Possible & Alternative Sentences for Drunk Driving in California

Posted by Chris Morales on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 11:42 AM

What sentences are typically handed down for violating DUI laws?

DUI sentences vary greatly depending on factors such as whether it's a first-time or repeat offense, and whether or not anyone was injured. But, as with most crimes, the typical sentence includes a fine and perhaps a few days of jail time. Convicted defendants may also suffer other consequences. For instance, they may:

  • lose their driver's license, at least temporarily

  • have to submit to an alcohol- or drug-related treatment program, and

  • see their car insurance rates climb astronomically.

Additionally, there is a growing movement toward what is known as alternative sentencing. Some of the newer punishments that have been given in DUI cases require that convicted drunk drivers:

  • have a breath test device (called a certified ignition interlock device) installed in their cars-at their own expense-which prevents the car from being started if alcohol is detected

  • display a bumper sticker on their car that states that they've been convicted of a DUI

  • carry a restricted driver's license allowing only trips to and from work, for example, and

  • perform community service such as lecturing high school or college students, telling them about the arrest experience and urging them not to drive drunk.

What are my chances in court if I decide to fight a DUI charge?

It depends on a lot of factors. In reality, defendants whose blood alcohol tested clearly above the legal limit seldom win at trial, especially if they also failed the field sobriety tests. Where there is no blood test, or where the test results are at or below the limit, there is a much greater chance of successfully fighting the charges.

Though many prosecutors' offices are tough on DUI cases these days, skilled defense lawyers can sometimes get an acquittal by undermining the prosecutor's case. For instance, some defense lawyers routinely request maintenance and accuracy records for breathalyzer machines, and may mount a successful defense based on a machine's failure to be properly serviced or calibrated.

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Possible Sentences for Drunk Driving:

First offense (or no prior offense within 7 years):

3-5 years of probation

$390-$1000 fine

Mandatory enrollment in alcohol treatment program, and either 48 hours to 6 months in jail or 90-day driver's license restriction allowing offender to drive to work and the treatment program

Second offense (within 7 years):

3-5 years of probation

$390-$1000 fine

48 hours to 1 year in jail, 18-30-month treatment program, and license restriction allowing offender to drive to work and the treatment program only for the length of the program; or 10 days to 1 year in jail and an 18-month license suspension

Third offense (within 7 years):

3-5 years of probation

$390-$1000 fine

18-month treatment program if offender hasn't completed one, and 4 months to 1 year jail time, and 3-year revocation of driver's license

Fourth offense (within 7 years; can be filed as a felony):

3-5 years of probation

$390-$1000 fine

18-month treatment program, if offender hasn't completed one, and 6 months to 1 year in jail, and 4-year revocation of driver's license

What kind of lawyer should I get to fight a DUI charge?

Defendants should always try to hire a lawyer who practices criminal law as opposed to civil law (noncriminal, such as divorce and contract cases).

If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with DUI, contact Christopher Morales, experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, who has successfully fought DUI cases and got his clients better results.

Bergman & Berman. The Criminal Law Handbook, Know Your Rights, Survive the System. 11th Edition.

Tags: DUI, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer, Drunk Driving, DUI lawyer, DUI arrests