Some states call it DWI, or “driving while intoxicated.” Others, like California, use the acronym DUI for “driving under the influence.” Whichever term you use, the bottom line remains the same: drugged or drunk driving in California is a crime. Even for a first offense, a California DUI conviction can result in fines, jail time, the suspension of your driver’s license, and other costly consequences. If you or one of your family members was arrested for DUI in Ventura County, you need to approach the charges with help from an experienced California DUI lawyer.
CA Fines and Jail Time for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
A person can be charged with DUI in California for operating any vehicle with a BAC (“blood alcohol content”) measuring 0.08% or greater. For operators of commercial vehicles, such as professional truck drivers, the BAC threshold decreases from 0.08% to 0.04%. In addition to prohibiting drunk driving, state laws also:
- Ban driving “while under the influence of any drug.”
- Ban anyone “who is addicted to the use of any drug” from driving a vehicle.
Penalties for a first offense DUI in California can include:
- Up to six months of jail time. As an alternative, the offender could potentially be sentenced to work release, which is similar to community service.
- Anywhere from $390 to almost $5,000 in fines, depending on the situation.
- Three to five years of formal probation, which involves a mix of written reports and in-person meetings with probation officers. You will be expected to comply with certain rules while you are on probation, including avoiding additional arrests for DUI or any other offense.
- Participation in courses like the AB-541 Program, a three-month program for first-time DUI offenders which involves weekly classes, group sessions, individual interviews, and mandatory participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or equivalent programs. You will have to pay a fee to participate in the program.
- Your driver’s license will be suspended for four months. The arresting officer will confiscate your license. He or she is required by law to notify the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) by sending the DMV a copy of the Order of Suspension. At this point, you have 10 days to request an administrative hearing, where you will have the opportunity to challenge the suspension or revocation of your license. If your license was suspended or revoked without reason, your license will be returned to you. Otherwise, your license may be reinstated once the suspension period ends, provided you file the necessary documents and pay the reissue fee ($125 for drivers over the age of 21). You should receive a temporary license, which will allow you to drive for 30 days from the date the Order of Suspension was issued.
Aggravating Factors That Enhance Penalties for Intoxicated Driving
It’s important to keep in mind that the penalties described above can increase substantially if there are aggravating factors, such as:
- Causing death or injury, which could also lead to being charged with manslaughter, as well as a civil suit independent of any criminal charges.
- Committing child endangerment. Vehicle Code § 23572(a) is very clear in establishing that additional penalties may be imposed when a person commits DUI with a minor under 14 years old in the car.
- Committing DUI with a high BAC (0.15% or greater).
- Committing “hit and run,” which means leaving the scene of an injury accident without disclosing information, notifying law enforcement, and calling for medical help.
- Committing other crimes or traffic violations while committing DUI, such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, or possession of controlled substances.
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test, blood test, or urine test. Such refusal, while technically within your rights, constitutes a violation of the “implied consent” you gave to be tested when you first received your driver’s license. If you refuse the test, the license suspension period triples from four months to one year.
- Violating your probation or parole for an earlier offense.
It’s also important for defendants to be aware that Ventura County is extremely aggressive when it comes to enforcing tough penalties for DUI offenders. While some California counties tend to avoid imposing jail time, Ventura County often takes the opposite approach.
The Ventura, California Criminal Defense Attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth are Ready to Fight for You
In light of the legal challenges this situation presents for defendants, it’s critical to make sure that your case is being handled by a tough attorney with extensive knowledge of DUI charges in Ventura County. Our Ventura criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have more than 20 years of experience handling Ventura County DUI arrests, and are prepared to face any challenge. Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation.