If you or a loved one have recently been arrested in Los Angeles or Southern California on a DUI charge, or for another serious driving offense, you could be facing severe repercussions upon a conviction. 

Not only could your driving privileges be at risk, but you could also be facing heavy fines, jail or prison time, months-long DUI class requirements, and a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to find gainful employment.

With so much at stake, California driving offense charges should never be taken lightly. And only by securing the services of an experienced DUI and driving crimes defense lawyer can you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome to your case.

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have comprehensive knowledge of California laws and local L.A. Area court processes affecting DUI and driving crimes cases. We have helped numerous other clients in the area win the best possible outcome in court, and we can do the same for you. 

For a free consultation regarding the details of your case, contact us 24/7 at 310-848-1376. We are standing by ready to help.

California Driving Crimes

There are a great variety of driving crimes you can potentially be arrested and charged with under the California Penal Code and Vehicle Code.

These include such offenses as:

  • Reckless Driving (VC 23103), which is defined as "operating a motor vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others and of their property." When reckless driving is committed while intoxicated or when it results in the injury or death of another person, it is punished particularly severely.
  • Driving Without a License (VC 12500). This means to drive when no valid California license has been issued to you and you are required to have one. It is distinct from failing to present a license, which you have at home or another location.
  • Driving on a Suspended License (VC 14601) regards operating a motor vehicle when your California license has already been suspended or revoked for another offense. The underlying offense that led to the suspension will affect how severely this crime is punished, with DUI suspension increasing the penalty.
  • Evading an Officer (VC 2800.2). This crime is defined as willfully and knowingly fleeing a pursuing police officer in your vehicle or refusing to stop, when the police car and officer's uniform are "distinctively marked" and a red light and siren are in operation.
  • Hit and Run (VC 20001 & VC 20002). In California, you are required to stop and offer assistance if you are involved in an auto accident. You must also exchange pertinent contact information. Failure to do this when you knew you were aware of the accident's occurrence (barring an emergency situation or inability to safely stop) is a criminal offense. VC 20001 covers hit and run causing injury or death, while VC 20002 covers hit and run causing property damage only.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter (PC 192) is defined as causing the death of another person in an auto accident due to your negligent or reckless driving. In more extreme cases, the charge may be gross vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and be a felony.
  • Watson Murder (PC 187) is the crime of causing the death of another person via a motor vehicle accident when you were not only negligent and intoxicated but also were aware of the risks drunk or drugged driving poses to others. If you have a previous DUI conviction and then get a second DUI in which you cause the death of another person, it will likely be charged as "Watson Murder," which is equivalent to second-degree murder.

We have briefly covered a variety of California driving offenses to give you an idea of the possible charges people can face, and we have noted where DUI intersects with some of these offenses. However, DUI itself is the most common serious driving crime and will be covered in greater detail below.

California DUI Offenses

In California, DUI defined in one of two ways. First, under VC 23152a, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while any amount of drugs or alcohol in your system impair your mental or physical ability to drive the vehicle as safely as could a sober person. Second, under VC 23152b, a DUI is defined as driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, regardless of actual impairment.

Also note that, for commercial drivers, the standard is twice as strict (.04% BAC is a DUI), and for those under the legal drinking age of 21, even .01% BAC qualifies as a DUI.

To prove you guilty of DUI, either or both of these statues can be charged. 

When arrested for DUI, your license will be confiscated by the arresting officer, and you will be given a 30-day "pink" license in its place. You have 10 days to contact the DMV and inform them you want a hearing the challenge the DUI before you will lose that right forever.

The administrative hearing can result in your DUI being dismissed or retained. If retained, the suspension will be extended for months or years, depending on the exact nature of the offense. But note that you can still fight the DUI in court even if you lose the hearing, and that conversely, you can still be charged in court even if you win the DMV hearing.

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the ins and outs of the legal process, both of the DMV hearing and of an actual DUI trial. We know how to put you in the best possible position to get your DUI dismissed or, if necessary, to successfully negotiate for a reduction in charge or a lighter sentence.

First-Time DUI

A first DUI, if not an aggravated offense, is a misdemeanor. It is punishable as follows:

  • A 6 to 10 month long driver's license suspension.
  • A fine of $390 to $1,000.
  • A jail term of up to 6 months.
  • Summary probation for 3 to 5 years.
  • A 3 to 9 month state-approved DUI class.

A good lawyer can help you get the charges dismissed via a variety of defense strategies, including:

  • The breathalyzer test and/or FSTs are unreliable for various reasons.
  • The defendant had a still-rising BAC and would have had a BAC under .08 while actually driving.
  • The BAC blood test was at or near BAC, and an independent re-test shows a lower result that is under .08.
  • Police failed to follow proper Title 17 procedures in collecting, storing, and monitoring blood samples. Thus, they may have been contaminated.
  • Medications the defendant was using, mouth wash, a medical condition, or other factors through off BAC readings.
  • Police made the traffic stop or arrest without probable cause.
  • Police failed to inform the defendant he/she was under arrest before interrogating, did not read the arrestee his Miranda Rights, or otherwise violated his rights or illegally collected evidence.

