First Offense DUIs in California
The penalties for a DUI vary depending on the number of previous DUI convictions. The vast majority of DUI cases come from perfectly respectable people who make a small but serious mistake. While the penalties for a first offense are less severe, they can be quite costly. In most cases it is less expensive to hire a specialist DUI attorney and fight for reduced charges or dismissal.
First DUI DMV Penalties
California Vehicle Code 13352.(a)(1)
…upon a conviction or finding of a violation of Section 23152 punishable under Section 23536, the privilege shall be suspended for a period of six months. The privilege shall not be reinstated until the person gives proof of financial responsibility and gives proof satisfactory to the department of successful completion of a driving-under-the-influence program…
DMV penalties are separate from the penalties the court imposes. A first DUI conviction will typically result in at least a 6-month license suspension from the DMV. On top of that, the license won’t be reinstated until the driver has completed a DUI education program. These programs can often cost thousands of dollars.
First DUI Court Penalties
California Vehicle Code 23536.(a)
If a person is convicted of a first violation of Section 23152, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 96 hours, at least 48 hours of which shall be continuous, nor more than six months, and by a fine of not less than three hundred ninety dollars ($390), nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
Six months in prison is a severe penalty. Thankfully most DUI specialist lawyers are trained to negotiate for lesser sentences. In many cases jail time can be waived entirely or reduced to a few weekends, allowing the offender to keep his or her job. The fines are also often negotiable. A skilled DUI attorney can save his or her client money by reducing fines and other costs.
First DUI Penalties For BAC under 0.20%
California Vehicle Code 23538.(b)(1)
The court shall refer a first offender whose blood-alcohol concentration was less than 0.20 percent, by weight, to participate for at least three months or longer, as ordered by the court, in a licensed program that consists of at least 30 hours of program activities, including those education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions…
Counseling and education are required before the offender can be eligible for license reinstatement. Keep in mind though that the offender pays for the classes and counseling out of pocket. These aren’t fines, but can be quite costly as the companies offering these services must meet strict requirements by state law. Many programs require upfront cash payments.
First DUI Penalties For Test Refusal or BAC over 0.20%
California Vehicle Code 23538.(b)(2)
The court shall refer a first offender whose blood-alcohol concentration was 0.20 percent or more, by weight, or who refused to take a chemical test, to participate for at least nine months or longer, as ordered by the court, in a licensed program that consists of at least 60 hours of program activities, including those education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions described in Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 11836) of Part 2 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
The court imposed penalties are only slightly harsher for a high BAC or test refusal. The biggest difference is the length of time the offender is required to spend in the licensed program. More time also means a higher cost. In most cases first time DUI offenders are better off trying to fight the charges with a qualified attorney rather than accept the fines and costs the court imposes.
Other First DUI Costs
Aside from all the court and DMV fines, fees, and penalties, DUI offenders pay car impound fees. They pay for higher insurance for years before the DMV is removed from their record. There is also the cost of time spent away from work, or paying for child care while attending classes or mandatory jail time. The expense of a lawyer is small compared to the overall cost of a DUI conviction. Hire a CDLA certified DUI attorney to fight for you. You can’t afford to fight this alone.