Criminal DUI Court Punishment - California DUI Law and Legal Information
California driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs arrest triggers two different cases in criminal DUI court, and at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Criminal DUI court cases get resolved in one of two ways - through a plea bargain or at the DUI trial. Contrary to popular opinion, it's possible to beat a DUI charge, but not every California driver is successful. Some accept plea bargains or are convicted in criminal DUI court. Regardless of whether a driver pleads guilty to a DUI charge, or is convicted by a jury trial, the criminal court case then moves on to the sentencing phase.
The sentence a convicted DUI driver can expect depends on several factors, including prior convictions, whether the case is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, and whether or not the driver was involved in a DUI traffic accident.
If you or someone you care about stands accused of a DUI, please call on a California DUI defense lawyer before you even consider pleading guilty. A skilled California DUI defense lawyer can guide an accused drunk driver through the labyrinth of legal system to ensure that he or she receives the best defense available and the fairest possible punishment if convicted.
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New California legislation effective Sept. 20, 2005 has removed the power of criminal courts to suspend or revoke driver's licenses in the driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs cases - that power now rests solely with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The bill also imposed new rules that regulate the sentencing of those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Sentences for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can include jail time, fines, driverís license suspension or revocation, alcohol education programs, probation, and conditions of probation including ignition interlock devices.
How the driver is punished depends on whether the DUI case was charged as a felony DUI or a misdemeanor; whether the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was greater than .08 percent, and whether he or she has had other drunk driving convictions within the past 10 years.
Prior DUI convictions substantially impact
the punishment for drunk driving. Multiple California DUI cases in a 10 year period greatly increase the likelihood that the driver will be sentenced to jail time.
The fine imposed in a California driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs case can range from $390 to $5,000, but "penalty assessments" increase the base fine nearly threefold. The penalty assessment is a state tax written into California DUI law, and now greatly exceeds the fine. Currently, the penalty assessment is 171 percent, meaning that for a $100 fine, the total payment is $271.
The California DMV may suspend a driver's license for anywhere from four months for a first DUI offense to three years for a third or fourth DUI offense with a chemical test refusal. License suspensions stemming from a California criminal DUI conviction are different from those resulting from an unsuccessful California DMV a administrative per se hearing (APS). Only the California Department of Motor Vehicles can actually suspend the license and grant a restricted license for travel to school or work.
Both the criminal DUI court and the California DMV can require drunk drivers to attend alcohol education classes. A first-time DUI offender must attend one three-hour session per week for 12 weeks, or approximately 36 hours of coursework. It may be possible to get a restricted driver's license to allow for driving to and from the program.
A second drunk driving conviction in California within 10 years requires attendance at an 18-week alcohol or drug program that begins with mandatory attendance at weekly sessions, gradually changing to every other week. Finally, there is a 30-month alcohol and drug education program for multiple DUI offenders.
The judge may require the installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation. These devices attach to a vehicle's ignition system and test for alcohol on a driver's breath. If there is a measurable amount of alcohol in a drive's breath, the car will not start.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in California is a serious offense that carries substantial penalties, but it is possible to fight and win DUI charge. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer can evaluate each DUI case and devise a strategy that will result in the best possible outcome for anyone accused of drinking and driving.