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What To Know About California DUI Laws

Driving under the influence in California can lead to serious consequences that may follow you for the rest of your life. If you suffer a conviction, finding employment can be more difficult and you risk losing your job or professional license. For these reasons, it is important to understand how California DUI laws work and what your options are if you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

You may have options to avoid some of the common pitfalls some people experience immediately after a DUI arrest in California. It may even be possible to have the charges dismissed or reduced.

I am DUI attorney William Walraven, and I can help defend you or a loved one against misdemeanor or felony DUI charges. Don't take a chance with your future. Call the Law Offices of William Walraven and let me fight to protect your future and freedom. Learn more about California DUI laws by reading my FAQ section below.

Common Questions About Driving Under the Influence

What are the immediate consequences of DUI in California?

After you are taken into custody on suspicion of a DUI, the arresting officer will forward a driver's license suspension or revocation order to the California DMV (Form DS-367). In addition, the arresting officer will confiscate your California driver's license. You will then have 10 days to request a DMV hearing to challenge the license revocation or suspension. Should you fail to request a hearing within 10 days you waive your right to a hearing and then your driver's license will be suspended automatically.

By requesting a DMV hearing, you will be able to continue to drive legally throughout the pendency of the DMV hearing process and your court case. Whether your license will be suspended by the DMV or court depends on many factors, including the circumstances of your arrest and the rulings of a judge. If there is no legal basis for a revocation or suspension, then you can keep your license.

One of the reasons we recommend hiring a DUI attorney right after your arrest is to begin gathering evidence to implement a sound legal defense strategy. An attorney can represent you at the DMV hearing and in court.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, many first-time DUI offenders can continue driving legally with a restricted license if they install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle for a predetermined period of time. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to get a restricted license without having to install an IID.

What are the consequences of a first-time DUI?

The consequences of a first-time DUI are dependent upon the facts and circumstances. If there are aggravating factors, such as a minor present in the vehicle at the time or an accident involving injuries, then you will face steeper penalties if convicted.

For first-time DUI offenders without aggravating factors, the consequences are a minimum of two days up to six months in jail and fines between $390 and $1,000. License suspension is also possible depending on the circumstances of your arrest. The court can order you to install an IID and require it for a longer period of time if you have a high blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) in your system or if there were aggravating factors such as an accident. Courts will typically order an IID for a minimum of six months or up to a year.

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test upon your arrest for a DUI, you will be facing a one-year hard suspension on a first offense. A hard suspension means that you cannot drive at all for the entire suspension period. Even if you refused to take a chemical test and are charged with a refusal, there are legal defenses if the officer did not properly admonish you of the consequences of a refusal.

Depending on your BAC, you will be required to complete a DUI first offender program, a three-month program for a standard DUI, a six-month program for a DUI with a .15% BAC or higher and a nine-month program for a DUI with a .20% BAC or higher.

What are the consequences of repeat DUIs in California?

Repeat DUI offenders face steeper penalties if convicted. This is especially true if there were other aggravating factors at the time of the arrest, such as an accident involving injuries or property damage.

Like a first-time DUI, the consequences of a second-offense DUI or repeat DUI depend on the circumstances. You could face fines between $390 and $1,000 and a minimum of 10 days in jail (or 96 hours in jail) up to one year behind bars. Third-time offenders face a $1,800 maximum fine and a minimum of 120 days up to one year in jail. Although most DUIs in California are misdemeanors, you could face a felony charge if you have three prior misdemeanor DUI convictions within 10 years.

If you are convicted of a multiple offense, you will be required to complete an 18-month multiple offender DUI program.

Do I have to take a field sobriety test?

Unless you are on DUI probation, you do not have to submit to a field sobriety test. The three standardized field sobriety tests consist of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand.

Officers always say these tests are not pass or fail, but they are divided attention tests that are designed to be extremely difficult to complete without error, especially for someone who is taking these tests for the first time.

Officers are trained to mark down any movement inconsistent with their instructions and these clues form the basis for the officer to form probable cause to place you under arrest. Performance on these field sobriety tests can be affected by medical conditions, medications, injuries or even by the officer failing to properly instruct you or failing to properly conduct the field sobriety tests.

Whether or not you perform the field sobriety tests, if you are placed under arrest you are required under California's implied consent laws to submit to a chemical test, either a blood or breath test. If you fail to take a chemical test, you will be facing a license suspension, and the officer can get a warrant to draw your blood.

Why do I need a DUI attorney?

Simply put, it is very easy to make mistakes right after your arrest that can negatively affect your ability to mount a defense against the charges.

Some people make admissions to the police and have their statements used against them by the prosecution. Others may unknowingly waive their right to an administrative revocation or suspension hearing. In other cases, people unwittingly plead guilty even when they have a defensible case. Don't be like those people – hire a skilled DUI defense attorney.

Depending on the strength of the prosecution's case and in consideration of mitigating factors, a DUI charge to a wet reckless charge under the right circumstances. A skilled DUI attorney can help determine whether a reduction of charges is an option in your case.

In addition, there are multiple legal defenses to a DUI charge. Defenses include if the police did not have probable cause to arrest you or if they did not follow the proper government regulations in collecting or testing your blood or breath results. A skilled and experienced DUI attorney can spot relevant legal defenses and implement them in your case.

Particularly if there were aggravating factors or if you have a prior DUI conviction, you are risking your liberty if you do not hire a skilled DUI attorney, since the consequences of a DUI conviction in these instances are far more serious and could result in actual jail time. It is important to mount a strong defense to mitigate the negative impact should you be convicted.

What are the life consequences of a DUI conviction?

There are many other consequences of a DUI conviction that are unrelated to your criminal court case.

A DUI conviction can make finding a job more difficult, as a DUI conviction will show up on a background check. Certain employers will not extend job offers, especially for repeat offenses. In addition, if you have a professional license, it could be suspended or revoked.

If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, a DUI conviction can result in your deportation, exclusion from naturalization or denial of admission into this country.

Another scenario where a DUI conviction would negatively impact your life is if you have a pending divorce or child custody proceeding. Family law judges frown on DUI convictions when deciding the outcome of these proceedings.

If you are involved in a DUI accident, you could face a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff seeking monetary damages in civil court where the burden of proof is lower than in criminal court. A skilled DUI attorney can help protect you from having a DUI conviction used against you in a civil case.

What are factors in an aggravated DUI case?

As we mentioned, aggravating factors may lead to more serious penalties if you are convicted and sentenced. Aggravating factors at the time of arrest may include but are not limited to:

  • The presence of a minor in the vehicle at the time of your arrest
  • Possession of a controlled substance or substances
  • Accidents resulting in injuries or deaths
  • Property damage
  • Reckless driving, such as driving over the posted speed limit or on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Prior DUI convictions
  • High blood/breath alcohol content (BAC)

A skilled DUI attorney can help determine how to mitigate aggravating factors to improve your possible outcomes.

Contact Me To Learn More

My firm, the Law Offices of William Walraven, can help you determine your next steps after a DUI arrest. With the possible penalties associated with a conviction, you should not wait to contact us. I am dedicated to providing aggressive legal assistance to help my DUI clients in San Francisco, San Mateo County and throughout the Bay Area.

To learn more about how I can help, call me at 833-415-2635. You can also use the contact form on my website.