It is illegal to drive under the influence in California. Driving under the influence (DUI) laws are split into different categories. For example, an underage person faces a DUI charge if they have a 0.01% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and a commercial truck driver is subject to a 0.04% BAC limit. 

In California, DUI attracts grievous penalties upon conviction, such as driving license suspension, fines, prison sentences, and installation of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in vehicles. Due to these consequences, you want to retain a criminal attorney if you or a loved one faces DUI charges in Monterey.

At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we can help you build a solid defense strategy and fight your DUI charges. We are well-versed in California DUI laws and are dedicated to helping you receive the best possible outcome.

The Legal Definition of DUI

California Vehicle Code 23152 states that it is unlawful to drive while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. You may face criminal charges for DUI if you are found driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

California has a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. However, the BAC limit for drivers under 21 or individuals currently on probation is 0.01%.

Note that you can still face criminal charges for DUI even if you did not exceed the BAC limit. This is as long as the prosecutor proves that you were physically impaired to the extent that you could not drive properly.

California has an implied consent law. This law stipulates that all drivers in the state automatically consent to BAC testing once they have been pulled over by law enforcement. You may face additional penalties if you refuse to take a BAC test.

Types of DUIs in California

There are different types of DUI charges. The criminal charge you may face depends on factors such as your BAC level, aggravating factors, and the number of prior convictions.

Here are the different types of DUI charges:

  • Standard DUI — This is the most common type of DUI charge in California. You will most likely be charged with standard DUI if you drive while intoxicated or if your BAC exceeds 0.08%.
  • Underage DUI — In California, drivers under 21 should not have any measurable alcohol content in their blood. Any detectable amount of alcohol in their system may result in underage DUI charges.
  • Felony DUI — You will most likely be charged with felony DUI if you injure another person while driving under the influence. Compared to misdemeanor DUI, felony DUI has more grievous penalties.
  • DUI with prior convictions — California has a ten-year look-back period. You will face more severe penalties if you have multiple DUI convictions within this period.
  • Commercial DUI — Commercial drivers are held to stricter standards regarding DUI. In California, the legal BAC limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%. Any commercial driver who exceeds this limit may face commercial DUI charges.
  • DUI of drugs (DUID) — In California, it is unlawful to drive while under the influence of drugs. Note that you can be charged with DUID even if you were impaired as a result of taking prescription medication. This is because the focus is on impairment and your ability to operate the vehicle properly.

As a defendant, ensure you understand the specific nature of your DUI charge. This will enable you to devise proper strategies for your defense.

Additionally, consulting with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney is crucial. A DUI defense lawyer can help you build a solid defense strategy and minimize the impact of the charges you are facing.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove

The standard of proof in California criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must prove certain elements of this standard to be convicted of DUI.

These elements include the following:

  • You were driving — The prosecutor must show the court that you were driving the vehicle. In most cases, this element is easy for the prosecutor to prove, as long as a police officer testifies that you were behind the wheel. In some cases, the prosecutor may prove this element using circumstantial evidence.
  • You were under the influence — The prosecution must demonstrate to the court that you were under the influence of either alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both while driving. Typically, prosecutors prove this element using various evidence, including field sobriety test results, BAC test results, and law enforcement observations.

If the charge involves alcohol, the prosecutor may rely on BAC test results to prove intoxication. You will automatically be convicted of per se DUI if your BAC is over 0.08%. However, lower limits apply to commercial and underage drivers.

Remember, even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you may still face charges for DUI as long as the prosecutor has sufficient evidence showing you were physically impaired. Additionally, the prosecutor must demonstrate if law enforcement followed proper procedures during the arrest. You can be acquitted if evidence shows that law enforcement failed to follow proper procedures.

Note that each DUI case is unique. The specific elements the prosecution must prove depend on each case's unique facts and circumstances.

However, various possible defenses exist that you can use to avoid a conviction. Some examples of these defenses include challenging the validity of the traffic stop, questioning law enforcement impairment observations, and disputing the accuracy of chemical tests.

If you are facing DUI charges, seeking legal representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney is advisable. An attorney can help you assess the details of your case and build a robust defense strategy.

The Penalties for a DUI

The penalties for a DUI vary depending on three main factors: prior convictions, the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, or whether there is an aggravating circumstance. Here is a brief discussion of the penalties for different types of DUI charges:

First-time DUI

First-time DUI offenders could expect to pay a $390 - $1,000 fine. Certain expenses, such as court fees, DMV fees, and IID fees, may exacerbate the total cost by thousands of dollars. Additionally, you may serve a jail term of up to six months.

The judge may also order you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) inside your vehicle for up to six months. If you do not do so, your license will be suspended for six to ten months. Then, you will be permitted to drive with a restricted license.

