Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol in California can be harsh, even for an initial offense. With help from an experienced DUI attorney, a driver may be able to successfully plea bargain to an exhibition of speed or a wet or dry reckless driving charge. However, many DUI cases stick and if convicted, the driver faces a multitude of punishments that affect the wallet, mobility, and the reputation.
First Conviction DUI Penalties in California
A driver can expect a fine of $390 to $1,000 for an initial first DUI conviction in California. In addition, the driver license may be suspended for between six and ten months. A DUI lawyer may convince the judge to convert this to a restricted license, enabling the offender to commute to work, school, or DUI school in California. An informal probationary period of three to five years may also be imposed. However, the most severe penalty for an initial DUI is up to six months in county jail.
An individual may request a California Department of Motor Vehicles hearing within ten days of being arrested for DUI. This is the only way to postpone suspension of the driver license until the hearing concludes. Therefore, DUI offenders should retain DUI attorneys within this ten-day window to ensure that a hearing is requested and they have expert legal representation at the event.
From 2002 to 2012, fatalities resulting from alcohol-impaired driving declined by 33 percent per 100,000 residents. However, there were still 2.1 fatalities per 100,000 residents that year, equating to more than 800 deaths. More than 72 percent of these fatalities involved drivers whose blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent or higher. Fortunately, law enforcement officials managed to arrest many more individuals (more than 172,000) before they were able to kill anyone.
Underage DUI in California
Teenagers make unwise decisions and some have more serious consequences than others do. More than 25 percent of individuals ages 12 to 20 admitted to consuming alcohol within 30 days of being surveyed by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Unfortunately, far too many teenagers drink before driving, resulting in 97 fatalities in 2012.
California has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, with a 0.01 percent blood-alcohol content threshold for drivers under age 21. First-time underage DUI penalties include fines of $1,4000 to $2,600, driver license suspension for 30 days to ten months, and four days to six months in jail. Underage drinkers may also be charged with distribution of alcohol to other passengers in the car and other violations.
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Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and DUI law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any driving under the influence arrest charges, get free online assistance in learning how to fight a DUI case for the best possible outcome.