If you were recently arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California, you probably have a number of questions about the charges you are facing. How will your arrest affect your future? Will you lose your license? Could you be sentenced to jail time? The answers to these and many other questions depend largely upon how your charge is classified. Here’s what you need to know about a California DUI misdemeanor.
The majority of DUIs are classified as misdemeanors—and although the charge is less serious than a felony offense, it is still a crime. As a result, a misdemeanor conviction carries a number of severe penalties. Under state law, even a first-time offender can face a fine of up to $1,500, six-month license suspension, and/or spend time behind bars. These sentencing guidelines, however, are rather lenient when compared to the penalties imposed in felony DUI cases.
To determine whether your offense is considered a misdemeanor or felony, the court will review several factors, including your prior criminal history and the circumstances of your arrest. If you were involved in an accident, driving 20 miles or more over the speed limit, or had a passenger under the age of 14 in your vehicle, for example, your charge is more likely to be classified as a felony. Likewise, if you have four or more prior DUI convictions on your record, you can expect to face felony charges.
When determining the nature of your offense, the court will also look at the amount of alcohol you had in your system at the time of your arrest. This figure—a metric known as blood alcohol content, or BAC—can only be determined through chemical testing (such as breathalyzers and blood or urine tests).
According to state law, a driver becomes impaired when his or her BAC reaches 0.08% or higher. As a result, if a chemical test indicates you have a BAC above this amount, an officer has grounds to arrest you for driving under the influence—and if your blood alcohol content was extremely high (0.20% or more), your offense may be considered a felony.
It is important to know that all motorists are required to submit to chemical testing if an officer suspects them of DUI—and that means you can also be charged with the offense if you refuse to perform a breathalyzer or other chemical test. In fact, the penalties for refusing the test are often more severe than for failing.
For more information about California misdemeanor DUI, submit your information online today to receive a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced DUI defense attorney in your area.