California is strict when punishing drunk driving. The DMV  also suspends your license and records any DUI violations on your record. The criminal penalties for a DUI will often include either incarceration or probation. In addition, you will have to pay fines and lose your driving privileges. Repeat offenses lead to an increase in your insurance premiums or cancellation of your plan since you are termed a high-risk driver. These consequences will significantly affect your life; therefore, you need to have a Trabuco Canyon DUI Attorney to fight these charges with you.

DUI Overview

Driving under the influence is a crime in California. When charged for the offense, the prosecution will have to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

  • You drove a vehicle
  • You were under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs

The prosecution will use the testimony of toxicology experts, the arresting officers, and other witnesses to prove these elements. Some of the evidence might include:

  • Your performance on the field sobriety tests
  • Your BAC level
  • Physical signs of intoxication

The DUI process begins with a traffic stop at a DUI checkpoint or if an officer has probable cause to stop you. The officer has probable cause to stop you if he or she notices:

  • You are committing a traffic violation
  • Your car has a problem
  • You are driving recklessly

Once you stop, the officer can investigate a DUI if you display physical signs of intoxication such as an alcoholic odor, slurred speech, or red, watery eyes. He or she will request you to step out of your car and will conduct some field sobriety tests.

He or she may conduct a PAS test to measure your alcohol level. You can refuse to submit this test unless:

  • You are stopped at a DUI checkpoint
  • You are an underage driver
  • You are on probation for a DUI

If the officer believes you are intoxicated, he or she will arrest you and take you in for booking. The officer will also create a report, which the prosecution will use to determine whether to file charges. If the prosecution files charges, then you need to have a Trabuco Canyon DUI Attorney to fight these charges.

 Your lawyer will fight through the pretrial and trial stages to negotiate a better outcome for you. For example, he or she can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to have your charges dismissed or dropped. In some cases, some of the additional charged will be dropped. The defense and prosecution will come to a settlement with a predetermined outcome if you plead guilty. In some cases, you will proceed to trial for predetermined charges. Plea bargains eliminate the uncertainty of a trial.

Your lawyer will inform you about all the plea offers, the consequences, and the alternative. You will make the final decision about whether you will take the plea or proceed to trial.

First DUI offense

A first DUI offense refers to the first offense within ten years. The ten-year period is the lookback period California applies on all DUI offenses. A first DUI offense is usually a misdemeanor, especially if there are no aggravating factors.

When a first offense has aggravating factors such as injury or death of another person, the offense can be charged as a felony. A first offense subjects you to both administrative and criminal consequences. If you caused the death or injury of another person, the injured person might also sue you for damages.

The first penalty you get for a DUI offense is the DMV license suspension, which takes effect in thirty days following your arrest. In most cases, the arresting officer will issue you with a notification of suspension and confiscate your driver’s license. You will have ten days after the arrest to challenge the license suspension by scheduling a hearing with the DMV.

Some of the consequences of a first DUI offense include:

  • Summary probation for three to five years
  • A jail term of up to six months
  • Six months of license suspension
  • Mandatory DUI school for three to nine months
  • One day MADD course
  • Fines and court assessment fees which could rise to $2000

You can avoid the license suspension by installing an ignition interlock device for six months. If you are convicted and had won a DMV hearing, the court will order your license to be suspended. However, if you are acquitted, your driving privileges will be restored.

Your insurance provider might increase your insurance premiums or cancel your plan. If your first DUI offense has aggravating factors, then the penalties will be tougher. If you cause injury to another person, then the offense becomes a wobbler. In most cases, the court will charge a first offense with injury as a misdemeanor unless there are aggravating circumstances that warrant a felony conviction. Some of these circumstances include causing serious injury or death of another person. When convicted as a misdemeanor, the penalties include:

  • Informal probation
  • A county jail term of a minimum of five days to one year
  • An alcohol program for 18 to 30 months
  • License suspension of up to three years
  • Restitution to the injured victim
  • Additional sentencing for every injured party

The court may give alternative sentencing, including community service, SCRAM monitoring, or time in a private jail.

