Drunk Driving Defense Laws in California

California roadways are some of the busiest in the nation, filled with drivers traveling to and from work at all hours of the day. Adding driving under the influence (DUI) to this mix can make an already dangerous situation even more hazardous. California law enforcement takes drunk driving seriously, but they can make a mistake and arrest innocent drivers.

Each state has different DUI laws, penalties, and driving restrictions. Understanding how your state handles drunk driving can help you better understand your rights and find a knowledgeable California DUI defense attorney to help resolve your case.

California Drunk Driving Laws

The California Vehicle Code states that motorists driving while under the influence of alcohol or having a BAC of 08% or more may be charged with a DUI. The threshold for commercial drivers is .04%, and California has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 prohibiting driving with a BAC threshold of .01% or higher. Unlike other states, proof of driving is required to support a conviction for this offense.

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: .15% BAC or more; child endangerment, prior conviction within ten years of the current offense, refusal to commit to chemical testing, or accident or injury.

California typically considers the first three DUI charges as misdemeanors. However, the penalties vary for each offense level and include the following:

  • first offense is punishable not more than 48 hours to up to six months in county jail and a six-month license suspension, and a fine of no more than $390-$1,000.
  • second offense within ten years of a prior offense is punishable with not less than 96 hours to up to 12 months in the county jail, a two-year license suspension, a one-year ignition interlock period, and a fine of no more than $390-$1,000.
  • A third offense within ten years of two prior offenses has penalties of not less than 120 days in the county jail and no more than up to 12 months in the county jail, a three-year license revocation, and a fine of no more than $390-$1,000.
  • A fourth offense within ten years of three prior offenses is a felony, punishable by a four-year license revocation, up to 180 days in the county jail or up to three years in state prison, and a fine of $390-$1,000.

All of the offense penalties are increased if enhancements apply. If convicted of any of the offenses you will have to complete a substance abuse education course, complete a psychosocial evaluation, and if recommended complete a chemical health treatment program.

DUI Defense in California

The penalties are based on factors like blood alcohol concentration, prior convictions, and whether an accident occurred. By understanding how California courts handle DUI cases, you can have a better chance of avoiding conviction altogether or receiving the least severe sentence possible.

A DUI attorney who has a good track record of success defending those accused of drunk driving is the best way to ensure the best outcome possible after a drunk driving arrest. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the judge and prosecutor to reduce the DUI penalties.

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