Did you know that over 200,000 drivers are arrested each year for driving under the influence (DUI) in California alone? Given these statistics, it’s easy to see why state lawmakers continue to focus their efforts on ways to deter motorists from getting behind the wheel after using alcohol. Unfortunately, this also means that individuals who are arrested for DUI face a number of tough penalties if they are convicted of the charge—even if it’s their first run in with the law. Here’s what you can expect you are found guilty of a California DUI first offense.
Although the criminal penalties for DUI are determined in a criminal courtroom—after a prosecutor has proven you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt—the administrative, or civil, penalties will begin immediately. In fact, the moment you are arrested, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will revoke your driving privileges by issuing a license suspension. While you have the opportunity to challenge this penalty by requesting an administrative hearing, you must submit an official request within ten days after your arrest in order for the proceeding to take place. Otherwise, your suspension will remain in effect until your case is tried in criminal court.
In addition to the administrative penalties imposed by the DMV, you will also face criminal punishment for your actions. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, a first-time DUI conviction carries up to $1,000 in fines, a six-month jail sentence, an additional four-month license suspension, and probation time. You will also be required to complete an 18- to 30-month alcohol awareness program and maintain SR22 insurance (an expensive auto insurance policy designed for DUI offenders and other high-risk drivers) for three years after your driving privileges are restored.
However, before you can be convicted of drunk driving, the prosecution must establish three things: first, that the officer who arrested you had probable cause to stop you (such as speeding or running a red light, for example); second, that you violated the state’s DUI laws by driving with an illegal blood alcohol content (BAC) or refused to perform a chemical test; and lastly, that your arrest was lawful. If all three of these requirements are not met, the charges against you should be dismissed.
To improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome for both your administrative and criminal DUI hearings, you must present a strong argument that supports your defense in court—and using the wrong strategy can lead to devastating results.
Fortunately, with help from a skilled DUI defense attorney, many drivers are able to get their charges reduced or even dismissed completely. To determine the right approach for your situation, submit your information online today for a free, no-obligation consultation on your case.