If you were caught Driving Under the Influence, it means that you operated a vehicle while being impaired by alcohol or other substances. A first offense DUI is considered a misdemeanor in California, with a maximum sentence of no more than one year in county jail.
What to Expect Immediately After a DUI
Getting your first DUI offense triggers two legal proceedings against the driver:
1. A criminal trial will incur, which determines if the driver has committed a crime.
2. A DMV admin per se hearing that determines if the driver can keep their license.
A DMV hearing is separate from the criminal trial and can’t affect the criminal case or possible penalties. Since a DMV hearing isn’t automatic, a defendant has to contest the automatic suspension of their license within 10 days of the arrest to prevent a 6-month license suspension.
Winning a DMV license suspension hearing is unlikely, especially if there is proof that the defendant was under the influence, had a high BAC content, or refused to complete a DUI test.
Judges can also order a license suspension, which cannot be overturned as the appearance in court is mandatory. Once charged, the defendant must attend all proceedings, including arraignments (for severe criminal offenses), where they can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Penalties for A First-Time DUI in California
Penalties vary based on the country you reside in, but they often include the following:
• A permanent record that states your DUI conviction
• DUI school (driving school) ranging from 3-9 months
• 3-5 years of informal probation
• Fines that range from $1,500-$2,000
• 6-month license suspension or a restricted license through a DMV hearing
• 6 months in county jail (county dependent, most counties offer probation)
• Travel restrictions to multiple countries, including Canada
Under California law, the defendant cannot drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood or refuse to submit a DUI chemical test when asked. The defendant must drive in a car with an IID installed for 6 months and not commit any additional crimes or face prison time.
Some counties also require the defendant to attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, participate in MADD Victim Impact Programs or pay victim restitution fines.
Aggravating Factors and Additional Penalties
There are multiple aggravating factors that could cause your first DUI offense to come with additional penalties. The most common underlying factors include, but aren’t limited to:
• Having an excessively high BAC percentage
• Refusing a chemical test
• Causing a car or pedestrian accident
• Driving at 30 mph over the posted speed limit
• Being under the legal age to consume alcohol
• Having children in the car under the age of 14
• Causing extreme injury or death to another human
There are other sentencing options for a first-time DUI with a misdemeanor offense. Community service, house arrest, roadside work, and private city jail incarceration are all possibilities.
Indirect Costs Associated With a DUI in California
• A DUI treatment program, where costs rise depending on program length.
• Towing or impounding fees, which can get high if your car is totaled.
• Court costs that vary depending on the severity of the defense, lawyer, and courthouse.
• A mandatory $500 contribution to the California Victim Compensation Program.
• License reinstatement fees (and DMV hearing, if you choose to do it)
• An increase in your insurance premiums, which can exceed thousands of dollars.
• IID installation cost, which can range from $50-$120 depending on the county
Without a license, you may need to call a cab or rideshare program to take you to your job. In fact, you may lose your job, a portion of your income, or miss days of work due to the DUI.