The State of California has strict drunk driving laws.
While the consequences will become more severe with every instance, even a first-time DUI offense could result in large fines, the loss of your driving privileges, and even jail time.
If you were arrested on intoxicated driving charges in California, you need to take immediate action to protect your rights and your future.
At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our San Diego DUI attorneys are skilled advocates for defendants.
We have a deep understanding of California’s drunk driving laws and the strategies used by prosecutors in these cases.
Our law firm will protect your rights, your freedom, and your future.
California Law: DUI Charges
Under California law (California Vehicle Code 23152(a)), it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence.
For most drivers, the maximum allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent. See When You Have Been Accused of a DUI.
That being said, the state’s DUI laws are more complicated than that.
There are circumstances in which a defendant could be charged with a DUI even if their BAC is below 0.08.
Specifically, you should know the following key things about intoxicated driving laws in California:
- A driver under the age of 21 may not operate a vehicle if their BAC level is higher than 0.01 percent;
- A driver under the age of 18 may not operate a vehicle if they have any alcohol within their system; and
- Commercial drivers can be charged with a DUI if their BAC level is at or above 0.04 percent.
It should also be noted that you can be charged with a DUI for drugged driving.
Drugged driving charges are especially complicated, as there is not an accepted test to assess the motorist’s level of ‘impairment’.
If you or your loved one was arrested for drugged driving in San Diego, you should contact us right away.
Our San Diego DUI attorneys will help protect you.
Penalties for DUI in California
The penalties for drunk driving in California vary based on several different important factors.
First and foremost, the most important factor is the driver’s history of prior DUI convictions or lack thereof.
A first time DUI offense in California is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, a six-month prison term, and a lengthy license suspension.
The defendant may also be ordered to complete a DUI training school or to install an interlock ignition device on their personal vehicle.
For every subsequent offense, the penalties will only become more severe. Notably, for a fourth DUI offense (or more), the crime will be charged as a felony.
To be clear, a defendant’s personal driving history is not the only relevant factor that will be looked at when determining penalties for a DUI.
There are other factors that could potentially result in a defendant facing heightened punishment — potentially even felony charges. Specifically, California DUI charges can be ‘upgraded’ if:
- The defendant was ‘highly intoxicated’ (BAC of 0.15 or greater);
- The defendant was going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or otherwise driving recklessly;
- There was a child present in the car at the time of the DUI stop;
- The defendant was involved in an accident; or
- The defendant caused bodily injury to another party.
California DUI: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Should I Do After Being Pulled Over for Suspected Drunk Driving?
If you are stopped for a DUI, you should pull over your vehicle quickly and safely.
Be polite and give the officer your license and registration when requested.
From there, you should generally remain silent. You have no obligation to answer incriminating questions.
Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer in California?
Yes. Under California’s implied consent law, defendants who have been lawfully arrested are required to submit to a breathalyzer test.
If you refuse such a test, your license will be subject to an automatic one-year suspension.
What About Other Types of Field Sobriety Tests?
Unlike post-arrest chemical tests, field sobriety tests are optional in California.
As field sobriety tests have, at times, error rates, it is often not in your best interests to take one.
You will not be punished simply for declining to take a field sobriety test.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License for a DUI in California?
You might. The good news is that you can take action to preserve your driving privileges. Following a DUI arrest, your license will be subject to an automatic administrative suspension.
In other words, it will be suspended before you ever get your day in court.
However, you have ten days to request a DMV hearing.
By doing so, you will put a temporary hold on the administrative suspension. Your lawyer can help you protect your license.
Why Hire San Diego Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Kerry L. Armstrong
After a DUI arrest, you need the best DUI defense attorney on your side.
Though most DUIs are misdemeanor offenses, these charges can still come with severe, long-lasting consequences.
At Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our compassionate and supportive legal team is here to protect your rights.
Among other things, our aggressive San Diego, CA DUI defense attorneys will:
- Set your DMV hearing;
- Conduct a fully confidential review of the DUI charges;
- Answer your most pressing questions and address your concerns;
- Investigate the charges — getting access to exonerating evidence; and
- Build a fully personalized DUI defense strategy.
Drunk driving charges must always be defended on a case-by-case basis.
If you were wrongly arrested or your rights were violated, we will fight tirelessly to get those unfair charges dismissed outright.
At the same time, with DUI cases, there may also be options available for a plea agreement — potentially including reducing the charges to a “wet reckless: or other lower crime.
Contact Our San Diego, CA, DUI Defense Attorney Today
At Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our San Diego drunk driving defense attorneys are strong advocates for our clients.
If you or your family member was arrested and charged with intoxicated driving, we are available to help.
For an initial consultation, contact our law office right away.
We defend DUI charges in San Diego and throughout Southern California, including in Oceanside, Chula Vista, San Marcos, Vista, and Encinitas.