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California First Offense Misdemeanor DUI Penalties

Facing a first-offense driving under the influence (DUI) charge in California can have serious consequences on an individual’s life due to the penalties that may be imposed. Understanding the elements of a DUI charge, the penalties, and possible legal defenses is important for any criminal defendant as they navigate the legal process. 

What Is a Misdemeanor DUI in California?

The state enforces strict regulations to try to prevent impaired driving and ensure road safety. Below is an overview of the Vehicle Codes related to driving under the influence:

Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC – Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

It is against California law to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This part of the statute does not specify a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level but instead focuses on the driver’s actual impairment. 

Law enforcement can make this determination based on field sobriety tests and the behavior of the driver. 

Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC – Driving with a BAC of .08% or Greater

It is illegal for all drivers to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher. When a driver’s BAC meets or exceeds this threshold, they can be charged with a DUI, regardless of their actual impairment or driving performance. 

Considerations for Commercial Drivers and Underage Drivers

The law imposes stricter BAC limits for certain groups of drivers:

  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Holders: For those holding a CDL, driving with a BAC of .04% or higher is illegal.
  • Underage Drivers: California enforces a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21; driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system is illegal for underage drivers.

Nonetheless, there are still defenses you can raise in these circumstances.

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

California law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs or while under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol.

First-Time DUI Penalties in California

When you are convicted of driving under the influence in California for the first time, the potential penalties for a first-offense DUI include:

  • Informal (Summary) Probation: Informal probation can last for three to five years. During this time, you must abide by certain restrictions, like not getting arrested, completing community service hours, and participating in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, for example. You won’t have an assigned probation offer that you have to meet with.
  • Jail Time: Depending on the case, you could face up to six months in county jail.
  • Fines: Monetary penalties can range from $390 to $1,000; however, when additional expenses are considered, such as the ignition interlock device costs and DMV fees, it could end up being thousands of dollars.
  • Alcohol and/or Drug Education Program: Defendants are often required to attend a court-approved alcohol and/or drug education program. 
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID): The court may require the installation of an IID in your vehicle for six months. This allows you to maintain driving privileges without restrictions.
  • Driver’s License Suspension: Without an IID, you could face a driver’s license suspension between 6 and 10 months, which can potentially be converted to a “restricted license.” A restricted license permits driving under specific conditions, such as during work hours, and to and from work, school, and/or California DUI school.

Understanding and adhering to the penalties for a first-offense DUI in California is important for any defendant, as violations and repeat offenses are punished much more harshly. 

Preparing a strong defense against DUI charges is vital in protecting your rights and potentially mitigating the penalties. There are several common ones that your defense attorney can raise on your behalf: 

  • Your defense attorney can argue that an officer didn’t have probable cause to make the original stop, meaning all evidence and statements taken after that point could be inadmissible
  • Your lawyer could challenge the BAC results – for example, by arguing that the equipment used for testing was improperly calibrated or maintained.
  • Your lawyer might argue rising blood alcohol if you drank shortly before driving and claim your actual impairment levels became apparent only after you were stopped.

The legal defenses listed are not exhaustive, but are some of the most common ones used in these cases. Every DUI case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and possible defense strategies. If you’re facing charges, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced 1st time DUI defense lawyer.

Contact Our DUI Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys Today For Help.

For more information please contact our criminal defense law firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys at the nearest location for a free consultation.

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – San Jose Office
1625 The Alameda, Suite 405, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 412-5623

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 835-7104

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