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1st Offense DUI in California

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California DUI Laws

In California, a DUI conviction carries severe penalties such as jail time, charges, license suspension, and other repercussions. Statistics show that of the hundred thousand drivers arrested yearly for a 1st offense DUI in California, 72.7% are convicted.

As a result of these stiff penalties and statistics, many first-time DUI offenders feel anxious after an arrest. However, knowing the DUI laws in California allows you to protect yourself and conduct yourself legally.

What Happens When You Get Your First DUI in California?

In California, you may face multiple charges for your first DUI (also called a DWI or driving while intoxicated), depending on the circumstances of your arrest. However, the charges surrounding each arrest vary based on certain factors.

Most DUI offenses result in a misdemeanor charge, but in extreme cases, a first DUI offense may result in a felony DUI charge, such as a DUI with accident.

How Does California Law Define DUI Offenses?

For drivers under the age of 21, California has “zero-tolerance” regulations that make it illegal for them to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.01% or higher. However, for adult drivers, California law for DUI offenses is defined in the following subsections of Vehicle Code section 23152.

  • Vehicle Code section 23152(a) VC states that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a violation.
  • Vehicle Code section 23152(b) VC states that driving with .08% alcohol in your blood is a violation.

A breath or blood test is used to determine blood alcohol content. You will likely be charged with violating both California Vehicle Code sections if you are caught driving with a BAC over .08%.

What Happens for 1st DUI Offense in California?

When you are arrested for drunk driving, a few things usually occur, including the following:

  • Your driver’s license will be confiscated, and you may be issued a restricted license
  • Next, you’ll get a notification of possible California DMV suspension, which you should file alongside your provisional license
  • The police send a copy of this notification to the DMV, where a DMV hearing officer will evaluate the circumstances and may suspend your driving privileges

During a DUI arrest, the most important thing to remember is to remain composed and not say or do anything that may be detrimental to your case. Make sure you call a skilled DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

How Many Points Go on Your License After a DUI 1st Offense?

A point system in California tracks drivers’ infractions. This system aims to identify reckless motorists and deter them from driving. Infractions of various traffic laws are assigned point values that the DMV uses to revoke driving licenses if point limits are violated.

In the event of a first-time DUI conviction, two points are added to the driver’s license holder’s record. Your license will be revoked if you get 4 points in a year, even with a spotless record.

What Is the Penalty for 1st Offense DUI in California?

A first-time conviction for driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor offense in California. The penalties depend on age, type of offense, and other factors, such as whether or not a chemical test was rejected. However, the most common first-offense California DUI penalties include the following:

  • A 4-month license suspension
  • Possible imprisonment for up to 6 months
  • You might pay up to $10,000 in fines and penalties
  • A mandatory three-month DUI program
  • Possibility of doing community service

Do You Lose Your License for First DUI in CA?

A DUI arrest does not necessarily result in an instant suspension of driving privileges. This is instead the case if you either don’t ask for a license suspension hearing or if you end up losing the hearing. If this is your first DUI offense, you have only ten days from the time of your arrest to request a DMV hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and prevent the immediate suspension of your license.

Your license will be suspended for an extended period if you are convicted of a DUI offense, regardless of the length of any existing suspension imposed by the DMV. However, the specific time frame over which your license will be suspended depends heavily on the complexities of your case.

Can a First-Time DUI Offender Qualify for Diversion Programs?

In California, a first-time DUI offender may qualify for diversion programs under certain conditions. These programs are designed as an alternative to traditional criminal court proceedings, focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

For a standard first-time DUI in California, especially in cases where the offense is a misdemeanor DUI with no serious injuries involved, the offender may be eligible to participate in a DUI treatment program.

Upon successful completion of a DUI diversion program, which typically includes DUI classes, counseling, and sometimes community service, the criminal charges may be reduced or dismissed.

However, eligibility for these programs can vary based on the specifics of the DUI case, such as the offender’s blood alcohol level and the absence of prior DUI convictions. DUI causing injury or felony DUI charges, including a fourth DUI within ten years, are generally not eligible for diversion.

If an offender is allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, they might also get a restricted license, allowing them to drive to work or DUI school. It’s important to consult with a DUI lawyer to understand the options and navigate the complexities of DUI cases.

An experienced DUI attorney can help determine whether a diversion program is available and advise on the best course of action, including preparing for a possible criminal trial or administrative hearing and handling procedures like a breath test.

How Many Hours of Community Service Will You Need to Do if Convicted of a Dui (First Offense)?

Judges in California have the discretion to suspend county jail time in exchange for community service. It’s considered a method to “make amends” to society after committing an offense.

Van Nuys DUI attorneys frequently try to reduce their clients’ sentences to community service instead of jail time. There is no set requirement for community service hours, but most first-time DUI offenders serve 24 to 50 monitored hours.

How Likely Is Jail Time for First DUI?

A person who has committed their first offense faces a possible sentence of between 48 hours and six months in jail. There is no requirement for incarceration if the court grants DUI probation, which is the norm. First-time offenders typically receive lighter sentences from the court that do not include jail time.

Costs of a First-Time California DUI

The base fine for the first California DUI ranges from $400 to $1,000, with additional “penalty assessments” that can significantly raise this total.

The costs of a first-offense DUI in California can be substantial. Aside from the obvious criminal penalties, the financial burden can include hefty fines, DUI classes, and fees for an ignition interlock device if required.

After a drunk driving arrest, offenders often face DUI penalties that go beyond court-imposed fines. Additional expenses include legal fees for DUI attorneys, costs for mandatory DUI school, and increased insurance premiums.

Moreover, a 1st offense DUI in California might entail an administrative hearing, which could further increase expenses. Even for a misdemeanor DUI without prior DUI convictions, the total cost can quickly escalate, often amounting to thousands of dollars.

How to Get Out of a DUI First Offense in California?

You are presumed innocent of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated charges until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Legal defects or questions about any crucial evidence necessary to convict under VC 23152, inaccurate breathalyzer BAC tests, police officer errors, and medical issues are some of the defensive strategies used by an effective DUI defense attorney to get their client’s DUI charges reduced.

Is a Reduction to a Different Charge Possible if Your BAC is Under.10%?

Presumptive intoxication occurs at 0.08% BAC, although between 0.08% and 0.10% BAC, prosecutors are more likely to offer a plea bargain for a lesser charge, such as wet reckless. The consequences for wet reckless driving are intermediate between those for driving under the influence and those for regular reckless driving.

Why Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI Charge?

Legal representation is crucial for first-time DUI offenders. A DUI defense attorney knows how DUI charges affect your daily life and will work hard to make the process as smooth as possible.

Reach out to the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney to schedule a free consultation today.

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.