A wet reckless attracts reduced penalties compared to a DUI offense.
There are rare cases where DUI arrests could ultimately result in felony charges. Whereas it is possible to furnish all DUI charges as severe, facing felony charges for DUI might bring you a lot of harm. The following are circumstances that could result in a prosecutor filing felony charges for a DUI offense.
- The defendant causes an accident that resulted to either severe injury or death;
- The defendant might have had a history of three or more prior DUI convictions, or a wet reckless, within the last ten years;
- If the defendant faced a prior DUI felony and, in the process, got convicted, he/she could still face felony charges regardless of whether the current DUI is a misdemeanor.
The defendant should take considerable action when faced with felony DUI charges. It is possible to navigate court though legal defense strategies. The defendant, however, is advised to seek an attorney that will ensure their rights are protected. The details of the felony will determine the number of years imprisonment or fines that the court could decide.
Most people querying on DUI often ask whether it is possible to have reduced DUI charges. The answer is an absolute yes. Reduced DUI charges include wet reckless, speed exhibition, dry reckless, and drunk in public. The reduced charges can, however, not be mitigated as separate criminal offenses. The defendant would only qualify for reduced charges if the prosecutor is unable to prove with evidence the specific details surrounding the DUI offense.
Find a Vista DUI Attorney Near Me
Reach out to one of our qualified lawyers at Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm to learn more about your DUI case and possible defense strategies. We have successfully represented clients around Vista, CA and the whole of North County. We are awaiting your call at 760-691-1551 today in case you are facing driving under influence or any related charges.