Second DUI Offense

When you commit a second offense within ten years of the first offense, you will be charged with a second DUI offense. A second DUI offense typically has heavier fines and stricter penalties. However, there are still similarities, such as the mandatory DMV suspension, after thirty days if you do not schedule a hearing.

You can attend the hearing or have your Trabuco Canyon DUI Attorney represent you. During the hearing, the DMV will examine your case to determine whether:

  • You were driving under the influence
  • You were lawfully arrested

A DMV hearing is not as formal as a criminal proceeding and can be conducted over the form. However, this does not limit the possibility of the consequences of a license suspension. If you win the hearing, the DMV restores your driving privileges. If you lose, the license will be suspended for one year. You can continue driving by requesting a restricted license of installing an IID.

The criminal penalties for a second DUI offense without aggravating circumstances include:

  • Misdemeanor probation for three to five years
  • A county jail term of 96 hours to one year
  • A mandatory requirement to attend AA classes or community service
  • Mandatory DUI school for 18 to 30 months
  • License suspension for two years or an IID device for one year

If you refused to submit a chemical test, your license would be suspended for two years without the possibility of installing an IID. Other aggravating factors that will significantly affect your sentence and the penalties include:

  • Your BAC was .15% or higher
  • You are an underage driver
  • You caused an accident while driving drunk
  • Excessive speed
  • You had a minor (under 14 years) in the car

Before imposing additional penalties, the court will examine your DUI history and the facts of the offense.

If you are a commercial driver, the second DUI will lead to the suspension of your license for life. You, however, have the chance to fight these charges and save your license. Note also that the legal limit when operating a commercial vehicle is .04%.

Third DUI Offense

When you are arrested for a third DUI offense in California, the penalties increase even though the offense is still a misdemeanor. At this point, the court will treat you as a habitual traffic offender and will likely see you as a person with an alcohol use disorder.

Like with the first and second offense, you need to schedule a DMV hearing to challenge the administrative license suspension. If you lose the hearing or do not request a hearing, the DMV will suspend your license for a minimum of one year

  • Three to five years’ summary probation
  • Fines of up to $2800
  • A mandatory DUI program for 30 months
  • At least 120 days in county jail
  • Installing an IID for two years
  • License revocation or suspension

If your license is revoked, you will have to reapply for a new license at the end of the revocation period.

You will also be required to register as a habitual traffic offender for at least three years, which could mean higher auto insurance premiums.

The first, second, and third DUI offenses are usually charged as misdemeanors unless there are aggravating circumstances in your case. With the right Trabuco Canyon DUI Attorney, you can have these charges reduced to lesser offenses such as wet or dry reckless. In addition, your attorney will fight for alternative sentencing or exclusion of some charges. If you are facing a potential felony conviction for an aggravating factor such as DUI with injury, your lawyer can fight for the charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Fourth DUI Offense

The fourth DUI offense in ten years is charged as a felony. The penalties are, therefore, stiffer and could include a term in state prison. The penalties include:

  • A state prison term of up to four years
  • Fines
  • License suspension for up to four year
  • Designation as a habitual traffic offender
  • Mandatory DUI classes for 18 to 30 months

During the criminal proceedings, the prosecution will have to prove the elements of a DUI in addition to proving that you have prior DUI convictions. Note that the convictions will still be counted even if your record was expunged.


DUI Vehicular Manslaughter and DUI Murder

When someone dies because of an accident you caused while driving drunk, the court can convict you of either vehicular manslaughter or Watson murder. The two offenses are serious and have serious consequences. They subject you to both criminal and civil consequences (if the victims choose to sue).

