Drunk Driving Defense Laws in California

California roadways are some of the busiest in the nation, filled with drivers traveling to and from work at all hours of the day. The state of California also offers innumerable entertainment opportunities for visitors and residents, which also causes the roads and highways to become clogged. Adding driving under the influence to this mix can make an already dangerous situation even more hazardous, causing law enforcement personnel to address California DUI aggressively, but often, the person accused of drunk driving may not actually be guilty of the crime. This is where the importance of understanding the state's DUI laws is critical and can save the innocent from an unnecessary drunk driving conviction.

No one blames the law for looking after California motorists - that is their job, after all. But it is up to the public to make sure zealous police officers do not inadvertently violate their rights. The best way to achieve this goal is by knowing what the law allows drivers to do and what it does not allow on California roadways.

Current California drunk driving laws identify drivers who measure greater than 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration as driving under the influence. Further, those who measure 0.16 percent or greater can be charged with aggravated DUI, which typically results in harsher penalties. Other California DUI laws include:

  • Underage blood alcohol concentration (Zero Tolerance) limit currently stands at 0.02 percent
  • Drivers give "implied consent" for blood alcohol concentration testing when they apply for a driving license
  • Refusing a blood alcohol test can result in penalties under California DUI law

Like other states, California courts impose a variety of penalties for violating DUI laws if convicted. The penalty received is based on factors such as blood alcohol concentration, prior offenses and whether an accident occurred. Here are some of the most common penalties associated with drunk driving convictions in California.

Misdemeanor First Conviction:

  • Fine of $390 to $1,000
  • Possibility of additional fees
  • Possible jail sentence
  • Possible probation of three to five years
  • License suspension of 6 months for a BAC of less than 0.20 percent
  • License suspension of 10 months for a BAC of greater than 0.20 percent
  • Possibility of alcohol treatment or classes for three to nine months

Misdemeanor Second Conviction Within 10 Years:

  • Fine of $390 to $1,000
  • Possibility of additional fees
  • Possible jail sentence of four to 30 days
  • Possible probation of three to five years
  • License suspension of two years
  • Possibility of alcohol treatment or classes for 18 to 30 months

Misdemeanor Third Conviction Within 10 Years:

  • Fees and fines of up to $3,000
  • Possible jail sentence of four to seven months
  • Court-supervised probation
  • License revocation of three years
  • Alcohol treatment or classes for 30 months

Felony Fourth Conviction Within 10 Years:

  • Fees and fines of up to $3,000
  • Possible jail sentence of six to 12 months
  • Court-supervised probation
  • License revocation of four years
  • Alcohol treatment or classes for 30 months

By understanding how California courts handle DUI cases, many defendants can have a better chance of avoiding conviction altogether or receiving the least severe sentence possible. A DUI attorney who has a good track record of success defending those accused of drunk driving is the best way to ensure the best outcome possible after a drunk driving arrest.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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