California DUI laws are among the most stringent laws in the U.S. A conviction could result in a sentence, suspension of your driver's license, and fines. Also, the conviction remains in your criminal record for potential school officers, loan officers, and employers to find in your background check. This is why we at the Orange County DUI Attorney offers expert DUI defense services for people who are facing DUI charges in Seal Beach and the surrounding cities across Orange County. Get in touch with us for help.

Understanding DUI

It is illegal to drive your motor vehicle in California while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.08 percent.

The term "under the influence" means you are significantly affected by drugs, alcohol, drugs, or both. It also implies that drugs or alcohol have impaired physical or mental capabilities.

For some motorists, stringent blood alcohol concentration standards apply. Commercial motorists could be put into custody for driving with a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.04 percent. Also, the state has a zero-tolerance law that makes it unlawful for an underage motorist below twenty-one years to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.01%.

Discussed below is a comprehensive guide to numerous laws, sentences, and consequences handled by an experienced Seal Beach DUI attorney concerning drunk driving offenses.

First-Time DUI Offense

When convicted of a first-time DUI offense, you will face penalties as follows:

  • Summary or informal probation for typically three years
  • A six (6)-month sentence in county jail
  • Between $390 and $1,000 in fines
  • Nine months in a court-approved DUI school
  • The court could order you to install an ignition interlock device for six (6) months so that you can enjoy your driving privilege without any restrictions. Otherwise, you will have a 6-month license suspension, which could be converted to a restricted driver’s license. The restricted driver’s license lets you operate your car to school, DUI school, and work.
  • Work release

The judge may order probation for this offense. If the probation is granted, you will spend very little time in jail. However, you must adhere to the following probation terms and conditions:

  • You shouldn’t drive your car while drunk
  • You ought to not refuse to submit to chemical tests if put in detention for the following driving under the influence crime
  • Installing an IID in your motor vehicle for 6 months
  • You shouldn't violate any other law

You could have your probation revoked if you violate any of the above conditions. The court will reinstate your sentence that comes with a jail term.

Second Drunk Driving Offense

One of the frequently asked questions by those accused of violating California DUI laws is how penalties differ from the first conviction. Well, there is no clear answer to this question. The answer depends primarily on the facts of the case. Nonetheless, the section below gives an overview of what a defendant can expect if convicted with a second DUI offense. The penalties include:

  • Three years of informal or summary probation
  • A one-year jail sentence
  • Installing an IID for one year
  • Enrolment in a 30-month DUI school
  • A maximum of one thousand dollars in fines plus an additional one thousand dollars in penalty assessment
  • Suspension of license for 2 years. However, the license could be converted to a restricted driver's license after 12 months.

Third DUI Offense

A DUI offense is priorable. In other words, DUI consequences increase with each successive wet reckless or drunk driving conviction, which occurs within ten (10) years. Therefore, this conviction carries more severe consequences compared to a first or second time DUI offense.

Typically, a conviction carries the following penalties:

  • Summary probation that ranges between three and five years
  • Up to one (1) year in county jail
  • Installing an IID in your motor vehicle for two years
  • Enrolling a 30-month DUI program
  • Up to three thousand dollars in fines and penalty assessments
  • Revocation of the license for three years (the license could be changed to a restricted driver's license after 18 months).

Fourth-time DUI

If you are arrested for drunk driving, and you have at least three prior DUI convictions within the look-back period (which is ten years), you will face a California felony. Under VC 23152, previous convictions include a combination of any of the following:

  • Driving under the influence (VC 23152a)
  • Driving with excessive blood alcohol concentration (VC 23152b)
  • DUI causing injury which involves negligence and gross vehicular manslaughter (VC 23153)
  • Wet reckless (VC 23103.5)
  • An out-of-state conviction which if committed in California would be breaking of the above laws
  • Expunged conviction of either of the offenses mentioned above

To be convicted of felony DUI, the prosecutor ought to prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A defendant operated their car
  • With a BAC of 0.08 percent or more or while under the influence
  • The defendant had more than 3 previous convictions under the vehicle code sections listed above within 10 years

The offense carries very severe penalties like:

  • Fines that are between $390 and $1,000
  • Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender for 3 years
  • A sixteen (16)-month, two (2) or four (4) year sentence

DUI with Injury

Under VC 23153, DUI with injury is driving while drunk and as a result causing bodily hurt to another person.

