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.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In California?
In California, as all states, the legal alcohol limit is .08 percent. Police typically use a breath or blood test to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a test shows a driver is over the limit, he or she is typically arrested and charged with an alcohol-related offense. Charges brought include:
- DUI (driving under the influence). Most people of legal drinking age arrested for driving under the influence are charged with DUI. The legal limit of .08 percent applies to most motorists, but commercial drivers may be arrested with a BAC of .04 percent or higher.
- Underage DUI. The BAC limit on people under 21 is stricter even than that for commercial drivers. A person not of drinking age may be charged with driving under the influence with a BAC of .01 percent or higher. Having virtually any amount of alcohol can result in a DUI.
- Aggravated DUI. People may be charged with aggravated DUI if prosecutors regard an offense as being especially serious – for example, if a BAC level is .15 percent or greater. Driving with minors under age 14, getting in an accident and other aggravating factors can also result in the charge.
Even more serious than aggravated DUI charges are felony-level offenses. Resulting in harsh consequences, such offenses are typically reserved for repeat offenders.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In California
In California, whether a DUI offender must install an ignition interlock device is the court’s discretion. More serious offenses are likely to result in an IID being required – for example, a heightened BAC reading.
Four California counties serve as exceptions and make it mandatory for all first-time and repeat offenders to have an IID installed. Participating counties include:
- Los Angeles
Ignition interlock devices are installed and serviced at the expense of DUI offenders. At each servicing, the device’s log is checked for any failed breath tests. Failed tests may lead to further punishments.
California DUI Penalties
California drivers face strict penalties if convicted of violating state DUI laws. DUI convictions are possible if a driver 21 or older exhibits a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or greater upon being administered a breath test. Commercial vehicle drivers may face charges for a BAC of .04 percent or greater. For both repeat, DUI offenders and drivers under 21, the state’s “Zero Tolerance” rule applies: DUI conviction can occur due to a BAC of .01 percent or greater.
In California, it is also considered a DUI if one is found to be impaired by illegal drugs, legal drugs with alcoholic ingredients, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medications.
California DUI penalties include jail time or community service, license suspension or revocation, fines, DUI programs, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) or an SR-22 filing.
Drivers Under 21
Drivers under the age of 21 cannot carry liquor, beer or wine in a vehicle unless accompanied by an adult. In addition, the container must be full and unopened. If caught with alcohol, a driver in California may have his or her vehicle impounded for 30 days, face a one-year license suspension and receive a fine of up to $1,000.
Drivers 21 and Over
A DUI remains on a driver’s record for 10 years. During that time, any prior DUI convictions are applicable to a new violation. Under California law, drivers are governed by an implied consent for a Breathalyzer, blood or urine test. A driver can be sentenced if he or she refuses to take a test.
In California, a “wet reckless” plea bargain can reduce a sentence from drunk driving to reckless driving. This plea bargain is only applicable if an accident did not occur, the BAC is borderline over the limit and the driver has no prior record of reckless driving. However, in the instance of a future DUI conviction, the original “wet reckless” is considered a DUI conviction, and the current conviction then becomes a second offense.
California has a “three strikes law” in which the third strike leads to life in jail with parole available only after 25 years. While this is mostly applicable to violent crimes, some serious DUI convictions may be subject to this law.
In order for a driver to have his or her license reinstated, the insurance company must file an SR-22 with the DMV. This form proves that the convicted driver has proper financial liability coverage. An SR-22 is required for 5 years following a DUI conviction.
Penalties for a 1st California DUI offense
On a first offense, drivers face a one-year license suspension, mandatory enrollment in the educational portion of a DUI program and expensive fines, and jail time ranges from 4 days to 6 months. Fines of $390 to $1,000, plus applicable penalties, often total $1,400 to $2,600. California DUI penalties result in license suspension ranging from 30 days to 10 months, but a temporary restricted license may be granted in some situations. Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties have a mandatory ignition interlock device installation. However, if a driver has a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater, other prior violations on record and refuses a chemical test, he or she is required to install an ignition interlock device regardless of the county. An SR-22 filing, enrollment in a DUI program and treatment are also required.
Penalties for a 2nd California DUI offense
Second offenses have jail sentences that range from 10 days to one year. Although fines remain stable at $390 to $1,000, the total after applicable penalties often reaches $1,800 to $2,800. Standard license suspension is for two years, but it is reducible to one year in some circumstances. An ignition interlock device is required regardless of the county. As with a first offense, an SR-22 filing, DUI program enrollment, and treatment are mandatory.
Penalties for a 3rd California DUI offense
For a 3rd offense, convicted drivers face jail time ranging from 120 days to one year. Total fines and penalties often reach $1,800 to $18,000. California DUI penalties lead to a three-year license suspension with mandatory ignition interlock device installation. In addition to an SR-22 filing, enrollment in a DUI program and treatment, convicted drivers may face vehicle confiscation.