DUI Frequently Asked Questions
What are the DUI laws? DUI is charged under the California Vehicle Code, sections 23152(a) and (b), which state respectively:
"It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, to drive a vehicle."
"It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle."
In addition, if you cause bodily injury to another person while driving under the influence, you may be charged under Vehicle Code sections 23153 (a) and (b), which state respectively:
"It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver."
"It is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver."
How is a DUI charged? Drunk driving may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, but most DUIs are misdemeanors. If you have been convicted of four or more DUIs, you can be charged with a felony if the prosecuting attorney chooses, as well as if you are accused of causing injury while driving under the influence. Remember, a felony prosecution can result in over a year in state prison.
What is the punishment for DUI? As always, every punishment depends on the particular case. Generally, for a first time DUI offense with a blood alcohol level below .20%, the maximum penalty includes:
A) summary probation for three to five years (unsupervised by the court),
B) Six months in county jail,
C) six months suspended license,
D) fines of up to $1,000, plus
E) penalties of up to $2,710 (the penalty is currently 3x the amount of the fine, and may increase if the California Legislature agrees to it),
F) a $100 contribution to the California State Restitution Fund for victims of DUI accidents,
G) proof of enrollment and completion of an alcohol education program,
H) a fee of $50 towards "Alcohol abuse Prevention,
I) a fee of $37 towards the blood alcohol content testing,
J) a fee of $20 for court security.
You may be assessed additional penalties if your blood alcohol was above .20%, you injured someone, or had a child in your car.
For a second time DUI, all of the fines and penalties mentioned above will increase, plus:
==Up to one year in county jail
==Vehicle impoundment for 30 days,
==Driver's license suspension for 18 months.
For a third or fourth time DUI, all of the fines and penalties mentioned above will increase, plus:
====The DMV can revoke your license for up to 4 years
====Completion of a 30-month alcohol treatment program,
====Up to 120 days in county jail for a third offense,Up to 180 days in county jail for a fourth offense,16 months to 3 years in state prison for a felony.
In addition, you may have to pay increased insurance premiums for SR-22 coverage, tow and impound fees, alcohol rehabilitation program costs, and legal fees for an attorney and the court.
What happens to my driver license if convicted of DUI? Upon conviction of DUI, the court will send an abstract to the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your license. This is an action separate of any suspension that may have been imposed through an Administrative Per Se hearing based solely off of the arrest.
What happens to my commercial driver license if convicted of DUI? A commercial driver driving a commercial vehicle is held to a .04% BAC instead of the normal .08% BAC requirement. The DMV will suspend your commercial license for one year without eligibility for a restricted commercial license but you may apply for a Class C restricted license after 30 days of hard suspension. Additionally, even if you are not driving a commercial vehicle but are found to have violated Vehicle Code sections 23152 (a) and/or (b), and hold a commercial license, the DMV can suspend your commercial license for one year on a first offense and revoke the privilege for a lifetime on a second offense.
What defenses are there in a drunk driving case? There may be many possible defenses in a drunk driving case. For example, don't assume that if you failed the chemical breath or blood test that you have no defense. Sometimes errors can occur in testing, which can serve as grounds for a defense. As discussed below, there may be other possible defenses in any particular case.
What if the police didn't read me my rights before they arrested me for DUI? The police have to read you your Miranda rights before they question you in custody. If the police didn't read you your Miranda rights before questioning you, the evidence they obtained from your statements, and the statements themselves, might be excluded at trial through a motion to suppress evidence.
Why pay an attorney for a case that I may lose anyway? Drunk driving cases are complicated. You need an attorney familiar with criminal law and your constitutional rights. Ms. Eriksen will first review whether the police had a right to stop you under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under California law. She will next determine whether the police had probable cause to believe that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Finally, she will place the burden of proof on the prosecutor to establish beyond any doubt that the breathalyzer was in proper working order, maintained and calibrated according to law, that the test was given by a properly trained officer, and that you took two tests within 15 minutes of each other, that were within .02% of each other, and were within 3 hours of your driving. There may be many factors to work with to help you win the case. In addition, Ms. Eriksen can personally represent you before the judge and at your DMV hearing, saving you valuable time and money and sparing you the embarrassment of appearing in court.