If you are facing DUI charges in Los Angeles for the very first time, it is important to understand two things: you are facing very serious and, potentially, long-term consequences if convicted; and, your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome are relatively high with a first offense, especially with an experienced DUI defense attorney fighting on your side.
To help you better understand California DUI law, as it applies to a first-time offense, we have summarized the most important relevant information below for your perusal:
Defining "DUI" in California
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and (b), and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
- You were "driving" a motor vehicle under the influence (California Vehicle Code section 23152(a)) OR with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher (California Vehicle Code section 23152(b)
California Vehicle Code 23152(a), one of California's two main DUI laws, makes it a California crime to "drive 'under the influence' of an alcoholic beverage.” 'Under the influence' means that due to alcohol consumption, your physical or mental abilities are so impaired that you can no longer drive the way a cautious and normal sober person would be expected to in the same situation.
By contrast, California Vehicle Code section 23152(b) sets forth the 'per se' definition of DUI, which in most but not all cases is "driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher."
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(c), and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
- You were "driving" while addicted to drugs.
Under California Vehicle Code section 23152(c), driving while addicted to drugs is criminalized as a DUI in California. A conviction for driving while addicted will subject you to the same driving under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances probation and penalties as in "typical" DUI cases. However, California Vehicle Code section 23152(c) penalties don't apply to those who are participating in Court approved drug treatment programs.
California Vehicle Code section 23152(c) states: "It is against the law for anyone who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. This section shall not apply to a person who is participating in treatment in a Court approved narcotic/drug program."
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d), and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
- You were "driving" a commercial vehicle under the influence (California Vehicle Code section 23152(a)) OR with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .04% or higher (California Vehicle Code section 23152(d)
California Vehicle Code section 23152(d) VC states: "It is against the law for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in their blood to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) and (f), and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
* You were "driving" under the influence of a controlled substance OR a combined influence of a drug and alcohol.
California Vehicle Code section 23152(e) makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs. California Vehicle Code section 23152(f) makes it a crime to drive under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol.
California Vehicle Code section 23152(e) states: "It is illegal for anyone to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any drug."
California Vehicle Code section 23152(f) states: "It is illegal for anyone to drive a vehicle while under the combined influence of any drug and alcohol."
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23140, and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
California Vehicle Code section 23140 makes it an Infraction for anyone under 21 to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05% or higher. This underage 21 DUI law is often referred to as “under 21 DUI with a BAC of 0.05.”
California Vehicle Code section 23140 states: "It is illegal for anyone who is under the age of 21 to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05% or higher."
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23136, and other related statutes, driving under the influence is defined as follows:
- You were under age and "driving" a vehicle with any blood alcohol content (BAC) at all, defined more practically as .01% or higher.
California Vehicle Code section 23136 is California's "zero tolerance" law on underage drinking and driving. It is illegal if you are under the age of 21, and you drive with ANY detectable amount of alcohol in your system. Actual impairment due to alcohol consumption or being "under the influence" is irrelevant in this case.
California Vehicle code section 23136 states: "Notwithstanding California Vehicle code sections 23152 and 23153, it is illegal for anyone to drive a motor vehicle who is under the age of 21 and who has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of a 0.01% or higher, as measured by a Preliminary Breath Testing device or other chemical test."
So, If the prosecution can prove any of the above-listed Vehicle code crimes and all their respective elements, you could be facing a conviction for DUI.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, The Law Offices of Ed Blum knows how to challenge the prosecution's case; whether it's exploiting faulty police reports, exposing unreliable breath/blood test results, proving unlawful traffic stops and arrests, or exploiting other weaknesses in the case filed against you.
Furthermore, we know how to skillfully negotiate to achieve a lighter sentence or reduce the charges where a dismissal or acquittal is not reasonable to expect. Keep in mind that Ed Blum has achieved over 100 criminal case dismissals in one 12 month period! We have never met another attorney who can honestly make that claim.
"Administrative Per Se" DMV Hearing
At your DMV hearing, the question of whether the DUI charges brought against you have enough merit to justify keeping your license suspended will be addressed. If you win the hearing, you will get back your driving privileges but could still lose them if your case is later prosecuted and you are convicted of a DUI. That might be somewhat unlikely, but it is possible.
If you lose the hearing, your driver's license will not be restored for another 30 days or longer. You could still challenge the decision by taking your case to court, but you would be without driving privileges in California meanwhile; that is, unless or until you win your case.
