Generally, the first question most people have after they are arrested and charged with their first-time DUI offense in California, is what to expect. This process can be extremely stressful because there are several moving parts. For example, a DUI offense will likely require dealing with the DMV, as well as prosecutors (e.g. city attorneys, county attorneys, or district attorneys). There can also be confusion when it comes to potential penalties and consequences people face after their first DUI offense. There are a range of possible penalties, including fines, community service, alcohol programs, probation, and in some cases, jail time.
While a DUI charge is likely to bring a lot of worry and anxiety, having the essential information and getting the help of an experienced California lawyer is an effective way to get the situation sorted out. In this article, our team at Forward Law Group describes the typical process after a DUI arrest. We begin by discussing some of the statistics related to DUIs in California, before covering some of the different DUI-related charges in California, DMV penalties for first-time DUIs, and lastly, court-sanctioned penalties and consequences. Let’s begin!
Each year, the California DMV publishes the Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System. In the 2021 report, which highlighted data from 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available), the agency reported 124,141 DUI arrests in the state. Of this number, 72.5 percent were first-time offenders. Other key statistics that the report included showed that:
Considering these statistics, it becomes easy to understand why cities and counties in California, as well as the state itself, invest millions of dollars to reduce the number of DUI drivers on the road. In the next section, we cover some of the various DUI-related charges.
While all DUI charges involve a person operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, there are many different charges depending on the unique circumstances of the incident. The two most common DUI charges, as defined by the California Vehicle Code, are:
Although the two are quite similar, 23152(a) relates to the impairment of driving abilities as a result of alcohol without a clear boundary for alcohol consumption. In other words, this means that a driver can be charged with this offense even if they were under the legal limit if they were unable to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober driver. 23152(b), on the other hand, sets a threshold (.08% or higher). Although these are the two most common DUI offenses, people can also be charged with other DUI-related offenses depending on the circumstances. Other potential charges include:
While the list above highlights some of the most common DUI charges, it is not an exhaustive list by any means—there are many other charges that are not covered here. Each of the offenses described above carry different penalties, so it is extremely important to understand which penalty a person has been charged with.
A DUI arrest in California automatically triggers what is known as an “Administrative Per Se” hearing by the DMV, which often results in a suspension or revocation of driving privileges of the person arrested. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the police officer who made the arrest is required by law to send a copy of the suspension or revocation form, as well as any driver’s license taken into possession, with a report to the DMV. For individuals over the age of 21 who took a chemical or urine test that showed results over the 0.08% BAC limit, a four-month license suspension will be issued. It is important to note that the person charged may drive for 30 days from the date the order of suspension or revocation was issued. The suspension will take effect after those 30 days.
A person who has been arrested for a DUI has ten days from the date of receipt of the suspension or revocation order to request a hearing from the DMV. In most cases, that person will be able to drive while awaiting the hearing.
Beyond the arrest, if a person is convicted of a DUI offense—specifically VC §23152—the DMV will suspend driving privileges for 6 or 10 months. In the case that a person’s BAC was greater than 0.20%, the court may require DMV to suspend driving privileges for 10 months, as well as require the person to complete a 9-month DUI program.
Upon getting their driver’s license suspended, first-time DUI offenders can apply for a restricted license that allows them to drive despite the DUI arrest or conviction. Restricted license options include getting an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) device installed on your vehicle, or qualifying for the Employment/Treatment Program. Each option has its own requirements for applying. To apply for the IID, requirements include:
To apply for the Employment/Treatment Program restricted license, requirements include:
To fully reinstate driving privileges without any restrictions, the charged person must serve the full suspension or restriction, provide the DMV with proof of completion of a DUI program and provide proof of insurance. Before moving on, it is key to consider the following point—the sanctions imposed by the DMV are separate from court-imposed fines, penalties, and sentences.
In California, a first-time DUI offense is a misdemeanor in most cases and a conviction can result in the following consequences:
More serious DUI charges, such as DUI Causing Bodily Injury (VC § 23153), can result in more severe consequences. Depending on the specifics of the case, it can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Consequences could include:
As evident, the facts of the case are extremely important when considering what penalties or consequences might be imposed. Even the least serious charge, however, can still result in consequences that are quite serious if convicted. In addition to court-sanctioned penalties, there are also other indirect penalties such as increased insurance premiums. To shrink their charges, most first-time DUI offenders choose to hire a skilled attorney who can carefully review the details of their case and develop a strategy to achieve the best possible outcome.
If you or someone close to you is currently facing a first-time DUI offense in California, we understand how difficult and stressful the situation can be. A DUI can affect the trajectory of your life in just minutes. Further, getting released after being arrested for a DUI has its own negative effects. It can feel demoralizing, and therefore, understanding how to move forward can come as a challenge. One way to take significant weight off your shoulders is by getting the help of a qualified attorney.
At Forward Law Group, our team has years of experience in helping clients across California achieve the best possible outcome for their DUI charges. We carefully examine each and every detail of the case to prepare the most effective plan to defend you against the charge and ensure you walk away with the least severe consequences, if any at all (depending on the facts of the case). In some cases, our experienced lawyers have been able to get DUI charges completely dismissed. In addition to dealing with the court charges, Forward Law Group will also handle all communication with the DMV, removing you from this burden.
No matter how complicated or serious your case may be, you can rest assured that you are in good hands with Forward Law Group. For each client we work with, we always go the extra mile to ensure that the best result is achieved so that our clients can move forward and leave this difficult time behind them. While our offices are located in Los Angeles, we proudly serve residents located all throughout California and have experience dealing with prosecutors in different counties across the state. For more information, give our friendly, knowledgeable staff a call today at (818) 471-8389 or simply fill out our contact form.