DUI, or driving while under the influence, is generally categorized as a misdemeanor offense in California unless you have at least 3 previous DUI convictions and whether any aggravating circumstances existed when the offense was committed.

You can be charged with a misdemeanor DUI if you meet the following:

  • You were lawfully stopped for a traffic violation or equipment violation
  • The arresting officer had reasonable cause to believe you were driving while under the influence based on your demeanor, performance on coordination tests, admissions or results of preliminary breath test
  • You unreasonably refused to take a test measuring your blood alcohol content (BAC)
  • Your BAC was 0.08 percent or higher

Is Your DUI a Misdemeanor?

Most DUI offenses are misdemeanors. If your blood alcohol content is measured at 0.08 or slightly above that, and you were not involved in an injury accident or had any minors as passengers and do not have multiple prior offenses, your offense will typically be charged as a misdemeanor. You can also be charged with DUI without a BAC test based upon your driving conduct and the officer’s observations of your speech, eyes, coordination, breath and other factors.

First Time DUI

Should this be your first DUI offense and no aggravating circumstances exist, you may face the following penalties:

  • Informal or unsupervised probation for 3-years, though up to 5-years may be imposed.
  • A fine of up to $1,000, though a lesser fine of around $300 to $500 is more likely.
  • A suspended sentence of up to 6-months in county jail.
  • Court-ordered participation in an alcohol or drug education class
  • Suspension of your driver’s license from 6 to 10-months, or one year if you refused chemical testing.

You may be eligible to obtain a restricted driver’s license after 30-days. This license only permits you to drive to and from work, school and for attending any DUI education classes ordered by the court. You must also present proof of financial responsibility (SR-22).

Second DUI Within 10-Years

If you receive a second DUI within 10-years, the penalties are more severe:

Informal probation of 3 to 5 years

A fine up to $1,000

Participation in an 18-month or 30-month DUI class

Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 96-hours up to one year in county jail

2 year suspension of your driver’s license

You are only eligible for a restricted license after 12-months of your suspension. Depending on the California county where you are convicted, your jail sentence could be longer than 96 hours. If you are employed, most courts will allow you work release so that you only spend the time when you are not at work in the county jail.

Third DUI Within 10-Years

You face much harsher penalties if you have a third DUI within a 10-year period. The sentence may include:

  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Participation in a 30-month DUI class
  • Mandatory minimum of 120-days in county jail and up to one year
  • Under California law, you will be designated as HTO, or habitual traffic offender, meaning that your license will be suspended for 3-years with eligibility for a restricted license only after 18-months and you show proof of completion of at least 12-months in a DUI class along with proof of financial responsibility (SR-22).

Once your license is returned, an ignition interlock device will be installed on your vehicle so that a very low percentage of blood alcohol will not allow your car to start and a record of your BAC is documented, which could lead to other penalties.

Wobbler Offense

A DUI can be a “wobbler,” meaning that the prosecutor could charge with either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Immigration Consequences

Under federal immigration law, if you are an alien or permanent resident and you commit a crime of moral turpitude, you may have serious immigration consequences. In some cases, you could face potential deportation and not be eligible for cancellation of removal relief. Although a misdemeanor DUI may not be considered a serious offense or a crime of moral turpitude, you must disclose your conviction on any immigration or visa form. Also, if there are aggravating circumstances accompanying your DUI charge, you may be facing more serious consequences.

Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis

Facing a charge of misdemeanor DUI or a related offense can result in long range or even permanent adverse consequences on your life. If you have been charged with a DUI, call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis today for a free, confidential initial consultation at (213) 687-4412.