Also, it is important to remember that you have only 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a DMV hearing. If you fail to request a DMV Hearing within 10 days of your arrest, then 30 days after your arrest your driving privilege will automatically be suspended. And please understand that these 10 days include weekends, holidays, and everything. They are not “business days.”
Possible Court Penalties for a First Time DUI in Los Angeles County
The precise sentence handed down for a first-time DUI conviction may vary based on the particular circumstances of your case, the Judge presiding over your case, the prosecutor assigned to your case, and the skill level of your defense attorney.
But here are the basic obligations of a "prototypical" first-offense DUI conviction:
- Fines and fees of anywhere from $1,900,00 to $2,100.00;
- 3 years of Informal Stay Out of Trouble Probation;
- Mandatory attendance and completion of a state-approved 3 month, 6 month or 9 month DUI class;
- Possible attendance and completion of a 2 hour MADD VIP class OR attendance and completion of an 8 hour Hospital and Morgue program
* Note that you must pay $500 for a three-month long court approved DUI class, and unless this program is completed, you can never have you driving privileges restored. Taking the class is also a prerequisite for getting only a 30-day license suspension instead of the 6 to 10 month suspension that would otherwise apply. Finally, note that for those convicted of driving with a .20% or higher BAC, a nine-month long DUI class is required.
* Also note that maximized penalties can result in $3,600 or more in fines and fees, up to 6 months in a county jail, a 6 to 10 month license suspension, and mandatory installation of an IID (ignition interlock device) on your vehicle, which will likely cost you around $800. IIDs require you to submit a breath sample before being able to start your vehicle, and a record of false attempts to start the ignition (due to any measurable amount of alcohol) is kept by the device and reported to the DMV and/or Court handling your case.
Additional Penalties for Special Situations
Besides what was mentioned just above, there are other penalties that can apply to a first-time DUI conviction under particular circumstances, including these:
- Aggravated DUI. When another person is killed or receives serious bodily injury in an auto accident in which you were involved and driving under the influence, the punishment gets steeper. This is an aggravated DUI and is charged as a felony. For a first-time offense, it is very likely that a minimum 16 month term in state prison could be sentenced, and for subsequent offenses, this rises to an additional five years in State Prison. Also for subsequent offenses, all previous DUI and reckless driving convictions will work to increase the prison term. It is possible that the charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor (providing Great Bodily Injury is NOT alleged as an enhancement), but you will need a good lawyer to negotiate for this (and some jail/prison time may still be unavoidable).
- Child Endangerment: California Vehicle Code Section 23572 provides for an additional misdemeanor charge of child endangerment if a child passenger below the age of 14 was with you in the vehicle during your DUI. In this case, you cannot avoid jail time completely. At least 48 hours is mandatory, but a good defense attorney can help you avoid the possible 6 to 12 month jail term. Also, if aggravating factors lead to a felony child endangerment charge, you could face 2 to 6 years in state prison, so it is critical to have a skilled lawyer on your side who knows how to prevent a felony-level charge from succeeding or even defeat the child endangerment allegation altogether.
What About Probation for a First-time DUI?
Besides all the other possible punishments, nearly everyone convicted of a DUI, even a first offense, in California, will receive 3 to 5 years of probation. A skilled attorney may be able to reduce the probationary period for you in cases where a reduction in charges is applicable.
Here are the basic facts to be aware of concerning "standard DUI probation:"
- It prohibits you from operating a motor vehicle with any detectable quantity of alcohol whatsoever, not just at .08%, regardless of age (not just for those under 21).
- Any further misdemeanors (or felonies) will have more severe consequences if committed while on probation. This does not include minor traffic violations, but it includes virtually everything else.
- You must comply to submit to a breathalyzer test when asked to by a law enforcement officer, even under circumstances wherein other people would not be required to do so.
- Any violation of the terms of your probation can result in a hearing before a judge (with no right to a jury trial) in which further penalties can be imposed on you.
Clearly, the advice of an experienced DUI lawyer on how exactly California DUI probation works and how to avoid getting into any further trouble while still on probation will be invaluable. If you follow your probationary terms to the letter, it may even be possible to get your probation shortened and your DUI conviction expunged from your criminal record. That also will require the expertise of a California DUI attorney.
Contact Us Today for DUI Defense
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, The Law Offices of Ed Blum understands the confusion and fear that surrounds facing a possible first-time DUI conviction. We also understand that many innocent people are charged with this crime in California every year. We have the experience to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
For a free, no-obligation consultation, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 at 424-281-3020. We will respond quickly and courteously to your call and give immediate attention to helping you win your case.