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What to Know About a First-Offender DUI in California

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on November 30, 2018

California is one of the harshest states in the country when it comes to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses. Even a first offense comes with serious penalties and expensive fines. Some of these penalties start the moment a driver fails a field sobriety test, while others require a criminal conviction for DUI.

Our experienced Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys at Werksman Jackson Hathaway & Quinn LLP understand the best ways to avoid a conviction and more serious penalties. For a free case evaluation, please call (213) 688-0460 today.

Grounds for a DUI Offense in California

What constitutes a DUI in California? It all depends on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentages. This indicates how much alcohol is in a person’s bloodstream – higher percentages mean more alcohol.

A DUI in California is legally defined as someone having a BAC of:

  • 0.08% or Higher – For someone 21 years of age or older operating a regular passenger vehicle.
  • 0.04% or Higher – For someone 21 years of age or older operating a commercial vehicle.
  • 0.01% or Higher – For someone younger than 21 years of age operating any vehicle.

It is worth noting that California DUI laws include things such as illegal drugs, prescription medication, and over-the-counter medication if their use impairs a person’s ability to drive safely.

DUI laws are harsher when it comes to drivers under 21. In fact, these drivers face two types of penalties:

  1. Possession of Alcohol – People under the age of 21 cannot drive a vehicle that contains alcohol unless it is full, sealed, and unopened. Also, that person must be with a parent or legal guardian, or be currently working for a person with an off-site liquor license. Violating this law can result in vehicle impoundment, serious fines, and license suspension for one year.
  2. Zero Tolerance Law – Drivers under the legal drinking age face first-offense punishments with a tiny amount of alcohol in their system.

Penalties for DUI First Offense

A lot of people think a “first offense” is minor, but in reality, a first-offense DUI conviction can result in:

  • License Suspension – The moment a driver fails a field sobriety test, his or her license is suspended for four months. Conviction for a first DUI also carries a six-month suspension; these two suspensions can be served simultaneously.
  • Jail Time – A first-offense DUI carries up to six months in jail, and this sentence largely depends on how lenient a judge is after a conviction. An experienced defense attorney can help fight for a shorter sentence or no jail time.
  • Fines – A first DUI usually includes fines between $400 and $1,000. It is important to note that these are just the fines imposed by the court – there are additional penalties and legal fees included. A first-offense DUI can cost thousands of dollars when everything is done.
  • Probation – Conviction for a first-offense DUI typically results in three to five years of probation, and includes about 30 hours of driving classes.

If a driver refuses to take a BAC test when suspected of DUI, his or her license will be suspended for one year, regardless of any convictions. If the DUI results in an accident – or the death of another person – then the penalties may include manslaughter charges, which can negatively impact the rest of a person’s life.

Penalties for Additional DUI Offenses

A DUI conviction in California counts as a “prior conviction” for up to 10 years, meaning any additional DUI convictions within 10 years of the first will be counted as second, third, fourth convictions. A subsequent conviction usually has higher fines, longer license suspensions, and additional jail time.

The Importance of a Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney

There is no such thing as a “minor” DUI charge. How you handle a first DUI can have serious consequences for years to come. If you were arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles, speak to the team at Werksman Jackson Hathaway & Quinn LLP. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers will immediately make sure your rights are protected, and go to work to get the case against you dropped or reduced. For a free case evaluation, please call (213) 688-0460 today.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense