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Mar 13, 2023

Navigating Your First DUI Offense in California: What You Need to Know

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) findings reveal that in 2020, the number of fatalities from drunk-driving crashes was 11,654, representing a 14 percent surge from 2019. With such high numbers, it’s no surprise that being charged with a DUI in California can have serious consequences, especially if it’s your first offense.

A DUI, or driving under the influence, refers to operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. In California, a DUI conviction can have severe repercussions, including fines, license suspension, and even incarceration.

That’s why it’s crucial to understand your rights and options and seek the guidance of a skilled DUI attorney. In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of what you need to know about your first DUI offense in California and how the Silver Law Firm can assist you in navigating the legal process.

What Constitutes a DUI in California?

As per California Vehicle Code, impaired driving ability resulting from drugs, alcohol, or a combination constitutes driving under the influence. You can be charged with a DUI offense in California if you are impaired to the point that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle, even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit. In California, there are several types of DUI offenses, including:

  • Standard DUI: This offense involves operating a motor vehicle with a 0.08% or higher BAC. The penalties for a typical DUI offense may include fines, license suspension, and even jail time.
  • Juvenile DUI: If you are under 21 and operate a motor vehicle with alcohol in your system, you will be charged with an underage DUI offense. The penalties for an underage DUI offense may include fines, license suspension, and mandatory alcohol education programs.
  • Commercial DUI: If you operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, you will be charged with a commercial DUI offense. The penalties for a commercial DUI offense may include fines, license suspension, and even jail time.
  • Felony DUI: If you have prior DUI convictions or have caused injury or death while driving under the influence, you will be charged with a felony DUI offense. The penalties for a felony DUI offense may include fines, license revocation, and significant jail time.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limit

The legal BAC limit for DUI offenses in California is 0.08%. However, if you are under 21, the legal BAC limit is 0.01%. For commercial drivers, the legal BAC limit is 0.04%. It’s important to note that even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you can still be charged with a DUI offense if you are impaired to the point that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle.

Penalties and Consequences of a First DUI Conviction

Penalties and consequences for a first DUI offense in California can be severe. The exact penalties will depend on the circumstances of your case, including your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), your driving history, and whether any aggravating factors were involved. The following are the standard penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in California:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • A 6-month license suspension
  • Mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle
  • Probation for up to 3 years

What Factors Can Increase the Penalties for a First-time DUI?

In some cases, aggravating factors can increase the penalties for a first-time DUI conviction. These factors may include the following:

  • Having a BAC of 0.15% or higher
  • Causing an accident while driving under the influence
  • Having a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle while driving under the influence
  • Declining to undergo a chemical test upon request by a law enforcement officer.

Will I Have a Permanent Criminal Record?

A DUI conviction in California can result in a permanent criminal record. In case of a DUI conviction, your information will be recorded in the statewide criminal record database and remain there indefinitely. Potential employers, landlords, and other interested parties may be able to view your criminal record.

However, options may be available to reduce the impact of a DUI conviction on your criminal record. These options may include expungement, which is a process that allows you to have your criminal record cleared or sealed from public view. Expungement is not available in all cases, but if granted, it can help you avoid the negative consequences of a criminal record, such as difficulty finding employment.

Your Rights and Options After a DUI Arrest

As a resident of California, it is essential to know your rights and options if you ever face a DUI arrest. A DUI arrest can have serious consequences, including the suspension of your driver’s license, hefty fines, and even imprisonment. Therefore, it is crucial to understand your rights and the available options to make informed decisions throughout the legal process.

The law enforcement officer must inform you of your Miranda Rights upon arrest. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the warning that anything you say can and will be used against you in court. It is essential to exercise your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney before answering any questions or making any statements.

The DUI Arrest Process

After a DUI arrest, you will go through a legal process that can be stressful and overwhelming. Understanding what to expect can help you prepare and make informed decisions. Here is  a comprehensive outline of the DUI arrest procedure:

  1. Booking – Law enforcement officials will transport you to the police station or jail, where they will take and search your fingerprints and photographs.
  2. Bail – You may be required to post bail or remain in custody until your court appearance.
  3. Arraignment – You will appear before a judge who will read the charges against you, and you will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  4. Pretrial – You and your attorney will meet with the prosecutor to discuss the case and possible plea bargains.
  5. Trial – If you plead not guilty, the case will go to trial, where a judge or jury will determine your guilt or innocence.