A restricted license is also referred to as a hardship license. This license will only permit driving to and from work or your DUI school.

Second-time DUI

The punishment for a second-time DUI is a jail term ranging from 96 hours to one year. The judge may also require you to pay a $390 - $1,000 fine. However, certain expenses, including DMV and IID installation fees, may exacerbate the fine by thousands of dollars.

The judge may also impose an informal probation term of three to five years. Additionally, the judge will require you to attend a DUI school for 18 or 30 months.

The DMV will also suspend your license for two years. You may have to install an IID inside your vehicle for one year to avoid this.

Third-time DUI

For a third-time DUI, the judge may order you to pay a fine between $390 - $1,000. You may also receive a jail term from 120 days to one year.

Additionally, you will be required to attend a DUI school for 30 months. The DMV will also suspend your driver’s license for three years and designate you as a “habitual traffic offender” (HTO).

DUI with Injury

DUI with injury is a wobbler. This means the prosecutor can charge it as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of your case.

As a misdemeanor, DUI with injury attracts the following penalties:

  • An informal probation period ranging from three to five years.
  • A county jail term of a maximum of one year.
  • A fine between $390 - $5,000.
  • A license suspension period of one year.
  • An order to attend a DUI school for three, 18, or 30 months.

The punishments for felony DUI with injury include the following:

  • A state prison sentence of at least 16 months to a maximum of one year. The judge may also impose a consecutive, additional sentence ranging from one to six years depending on the number of individuals you injured and the degree of severity of their injuries.
  • A strike on your criminal record, pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law.
  • A fine ranging from $1,015 - $5,000.
  • An order to attend a DUI school for 18 - 30 months.
  • A DMV designation as a habitual traffic offender.
  • A license suspension period of up to three years.

Note that for DUI with injury, the victims may institute a civil lawsuit for compensation. In that case, you may be required to restitute these victims if they win the civil lawsuit.

Suppose you caused the death of another person while driving under the influence. In that case, upon conviction, you will be sentenced for life.

Felony DUI

A fourth DUI offense is typically considered a felony. The penalties may include a state prison sentence of 16 months, two or three years, a fine between $390 - $1,000, and a formal probation period of three to five years.

Moreover, the judge will order you to attend a DUI school for 30 months. The DMV will also designate you as a habitual traffic offender, and suspend your license for a maximum of four years. In some cases, your license may be suspended for life.

Can a DUI Conviction Result in Negative Immigration Consequences?

A DUI conviction can potentially result in negative immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens. Immigration laws in the United States consider certain criminal convictions, including DUIs, as grounds for deportation or removal proceedings, visa denials, and other immigration-related consequences.

The severity of these consequences can depend on various factors, including the specific details of the DUI offense, your immigration status, and any prior criminal history. Here are some ways a DUI conviction may impact your immigration status:

  • Deportation or removal proceedings — Non-U.S. citizens, including green card holders (lawful permanent residents) and visa holders, may face deportation or removal proceedings if convicted of a DUI. The severity of the consequences may depend on your immigration status and the specific circumstances of the DUI offense.
  • Visa denials or ineligibility — A DUI conviction can affect eligibility for certain visas, including immigrant and non-immigrant visas. It may result in visa denials, especially when you apply for or renew visas.
  • Admissibility issues — Certain criminal convictions, including DUIs, can impact your admissibility to the United States. If a non-U.S. citizen travels internationally and attempts to re-enter the U.S., a DUI conviction could lead to denial of entry.
  • Adjustment of status issues — Individuals seeking to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident may face difficulties if they have a DUI conviction. It can be considered a negative factor in the application process.
  • Naturalization consequences — A DUI conviction can affect eligibility and may be considered during the moral character assessment for those seeking U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

It is essential for non-U.S. citizens facing DUI charges to seek legal advice from an attorney well-versed in both criminal and immigration law. Such an attorney can provide guidance on how a DUI conviction might impact immigration status, discuss potential defenses, and explore options for minimizing negative consequences.

How a DUI Conviction Can Affect Your Driver’s License

A DUI conviction in California can have significant consequences for your driver's license. The impact on your driving privileges can vary based on factors such as whether it's a first-time offense, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and any prior DUI convictions.

Here is how a DUI conviction can affect your driver's license:

  • License suspension by the DMV — The DMV typically initiates administrative license suspension proceedings separate from the criminal court process. If you are arrested for DUI, the DMV may suspend your license. You have the right to request a DMV hearing within ten days of the arrest to contest the suspension.
  • Length of license suspension — The suspension can vary based on factors such as whether it is a first-time or subsequent offense and whether you refused to submit to chemical testing. The DMV suspension is typically six months for a first-time DUI, and for a second offense, it can be longer.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirement — In some cases, especially for repeat DUI offenders, the court may require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your vehicle. This device measures your BAC before allowing the vehicle to start. Installing an IID may allow you to regain limited driving privileges during the license suspension period.
  • Restricted driver's license — After a certain period of license suspension, you may be eligible for a restricted driver's license. This allows you to drive to and from essential locations, such as work or a DUI education program, with the condition of using an IID in some cases.
  • SR-22 insurance requirement — A DUI conviction often triggers the requirement to file an SR-22 form with the DMV. This is a certificate of financial responsibility, and it typically results in higher insurance premiums.

The DMV's administrative suspension is distinct from any criminal penalties imposed by the court. Additionally, refusal to submit to a chemical test after a lawful arrest can result in enhanced penalties, including a longer license suspension.

Seeking legal representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney is crucial to navigating the DMV administrative process and criminal court proceedings. An attorney can help you understand your rights, explore potential defenses, and work towards minimizing the impact on your driver's license.

Legal Defenses to a DUI

You need to build a solid defense strategy to effectively fight DUI charges. Your lawyer can help you do so. First, they will carefully examine the circumstances of your arrest. Then, they will identify possible legal defenses that you can use.

Here is a brief discussion of possible legal defenses to DUI charges:

  • Challenging the traffic stop — The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the initial traffic stop was not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, your lawyer may challenge the evidence obtained during the stop.
  • Lack of probable cause for arrest — An officer must have probable cause to make a DUI arrest. The arrest may be deemed unlawful if there is insufficient evidence or the officer failed to follow proper procedures.
  • Field sobriety test accuracy — Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are subjective and may be influenced by various factors, including medical conditions, weather conditions, or nervousness. Your lawyer can help you challenge the results of these tests, affirming that you were not intoxicated.
  • Challenging breath or blood test results — Breathalyzer and blood tests are commonly used to measure BAC. Suppose the prosecutor relies on your BAC test results to prove intoxication. In that case, your lawyer can help you challenge the accuracy of these results. They may question the accuracy of the testing equipment or argue that the equipment was improperly calibrated or the blood samples were mishandled.
  • Rising blood alcohol defense — It takes time for alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Suppose there is a significant delay between the time of driving and the administration of a chemical test. In that case, your lawyer may argue that your BAC was rising at the time of driving and was below the legal limit while driving.
  • Medical conditions — Certain medical conditions or medications can impact the accuracy of DUI testing. Conditions such as acid reflux, diabetes, or the use of certain medications may lead to false positives on breathalyzer tests.
  • Miranda rights violation — If a driver is not informed of their Miranda rights during the arrest, statements made during custodial interrogation may be inadmissible in court.
  • Inaccurate police report — Discrepancies or inaccuracies in the police reports, including errors in the officer's observations or the sequence of events, can be used as a defense.
  • Failure to observe the driver — Observations of the driver's behavior, appearance, and coordination are crucial to establishing probable cause. It can be a defense if the officer did not adequately observe the driver or lacked reasonable suspicion.
  • No actual physical control — If the defendant was not driving or in control of the vehicle at the time of the arrest, it might be a defense. For example, sleeping in a parked car may not constitute a DUI.

It is important to consult with a DUI defense attorney who can assess the specific details of your case and determine the most appropriate defense strategy. Legal defenses can be complex. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process, challenge evidence, and work towards the best possible outcome for your situation.

Plea Bargaining in DUI Cases

Sometimes, entering a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution may be in your best interest. Typically, in DUI cases, there are two plea bargain options:

  • Wet reckless.
  • Dry reckless.

A wet reckless plea is a plea to a lesser charge of reckless driving that acknowledges the use of alcohol or drugs. Prosecutors typically accept this plea bargain when the blood alcohol content (BAC) level of the defendant nears the legal limit, and the evidence for conviction on DUI might not be quite strong.

On the other hand, in a dry reckless, the defendant admits that they were driving recklessly but denies involvement of alcohol or drugs. Prosecutors typically accept this plea bargain when they have insufficient evidence of intoxication.

Find a Monterey DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me

California Vehicle Code 23152 provides for DUI and the elements the prosecutor must prove. As an offense, DUI attracts severe penalties. However, a DUI charge does not define your future.

With the right legal representation, there are avenues to mitigate the impact and work towards a favorable outcome. At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we aim to provide you with the knowledge, support, and defense you need during this critical time.

If you or a loved one is grappling with a DUI charge, we invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation. Let us discuss the details of your case, address your concerns, and outline a strategic defense tailored to your situation. Call us at 831-574-1791.