According to California DUI laws, if you are driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher, you can be charged with a DUI. For commercial truck drivers, the limit is .04 percent, and for individuals under 21 years of age, the limit is .01 percent. In the cases of drivers who are 18 years old or younger, there should be no alcohol present in their bloodstreams. Along with facing DUI charges for alcohol consumption, you can also face these charges if you are driving under the influence of prescription medications, certain over-the-counter medications or other drugs.
The penalties for a first DUI conviction are no less than four days and no greater than six months in jail, financial penalties between $390 and $1,000, plus penalties, and a license suspension for at least six months. For a second or third conviction, the penalties are increased. A second conviction can lead to 10 days to a year in jail, fines of $390 to $1,000, plus penalties, and a one-year license suspension. Third convictions lead to 120 days to a year in jail, $390 to $1,000 in fines, plus penalties, and a two-year license suspension. An ignition interlock device may also be required after any conviction.
Refusing Chemical Tests
California is an implied consent state, which means that you cannot avoid DUI penalties by refusing to take a blood or breath test. In fact, when you decline to submit to these tests, your license will be confiscated by law enforcement immediately. A first refusal carries a one-year license suspension, a second refusal leads to a two-year revocation, and a third refusal would cause a three-year revocation.
The first three DUI convictions are usually considered misdemeanor charges based on California DUI laws unless additional infractions were committed at the time, but a fourth and any subsequent charges within 10 years’ time are felony charges. As in many states, a first, second or third charge may also be increased to a felony if someone was injured or killed as a result of an individual’s actions while driving while intoxicated. After someone has been convicted of a felony DUI, any subsequent charges will also be a felony even if it is only the person’s second time facing charges.
Felony DUI charges may apply to the state’s “three strikes” law. If someone is convicted of three felony DUI charges, that individual may remain imprisoned for at least 25 years before having the option of seeking parole.
Pleading a Wet Reckless
If someone has never been charged with a DUI and had a borderline BAC at the time of the arrest, he or she may be able to plead a “wet reckless.” This reduces a drunk driving charge to reckless driving. However, if that person is charged with another DUI, the previous wet reckless charge will be considered a DUI conviction.
Recent Changes to DUI Laws
In 2011, California increased penalties for subsequent DUI convictions, and the state also added additional categories to what the DMV may use to suspend a driver’s license. The state also changed laws related to interlock devices in 2010, and the amount of time that drivers have to wait to have their licenses reinstated was reduced.