California motorists accused of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), are offered plea bargains, particularly when the prosecutor believes that it seems unlikely to prove every element of the DUI offense in criminal court. Although some cases are better off taken to a DUI trial, in other cases, a carefully negotiated plea bargain is in the accused DUI driver's best interests. An experienced California criminal DUI defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that involves reduced charges and/or consequences.
DUI drivers who are offered plea bargains in California criminal DUI court still face punishment, but the consequences may be greatly reduced. In some instances, prosecution may be willing to reduce a felony DUI to a misdemeanor, which is always a good outcome for the defendant.
Unless the driver was involved in an accident, first time DUI, second time DUI, and third-time DUI offense are charged as misdemeanors. A first DUI offense in California carries a minimum sentence of 36 months of informal probation, approximately $1,500 in fines and penalties, participation in a 12-week alcohol program, a 90-day restricted driver's license imposed by the court, and a six-month driver's license suspension.
This mandatory minimum sentence will increase if the driver refused to take a chemical test, had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 percent or greater (California Vehicle Code Section 23578), or drove 20 miles per hour or more above the speed limit on side streets or 30 mph over the speed limit on the freeway. Other factors that can enhance a sentence are reckless driving in a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23103 - Reckless Driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a minor in the car, and cases involving a traffic accident. Drivers who have previous DUI conviction during the past 10 years, and California drivers under 21 face additional sanctions.
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Second California drunk driving conviction within 10 years results in ten days in county jail and an 18-month alcohol education program. In addition, the California DMV will suspend the driver's license for two years. The defendant will be eligible for a restricted license after one year.
A third conviction for a California misdemeanor DUI within 10 years carries a minimum 120 days in county jail and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will revoke the individuals license to drive for three years. The driver convicted of a third offense DUI will generally be eligible for a restricted license after two years.
California felony DUI convictions carry far more serious penalties. Felony driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests typically includes jail time, fines, license suspension and mandatory alcohol education classes. A felony driving under the influence conviction may result in a state prison sentence. For this reason, it is necessary to hire an experienced San Francisco DUI lawyer who may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that involves a reduced charge carrying less severe penalties.
If the driver was charged with a felony because of a fourth DUI conviction within 10 years, he or she faces 180 days in jail, an 18-month alcohol program, and a four year license suspension, with the possibility of a restricted license after three years. The plea also will include fines and probation.
Even these penalties seem very strict, a plea agreement with negotiated minimum penalties may be a far better arrangement for a DUI driver. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer who may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that involves a reduced charge carrying less severe penalties.
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