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Ese Omofoma, Esq.
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California DUI Penalties
Before getting behind the wheel after a couple of drinks in California, it is best to familiarize yourself with the laws and penalties associated with a DUI (driving under the influence).
1. Blood Alcohol Concentration
California law states that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8% or greater is grounds for being charged with a DUI offense. This percentage drops to 0.4% or commercial vehicles and 0.1% for drivers under the age of 21 years.
So how many drinks does it take to stay under the legislated minimum BAC? This is largely dependent on the size and body weight of a specific individual. On average, just one or two drinks within 30 minutes of driving will put you over the limit, so it is best never to drink and drive.
2. First Offense Penalties
First time DUI offenders should expect the following penalties:
– Immediate suspension of diver’s license for a minimum period of 4 months. $125 for the reissue of the license once the suspension period has ended.
– Fines of up to $1,000 as well as court costs, legal fees and other charges related to the DUI charge as stipulated by the court.
– A maximum of 6 months jail time.
– The attendance of a DUI program, the duration of which is dependent upon the BAC and other factors.
– The installation of an ignition interlock device to the offender’s vehicle.
– SR-22 filing which will be necessary to reinstate the driver’s license and is related to financial responsibility insurance for high-risk drivers.
2. Second Offense Penalties
Second DUI offense penalties are similar to those described above except that they are increased. In other words, offenders can expect to pay larger fines, be sentenced to longer jail time as well as receive extended license suspension. Additional penalties may apply to those who have a BAC in excess of 0.15 or where the DUI resulted in injuries or the destruction of property.
3. The Three Strike Law
In some cases, the California 3 strike law will apply to DUI cases. However, this is normalsely only in cases where injuries or fatalities resulted from the DUI in the third or prior instances. This could lead to a prison sentence of 25 years to life and will also result in higher fines, court costs, and legal fees. It will also result in an extended license suspension or even the revocation of a driver’s license permanently.
The Three Strike Law also opens offenders to civil litigation. This means that any person who was injured or had damage to their property can sue the offender. Family members of any person who died as a result of the DUI may also seek compensation through the court system.
While it is not necessary to hire a lawyer for a DUI charge in California, it is highly recommended to do so, especially in the event of a second offense and essential if the Three Strike Law applies. A lawyer can assist in providing a defense to the charges as well as minimize sentencing.