The prosecution decides to charge murder or manslaughter charges depending on:

  • Whether you have previously received a Watson admonition
  • You intended to kill the victim
  • The level of negligence with which you acted
  • The circumstances of the offense for example, if you were committing another crime

DUI vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence

DUI vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a felony punishable by formal probation, a state prison sentence of four, six, or ten years and fines as high as $10,000. Previous convictions for offenses such as a DUI causing injury might lead to a state prison term of fifteen years to life. In addition to these consequences, you will lose your driving privileges for at least three years. If your defense is successful, your charges can be reduced to DUI vehicular manslaughter, which is a wobbler.

The penalties when convicted as a misdemeanor include a maximum county jail term of one year, fines, and license suspension. As a felony, you face a maximum of four years in state prison.

DUI murder is a form of second-degree, which is charged based on implied malice aforethought. The prosecution will attempt to prove that your actions implied the intent to kill another person. For example, drinking, driving, and doing so at excessive speeds on a busy highway is likely to cause a fatal accident. If you ignore this danger to the lives of other road users, you might be charged with DUI murder if someone dies.

The chances of being charged with a DUI murder increase when:

  • You have a prior DUI conviction and were given a Watson admonition during a DUI school
  • You intentionally drive under the influence
  • At the time of driving, you are aware that drunk driving can be life-threatening
  • You act with a conscious indifference to human life

If the prosecution cannot satisfactorily prove the elements of a DUI murder, the charges can be reduced to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. However, if it does satisfy the elements, you will face potential penalties, including:

  • A prison term of 15 years to life
  • A fine of about $10,000
  • A strike
  • Additional penalties for each surviving victim

Serving a sentence in state prison disqualifies you from having your records expunged. You, therefore, need a Trabuco Canyon DUI attorney defending you to fight for a better outcome, such as reduced charges. However, if you are still convicted, your lawyer can help you seek other forms of relief such as parole or pardon from the governor.


DUI Probation

When you are convicted for a DUI, your lawyer will attempt to get you probation instead of jail time. During sentencing, the judge will set the sentence you are to serve in jail but may allow you to be on probation in lieu of jail or prison sentence.  There are several benefits of probation, including:

  • Probation allows you to continue working or going to school
  • Probation is cheaper for the criminal justice system
  • You have access to rehabilitation for alcohol and drug use

You can be placed on formal or informal probation. Most misdemeanor DUI offenses are punishable by informal probation. Informal probation has minimal to no supervision and is free for the probationer. However, if you are sentenced to formal probation, you are under the supervision of a probation officer. You will also have to pay monthly fees while on formal probation. If you were convicted for a more serious offense such as a DUI murder, you are not eligible for probation.

While on probation, you will have to adhere to several conditions such as:

  • You are not to commit additional crimes while on probation
  • You will be on probation for three to five years
  • You are to pay the required court assessment fees, fines, and victim restitution
  • You will give consent to DUI breath and blood tests including PAS tests
  • You should not drive with a detectable BAC (.01%)
  • You will have to attend an approved DUI school for up to thirty months
  • Your license suspension is still active unless you install an IID or apply for a restricted license

If you violate these conditions, the court might revoke your probation and put you in jail or prison. Your lawyer can also help you file for early termination of probation. Early termination of probation allows you to live without the burden of a criminal conviction, especially if you expunge your criminal record. It can also allow you to travel out of state if traveling was one of the probation limitations.

If you request early termination of probation, the judge will consider several factors to determine whether to grant your request. These include:

  • Your criminal history
  • The severity of the offense
  • Your behavior during probation including remorse for your actions and the steps you have taken into becoming a law-abiding citizen
  • Your ability to find better employment, education or to receive benefits


Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

While you can represent yourself for DUI charges, it is smarter to have an experienced attorney defending you. DUI laws are a complicated area of law that not many people understand. It would also be unrealistic to expect that you can learn these laws and defend yourself at the same time. Therefore, we advise you to hire a Trabuco Canyon DUI Attorney to handle your case. Reach out to the Orange County DUI Attorney at 949-377-2280 for a consultation.