If you have ever been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, you may think you know what to expect—after all, you’re facing the same penalties as before, right? Wrong. Under state law, habitual drunk drivers (anyone convicted of driving under the influence within the past ten years) face much harsher punishment than a first-time offender. As a result, the consequences of a third conviction are far more devastating than what you received in the past. Here’s what you can expect if you are found guilty of a California DUI third offense:
As you may remember, a DUI arrest triggers an automatic license suspension. Once notified, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will immediately begin the process of revoking your driving privileges. Although you have the opportunity to appeal this penalty, you must submit a formal request to the DMV in order to do this—and you have just ten days to challenge your suspension.
Once the DMV receives your request, an administrative DUI hearing will be scheduled. During this proceeding, a DMV official will review the evidence against you to determine whether your arrest was warranted. If your arrest is deemed lawful, your suspension will remain in effect.
It is important to remember that any penalties imposed by the DMV are entirely separate from those associated with a criminal DUI charge. In fact, regardless of the outcome of your administrative hearing, you will face additional penalties, including a longer license suspension and possible jail sentence, if you are found guilty of drunk driving in criminal court.
The exact terms of your sentence will depend largely upon your previous DUI history, as well as whether you failed or refused a chemical test. In California, any driver operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher can be arrested for DUI. Because chemical tests (breathalyzers, blood, and urine tests) are the most reliable way to calculate a driver’s BAC, state law requires motorists to submit to such testing if a law enforcement officer suspects them of driving under the influence. In other words, simply refusing to perform a chemical test is enough to warrant an arrest for DUI.
If this is your third time being arrested for failing a chemical test, a third conviction carries up to a two-year license suspension and possible jail sentence. In addition, you may be required to complete a court-approved alcohol education program and obtain SR22 insurance (an expensive auto insurance policy designed for high-risk drivers) for three years after your driving privileges are restored.
On the other hand, if you are convicted of refusing a chemical test for a third time, you will not only face those penalties listed above, but also an additional one-year license suspension. Plus, you will be ineligible for any type of restricted license (a limited permit that allows you to drive to and from work, school and other approved activities) for the entire length of your suspension.
The good news, however, is that being arrested for a third DUI offense does not mean you will be convicted of the charge in criminal court.To learn how you can reduce or avoid the consequences of your arrest, submit your information online today to receive a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced drunk driving defense attorney in your area.