What to do When you Get a DUI in California

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DUI: Driving Under the Influence

Driving Under the Influence (DUI’s) means that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in California based on the following blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentages:

  • 08% or higher – 21 years old or older operating a passenger vehicle
  • 04% or higher – operating a commercial vehicle
  • 01% or higher – individuals younger than 21 years old

California DUI laws include the consumption of illegal drugs, excessive amounts of medication with alcohol in them (such as cough syrup), prescription medication, and over-the-counter medication.

Know Your Rights When You Get Stopped

The laws in California that govern a DUI stop provide you with fewer rights compared to ordinary police contact because driving on California roadways is considered a privilege, not a right.

When you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, you are considered detained and may not leave. Stop the car in a safe place, turn it off, turn on the internal light, open the window part way, and place your hands on the wheel. If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. However, if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, you vehicle can be searched without your consent.

Your right to remain silent starts at the time of your detention – this goes for any passengers in the vehicle as well. Provide the officer with your license and car registration, but be aware that you do not have to answer any further questions. Politely let the officer know if you wish to remain silent.

Expect the officer to ask you to perform a field sobriety test. Common tests include touching your nose with your eyes closed, standing on one foot, and walking on a straight line. These tests are voluntary and you may decline because authorities can use the results against you to strengthen their case.

It is important to note that if you have been officially arrested for driving under the influence, you must submit to a chemical test – at the time of the stop it will be a breath test. Refusing the chemical test after arrest will subject you to strong penalties such as automatic suspension of your driver’s license.

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What To Do When You Get a California DUI

If you have been arrested, you will be booked and either released on bail or on a written promise to appear in court on an assigned date. Police will often hold you in a jail cell for several hours after your DUI arrest before releasing you.

The arresting officer will complete his/her report and submit it to the local prosecuting agency for review. The prosecutor will either decline to file charges or formally charge you with a California DUI.

If you are unsure of what to do when you get a DUI charge, the first step should be to call 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free consultation with an experienced DUI defense lawyer. With the help of your attorney, you will then need to request a DMV administrative hearing to challenge the automatic suspension of your driver’s license, within 10 days of your arrest. Next, prepare for your court appearance by reviewing the strongest possible DUI defenses with your lawyer.

Punishment for a California DUI

If you plead guilty to a DUI or are found guilty by a jury, the consequences will vary depending on whether you have prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, and the facts of your case – for example, whether anyone was hurt as a result of you driving under the influence.

A 1st offense misdemeanor DUI may result in up to 6 months in county jail; $390-1000 in fines, license suspension for 6-10 months; 3 or 9 months of DUI school. On the other extreme, a DUI that results in injury is a felony and punishable by 16 months to 16 years in state prison; $1015-5000 in fines plus restitution to injured parties; suspension of license for 5 years; and 18 or 30 months of DUI school.