People often ask “what are the penalties for a DUI?
First, you need to know that the term ‘DUI’ is a generic term for ‘driving under the influence’. In California, a DUI is broken down into the following charges, and a conviction of either of them is a DUI conviction:
Vehicle Code §23152 (a) (driving while under the influence of alcohol). This is the common law generic charge for DUI. With this charge, it really does not matter what the blood alcohol level is; the only thing that matters is whether there is evidence that the driver was “under the influence” of alcohol at the time of driving.
Vehicle Code §23152 (b) (driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more). With this charge, it does not matter if the driver is under the influence of alcohol. The driver can be sober as day, but if the government can prove that the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of at least .08% or more, then the driver can be found guilty of this charge. Essentially it is driving with an illegal level.
Vehicle Code §23152 (c) (driving while addicted to drugs). This charge if for a hard-core drug user that is addicted to drugs.
Vehicle Code §23152 (d) (driving commercial vehicle with blood alcohol concentration of .04% or more). This charge is similar to VC23152(b) above, the only difference is the lower BAC level for commercial drivers.
Vehicle Code §23152 (e) (driving with a “passenger for hire” as a passenger while having a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or more). This charge is similar to VC23152(b) above, the only difference is the lower BAC level for drivers of Taxis, Uber, and Lyft type vehicles.
Vehicle Code §23152 (f) (driving while under the influence of any drug). This charge is similar to VC23152(a) above, however it primarily deals with a driver under the influence of any drug, which includes marijuana, prescription medications, and illegal drugs. With this charge, it really does not matter what the drug level is; the only thing that matters is whether there is evidence that the driver was “under the influence” of a drug at the time of driving.
Vehicle Code §23152 (g) (driving while under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug). This charge deals with a driver that may have some alcohol in their system along with a drug. The alcohol level does not have to be at the .08% level. It is being under the influence of the “combined effect” of the alcohol and the drug that is illegal.
A conviction on any of the above charges is a DUI conviction. Penalties for a DUI (VC 23152) conviction can vary a great deal, depending on whether you are facing your first DUI, if you have prior DUI convictions, whether you are being charged with misdemeanor or felony DUI, the facts of your specific case, and your criminal history.
Misdemeanor DUI Penalties:
Most first, second, and third DUI cases are prosecuted as misdemeanors. Penalties for a misdemeanor VC23152 DUI conviction may include, but are not limited to:
- informal summary probation for three to five years,
- up to one year in a county jail,
- a minimum base fine of $390 plus penalty assessments and Court add on fees,
- successful completion of an alcohol class (3, 6, 9, 18, or 30 month),
- a six-month to three-year driver license suspension,
- installation of an ignition interlock device,
- wearing a SCRAM device;
- attend a HAM (Hospital and Morgue) Program
- attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel class,
- as well as increased insurance costs.
Felony DUI Penalties:
DUI charges are typically filed as a felony if (1) you were involved in an auto accident and you caused an injury, (2) you have three prior DUI convictions in the last 10 years making the new DUI a fourth, or (3) you had a prior DUI felony conviction in the past ten-year period.
Penalties for a felony DUI in California include, but are not limited to:
- formal supervised probation up to 5 years,
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, in state prison (or longer depending on the facts and special allegations)
- driver license revocation by the DMV, and
- designation as a habitual traffic offender by the DMV.
“Aggravating factors” are facts and circumstances that make the DUI penalties worse by increasing the punishment. The most common aggravating factors include:
- prior DUI convictions,
- high blood alcohol levels,
- reckless driving,
- excessive speeding,
- driving with a suspended license,
- causing injuries or property damage,
- and having a child in the vehicle at the time of the offense.
- extensive criminal record for other offenses can dissuade a judge or prosecutor from being lenient.
Basically, mitigating factors are facts or circumstances that reduce your penalties. Here are some examples of mitigating factors:
- you were impaired because of a lawfully prescribed medication,
- you were barely over the legal limit,
- you enrolled in and completed a voluntary substance abuse treatment program after the arrest.
The Judge and prosecutor may lean towards a sentence at the lower end of the allowable range. Judges and prosecutors might also look to factors like whether you are gainfully employed or a good student in deciding on an appropriate sentence or plea bargain agreement.
California DUI law is one of the most complex areas of criminal law in the State of California. Because of the complexity of the law and the seriousness of the penalties associated with a DUI conviction, it is in your best interest to have an expert DUI defense attorney represent you.