To be charged with violating VC 23153, the prosecution team must establish that:

  • You broke driving under the influence laws
  • While breaking the laws, you were negligent or broke another law while driving
  • Your negligence or conduct injured somebody else

DUI with injury can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor depending on:

  • Whether it’s your first or subsequent DUI within the ten-year timeframe, and
  • The facts of your case.

Note a third-time drunk driving causing injury crime is a felony.

If convicted with a California misdemeanor, you will face:

  • A minimum of 5 days and up to a year in jail
  • Summary probation for up to five years
  • Fines that are between $390 and $5,000
  • Enrolling a three (3), nine (9), eighteen, or thirty-month alcohol education program
  • Withdrawal of driving privilege for 1 or 3 years
  • Restitution to every victim

A California felony is punishable by:

  • A maximum of four years in prison
  • A three (3) to six (6)-year sentence enhancement if any person sustained severe bodily hurt
  • A maximum three-year sentence enhancement if any individual sustained any injury
  • A strike under three strike's law if any individual apart from you sustained a serious bodily injury
  • A maximum of $5,000 in fines
  • Completion of a thirty-month alcohol education program
  • Revocation of the driver's license for 5 years
  • An HTO status for 3 years

Underage DUI

Under California VC23136, it is a crime for a motorist below twenty-one years to operate their vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.01 percent. This law applies to every beverage and medicine that has alcohol. Additionally, it applies irrespective of whether a defendant is impaired by alcohol. The defendant violates the law by having any amount of alcohol in your blood. 

Breaking the zero-tolerance law is punished by a compulsory withdrawal of driving privileges for one year (for first-time offenders).

Your driver's license could be revoked for 2 or 3 years if you have a history of breaking California DUI laws.

Commercial DUI 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d) VC, it’s unlawful to drive a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.04%. This limit applies regardless of whether you’re impaired by alcohol.

It is worth noting that this limit applies only to a motorist operating a commercial car.  When you drive a non-commercial motor vehicle like a small truck, car, motorcycle, the 0.08 percent limit applies.

If the DUI did not cause any injury, you face the following penalties:

  • Informal probation for three years
  • A six-month jail sentence
  • Up to two thousand dollars in fines and penalty assessments
  • Three months in a DUI school
  • Withdrawal of your license for one year

A second commercial DUI offense could lead to losing your driver's license for life. As a result, you should hire a Seal Beach DUI attorney immediately after your arrest.

Commercial DUI causing an injury is charged as VC 23153. It is a wobbler; it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Aggravated DUI

Aggravated DUI is facts and circumstances which, if present during the drunk driving arrest, will enhance your sentence. The facts will enhance the consequences irrespective of whether it is a first or subsequent offense. Below are the most common sentencing enhancements:

  • Minor in the vehicle - Having a child under the age of fourteen years as a passenger in your car attracts a mandatory additional 48 hours, ten days, and thirty days in jail for the first, second, and third offense, respectively.
  • You will pay double the fine for DUI in construction and safety enhancement zones
  • Driving with speed above thirty mph over the limit on a freeway or twenty mph over the speed limit on a highway attracts an additional sixty days in jail
  • Drunk driving involving death or injury to at least one person attracts a one or three-year enhancement for every individual

DMV Hearing Representation

If arrested for drunk driving in California, you will face two separate proceedings, namely: a court proceeding and a Department of Motor Vehicle hearing.  A DMV hearing is an administrative hearing. Its purpose is to decide if your driving privilege should be withdrawn or not.

Following your arrest, the police will take your license. And then provide you with a Notice of Suspension. This notice functions as a temporary driver’s license for thirty (30) days. In addition, it notifies you that you have a right to a DMV hearing provided you request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest. Failure to request the Department of Motor Vehicles hearing within the 10-day window, the license will be put off after the thirty (30) days.

Fortunately, a Seal Beach DUI attorney can represent you. The attorney will request and schedule your DMV hearing. Also, they could attend the hearing if you aren't going to testify.

