Driving under the influence, commonly abbreviated as DUI, is a common criminal charge across the United States. If you've been arrested on DUI charges, it's important that you know as much as possible about the nature of the charge, including the elements of the statute and the possible penalties that you could face.
In California, DUI is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. This means that anyone pulled over with this percentage of alcohol in their blood is considered legally impaired and could face criminal charges.
Most defendants who are arrested on DUI charges resolve their matters without going to trial. They enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution, generally agreeing to submit to the monitoring of the state's probation program in exchange for avoiding jail time. Other conditions may include rehab or a safe driving class.
The penalties for a DUI can include a fine, license suspension, or even prison time. For a first offense, the court can impose a fine of $390 to $1,000, suspend a person's license for up to 4 months, or sentence a defendant to jail for up to 6 months.
For second offense DUI charges, a defendant will face up to one year in jail, $1,000 fine, up to one year of license suspension, and three to five years of probation. For third and subsequent convictions on DUI charges, the penalties are even higher.
In addition to the base penalties for these charges, the statute also possesses sentence enhancers. These enhancers can raise a person's sentence even more. They include going more than 20 miles over the speed limit, having a person under the age of 14 in the car, registering a blood alcohol content of more than 1.5%, refusing to submit to chemical testing, and having a prior conviction within the past 10 years.