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CALIFORNIA MISDEMEANOR DUI

Driving under the influence or DUI in California is a misdemeanor for the first, second, or third DUI or wet reckless, within a period of ten years. It is also a misdemeanor if no one was injured. Finally, a DUI in California is a misdemeanor if the driver has no prior felony DUI convictions.

According to Vehicle Code 23152, it is unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle when under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drugs OR when they have 0.08% or more blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, in their system.

When is a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

A person is said to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the following occur:

  • When their physical or mental abilities are so impaired;
  • When they are unable to drive with the caution of an ordinary, sober person, under similar circumstances;[1]

Misdemeanor DUI Penalties

The following are the penalties for a misdemeanor DUI:

  • three to five years probation;
  • up to one year in jail;
  • home detention or work release (not all counties);
  • several thousand dollars in fines and fees;
  • alcohol and drug education classes;
  • installation of interlock ignition device or IID;
  • driver’s license suspension

However, it is important to note that penalties can be increased by the following:

  • driver refuses to take a chemical test (post-arrest);
  • BAC was over 0.15%;
  • presence of a passenger under 14 years of age;
  • the vehicle was being driven 30 MPH or more over the speed limit on a freeway (20 MPH on streets or highways)

Legal Defenses to Misdemeanor DUI

There are different possible defenses to a misdemeanor DUI offense, depending on the circumstances of each case such as, but not limited to the following:

  • lack of probable cause to stop the driver
  • violation of Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations (on the part of the police)
  • driver not under the influence
  • existing medical condition physically presenting as signs of intoxication

It is also important also that in a normal misdemeanor case a police officer cannot arrest a person unless the offense was committed in the officers' presence OR the officer has a warrant as provided under California Penal Code 836.

However, under Vehicle Code 40300.5, there are a few exceptions to California Penal Code 836 in a DUI case, which includes the following:

  • the driver was involved in a traffic accident;
  • the driver is observed in or about a vehicle that is obstructing a roadway;
  • the driver will not be apprehended unless immediately arrested;
  • the driver may destroy or conceal evidence of the crime unless immediately arrested;
  • the driver may cause injury to himself or herself, or damage property unless immediately arrested.

Felony DUI in California

A DUI becomes a felony instead if:

  • it is the fourth DUI or wet reckless within 10 years
  • someone else from the driver was injured
  • the driver has a prior felony DUI

According to Vehicle Code 23153: “It is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, to drive a vehicle and do any act which causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”

For an injury to be considered as “bodily injury,” a victim must be more that shaken up of frightened, such as pulling a muscle, which was enough to show that the a felony DUI occurred.[1]

Causing bodily injury during a DUI is a California “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The district attorney will base its decision on the following:

  • circumstances of the case
  • extent of injuries caused
  • driver’s prior driving record

The penalties for a felony DUI can include the following:

  • incarceration in state prison for up to three years;
  • payment of fines and fees;
  • alcohol and drug education classes;
  • driver’s license suspension.

It should also be noted that certain felony sentence enhancements can add more potential prison or jail time on a felony DUI charge.

DUI Happens. Jail and Losing Your License Don’t Have To.

A DUI charge is a difficult thing to manage and navigate on your own. You will want to consult and secure the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney to assist you in navigating the legal complexities of these charges. Even if it is a misdemeanor DUI charge, you will want to avoid a conviction at all costs because it can still have severe effects on your life.

If you need assistance with a DUI charge, do not hesitate to contact us at 626-827-7222 to schedule your consultation with one of our experienced attorneys at no cost. Although we are fielding inquiries from a lot of people in similar situations, we will do our best to put you in contact with an experienced lawyer from our firm.

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