But even when a dismissal or acquittal cannot be obtained, a good DUI defense lawyer can help you gain:

  • A restricted license that allows you to drive to/from work and DUI School.
  • A shorter suspension period.
  • Alternative sentencing that lets you avoid actual jail time.
  • A plea bargain that allows you to keep the conviction off your official record if you fulfill various terms of probation.

A first-time unaggravated DUI is the least severe DUI offense, but its consequences can still be severe. An experienced DUI lawyer can help you avoid the worst sentencing elements or get the charge completely dismissed.

Second DUI

A second-offense DUI is still a misdemeanor but is punished more harshly as follows:

  • A 2-year license suspension, with a restricted license being allowed only after the first year is completed.
  • A fine of $390 to $1,000.
  • Up to 12 months in county jail, with 96 hours of actual jail time required. 
  • Probation for 3 to 5 years.
  • A DUI School of 18 to 30 month duration.

Third DUI

A third-time DUI is punishable by:

  • A 3-year license suspension, with a restricted license possible only after the first 18 months.
  • A fine of $390 to $1,000.
  • Up to 12 months in jail, with 120 days actual jail time being mandatory.
  • 3 to 5 years of summary probation.
  • A DUI class of 30 months duration.
  • Being designated a Habitual Traffic Offender, which increases penalties for any further driving crimes.
  • Oftentimes, the installation at your own expense of an ignition interlock device (IID).

4th and Subsequent DUI

A fourth of subsequent DUI will be a felony in California. It is also possible for the circumstances of the case to make less than a 4th DUI a felony that would be punished the same way.

Possible sentencing elements for a 4th DUI include:

  • 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
  • A fine of $390 to $1,000.
  • A 4-year license revocation.
  • Possibly being designated a Habitual Traffic Offender.
  • Possibly being required to install an IID.
  • If a fatality was caused by your felony DUI, you could get as severe a sentence as life in prison.

DUI With Injury

When a DUI causes another person bodily injury, it is punished differently than an ordinary DUI, in accordance with VC 23153.

If the injury is very serious or if you have a previous criminal record, DUI With Injury will likely be a felony, but otherwise a misdemeanor.

As a misdemeanor, DUI With Injury is punishable by:

  • From 5 days to 12 months in county jail.
  • A $390 to $1,000 fine.
  • 3 to 5 years of summary probation.
  • 18 to 30 months of DUI School.
  • A license suspension of from 1 to 3 years.
  • Full restitution to all injured parties.

As a felony, DUI With Injury is punishable by:

  • 16 months to 10 years in state prison. The prison term can be extended further if multiple people were injured of if the injury was very severe.
  • A fine of $1,015 to $5,000.
  • An 18 to 30 month DUI School.
  • Being labeled a Habitual Traffic Offender for 3 years.
  • Full restitution to all inured parties.

Other DUI Facts to Be Aware Of

Also note that there are a number of other possible aggravating factors that can increase the severity of a DUI sentence. These include:

  • A BAC at or above 15%.
  • Refusal to submit to the chemical test.
  • Your DUI being the cause of an accident.
  • DUI while driving at excessively high speeds.
  • Committing DUI with a child under 14 in the car.
  • You were under 21 when you committed DUI.

If you get DUI probation (and avoid jail time or have only minimal jail time), be aware of basic probationary conditions as follows:

  • You cannot drive with any measurable BAC level. You are no longer under the .08 rule during DUI probation.
  • You must submit to BAC tests when asked to by an officer even when others not on DUI probation would not be required to do so.
  • Any additional crimes committed during probation could end probation and result in actual jail time.
  • You may be required to install an IID for up to 4 years. In L.A. County, all DUI convictions require an IID.
  • You may be required to attend MADD, AA, or other drug/alcohol abuse programs.

Finally, alternative sentencing elements that can take the place of jail or prison time include:

  • A specific number of hours of community service.
  • Cal-Trans roadside work.
  • Living in a "sober living residence."
  • House arrest with electronic monitoring.
  • Being incarcerated in a private jail instead of a more dangerous public one.

Contact Us Today for Help

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand how to build you a solid defense against all manner of DUI and other driving crime charges. Our team of experienced defense lawyers will fight tenaciously in your best interests from day one and win you the best possible outcome to your case, whether that be a dismissal, acquittal, or a reduced charge or sentence.

To learn more or for a free consultation, do not hesitate to call us anytime 24/7/365 at 310-848-1376.