Planning on a night out on the town in the State of California and think you’ll be perfectly OK to drive home again, even though you will have consumed an alcoholic beverage or two? Well, think again my friend because California DUI penalties are not to be taken lightly for a number of reasons.
DUI Laws VC §23152(a) and VC §23152(b)
There are 2 different driving offenses covered by California DUI law - VC §23152(a) and VC §23152(b). Drivers can be, and frequently are, charged under both DUI codes but as each carries identical penalties, drivers can only be sentenced under one or the other, not both.
VC §23152(a) relates to driving ability. You can be charged with DUI under this section of the code if the law enforcement officer who apprehends you has good reason to believe, or can verify in accordance with DUI laws, that you are in control of a vehicle whilst it’s moving after having consumed alcohol or drugs that impair your ability to drive safely. Even if you pass a breath or chemical test that shows your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit for your age. “Drugs” for the purposes of California DUI laws include legal over the counter medications like cough syrup and prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs. VC §23152(b) or DUI Per Se relates to blood alcohol level and you will be charged with DUI under this code if:
- you are found, by a breath test, to be driving with a blood alcohol level or BAC of 0.08% or higher (if you’re under 21 years of age, this limit drops to 0.01%. If you’re under 18 it’s zero tolerance. If the vehicle you’re driving requires a commercial DL the maximum BAC is 0.04%) OR
- you provide a urine or blood sample where the attending law enforcement officer has good reason to believe will return a result of 0.08% or higher OR
- you refuse to take a chemical test.
Under DUI or Admin per se law, you are issued with a Notice of Suspension by the law enforcement officer at the time of apprehension, and given a temporary 30-day license. Your confiscated license and all relevant information is then sent to the DMV, who conduct a review of the suspension. This review may overturn the suspension, in which case your license will be returned to you. If it doesn’t, which is usually the case, you have 10 days from the date you received the suspension order to request an administrative hearing with the DMV to hopefully successfully contest the suspension and have your license returned to you. This information can all be found on the Notice of Suspension but it’s buried in small print on the last page.
If no request for a hearing is made within 10 days, you forfeit the right to a hearing. The suspension then stands regardless of evidence and will begin 30 days from the date of the original Notice. If you have requested a hearing and lost, you will be notified of the start date by mail.
The DMV DL suspension period for a first offence is 4 months but if you refused to submit to a chemical test at the time of arrest, it’s 12 months. If it’s your second offence within 10 years, you’ll lose your license for 12 months or 2 years for refusing a chemical test. 3rd offense inside 10 years means 2 years or 3 for refusing the chemical test and if you offend a 4th time within 10 years, you are looking at a 3 year DL suspension or 4 for refusing the chemical test. For drivers under 21, the first offence carries a 12-month suspension.
Hire A Reputable California DUI Attorney From The Start
The DMV hearing is a civil matter and you have the right to have legal representation present. In fact, your best chance of persuading the DMV hearing officer to rule in your favor or at the very least grant you a conditional license lies with having a knowledgeable and experienced California DUI attorney to represent you. Furthermore, any penalties the DMV issue are separate to any further court issued fines, jail terms or other imposed sanctions and has no bearing on what a court may or may not subsequently decide.
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