Options After a DUI Arrest

There are several options available to you after a DUI arrest. These options include:

  • Plea Bargaining – This is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant where the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in exchange for a lesser charge or reduced sentence.
  • Diversion Programs – These are programs designed to rehabilitate the defendant and avoid a criminal record. These programs typically involve drug or alcohol education, community service, and regular drug or alcohol testing.
  • Trial – If you plead not guilty, the case will go to trial, where a judge or jury will determine your guilt or innocence.

Costs Associated with a first-time California DUI

The financial costs can be substantial if convicted of a DUI in California. Understanding the indirect costs associated with a DUI charge is essential, as they can add up quickly and significantly impact your budget. Here are some of the costs you can expect to face:

  • Towing/Impound Fee: After a DUI arrest, your vehicle will likely be towed and impounded, and you’ll be responsible for paying the towing and impound fees. These costs vary depending on the impound location but typically start at over $200.
  • Cost of a DUI Treatment Program: If you are convicted of a DUI in California, you’ll be required to attend a DUI treatment program. The program’s cost can vary depending on the length and location of the program, but it typically starts at over $600.
  • Court Costs: If you are convicted of a DUI, you’ll be responsible for paying court costs. The costs can vary depending on the specific court and the severity of the offense.
  • Mandatory Contribution to California Victim Compensation Program: If you get convicted of a DUI, you must contribute $500 to the California Victim Compensation Program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installation costs: If the court requires you to install an IID in your vehicle, you’ll be responsible for the installation cost, which typically ranges from $75-$100. You’ll also be responsible for a daily monitoring fee of approximately $2.50.

Can I Get a Restricted License After a First-time California DUI?

First DUI Offense in California

If you have been convicted of a first-time DUI in California, you may wonder if you are eligible for a restricted driver’s license or can expunge your conviction. Here is what you need to know:

Requirements for a Restricted License

If convicted of a first-time DUI in California, you may be eligible for a restricted driver’s license. You can drive to and from specific locations, such as work or school, during a license suspension period. However, there are particular requirements that you must meet to be eligible for a restricted license, including:

  • Serving a mandatory license suspension period, which is typically six months
  • Enrolling in a DUI education program
  • Obtaining SR-22 insurance
  • Paying all applicable fines and fees

How Do I get an Expungement of a First-time DUI Conviction?

An expungement is a legal process that allows you to clear your criminal record of a DUI conviction. If you have been convicted of a first-time DUI in California, you may be eligible for an expungement, which can provide numerous benefits, including:

  • Making it easier to find employment
  • Making it easier to obtain professional licenses and certifications
  • Restoring your voting rights
  • Reducing the stigma associated with a DUI conviction

To be eligible for an expungement, you must have completed all of the terms of your sentence, including probation, community service, and any court-ordered programs. You must also not have any pending criminal charges or be serving time for another offense. If you meet these requirements, you can file a petition for expungement with the court that handled your case.

Benefits of Working With a DUI Attorney

A seasoned DUI attorney’s services can significantly impact your case’s result if you have been arrested for DUI in California. Here are some benefits of working with a DUI attorney:

  • Knowledge of the Law – DUI attorneys know the complex laws and regulations surrounding DUI cases. They have the knowledge and expertise to analyze the evidence against you, identify potential legal defenses, and develop a solid strategy to protect your rights and interests.
  • Protection of Your Rights – A DUI attorney will protect your rights throughout the legal process. They can advise you on what to say and do during interactions with law enforcement. They can ensure that law enforcement and prosecution do not violate your constitutional rights.
  • Reduced Penalties – DUI attorneys can reduce penalties associated with a DUI conviction, which may entail decreased fines, reduced jail time, and alternative sentencing options like drug and alcohol treatment programs or community service.

At Silver Law Firm, we pride ourselves on extensive expertise and experience handling DUI cases in California. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of DUI laws, legal procedures, and strategies for defense. We work diligently to provide our clients with the best possible outcome in their cases.

Facing a First-Time DUI Charge in California? Let Us Help You!

If you’ve been charged with a first DUI offense in California, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the legal procedures, your entitlements, and the possible ramifications of being convicted. You don’t have to face this difficult situation on your own. Seek the assistance of a trustworthy lawyer or law firm with expertise in handling DUI cases to aid you in navigating your case.

At Silver Law Firm, we have the experience and expertise to protect your rights and minimize the consequences of your DUI charge. Our skilled attorneys can help you explore your options, including plea bargaining, diversion programs, and trial. We can also assist you with getting a restricted license and expungement and reducing the costs associated with a conviction.

Don’t let a DUI charge derail your life. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.

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