Additionally, your attorney could use the legal defenses below:

You Weren't Driving

If the hearing officer didn't see you operating your car or did not subpoena a witness who saw you or no evidence established that you drove, then the hearing officer should set aside your driver's license suspension. 

The Police Didn't Conduct the Fifteen-minute Observation Period

Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations outlines how chemical tests ought to be taken, collected, and analyzed. One of these rules is that an arresting police officer ought to observe a motorist for more than fifteen (15) minutes before doing any chemical test. It is done to make sure the motorist doesn't eat, smoke, vomit, or do something that could compromise the test's results.

Failing to conduct the 15-minute observation affects the results and could mean that the BAC wasn't 0.08 percent or more during the arrest. It could lead to a win at the hearing.

A Defendant was Arrested at an Illegal Drunk Driving Checkpoint

If detained at a drunk driving checkpoint that doesn't comply with stringent legal requirements under DUI law, your arrest isn’t lawful. That means if even if you were driving while drunk, the arrest will supersede that fact. Consequently, you may win the DMV hearing. 

The Breath Testing Gadget Was Malfunction or not Properly Calibrated

According to Title 17, a breath testing gadget should undergo an accuracy test after one hundred and fifty blows or ten days. In case you submit your samples on a device that does not meet these standards, the BAC measurement is inaccurate. Consequently, the DMV hearing officer ought to reverse the license suspension.

Chemical Test Refusal

Under the implied consent law, you cannot refuse a breath test without penalties after a lawfully DUI arrest. The law applies even if you had submitted a preliminary alcohol screening.

Traditionally, the law applied to breath and blood tests. However, in 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision that held that it's illegal for a state to make it a crime to refuse a blood test without a lawful warrant.

Consequently, California imposed an additional consequence on accused of refusing to submit to chemical tests.

There are 2 consequences of chemical test refusal.

First, if you lose a DMV hearing, you face the following punishment:

  • Suspension of the driver's license for a year for a first-time DUI offense
  • Revocation of your driver's license for two years if it's a second DUI charge
  • A 3-year driver's license revocation if it's a third-time DUI offense

Second, if sentenced, you will face enhanced mandatory penalties that are consecutive and in addition to the underlying DUI sentence. The enhanced penalties include:

  • An additional forty-eight hours in jail and nine months in DUI school for a first DUI offense
  • Ninety-six hours in jail for a second drunk driving offense
  • Ten days in jail for a third-time DUI offense
  • Eighteen days in jail for a fourth-time or subsequent drunk driving offense

Your Seal Beach DUI attorney will fight these charges using legal defenses like:

  • Your arrest was illegal
  • The police did not tell you of your duty to take a chemical test
  • The refusal admonition was given in an unambiguous, unclear, and misleading manner
  • You refused because of an ailment or serious injury that was not linked to drugs or alcohol

Plea Bargaining

Very few criminal cases go to trial; most cases are resolved by defendants pleading guilty. A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor that involves the accused pleading guilty. In return, the defendant receives a lesser sentence or offense. The process is daunting, and at times you may feel pushed or rushed into pleading guilty. That's why it is essential to have a DUI defense advocate.

Your Seal Beach DUI attorney has numerous roles in the plea-bargaining stage. First, they should ensure that you understand everything that is happening in your case. They ought to explain aspects of the case like possible sentences, weaknesses, and strengths of your case, offer's terms, and the likely trial outcome.

Any competent lawyer will advise you on whether to plead guilty or not by discussing the benefits and disadvantages of going to trial. Moreover, the lawyer will assist you in making an informed decision by reviewing your case's strength. If the proof against you is strong and you are likely to be convicted, your attorney will negotiate a plea bargain unless you insist on proceeding to trial.

Hire a Seal Beach DUI Attorney Near Me

Impaired driving charges can be damaging if you don’t consider expert legal services. However, you should not make errors when looking for the best attorney to represent you. If you are in Seal Beach, you should hire an attorney that understands all the local DUI processes and has an established reputation throughout the Orange County area. We at the Orange County DUI Attorney are the best suit for any matters relating to DUIs in Seal Beach. Call 949-377-2280 to get in touch with your DUI attorney today.