California is one of the states that prosecute DUI cases very harshly, even for first-time offenders. For instance, when arrested for other crimes, there are no consequences unless you are convicted of that crime. However, for DUI, you will face administrative consequences irrespective of whether you are finally convicted in court. In case of a conviction, you will also face additional criminal penalties. For you to have the chance to avoid these penalties, you need expert legal representation.
At Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, our work is to help clients in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles solve their DUI-related cases. We prepare a solid defense for any case at hand to ensure the best probable results. In case of an arrest, reach out to us, and we will do the best we can to help you.
An Overview of DUI Statutes
If you are caught drunk-driving for the first time in Beverly Hills or Los Angeles, you may be prosecuted under two laws, that is, Vehicle Codes 23152a and 23152b. VC 23152a is the general law on drunk-driving. It prohibits a driver from driving under the intoxication of alcohol, drugs, or both. VC 23152b, on the other hand, is the per se law. It prohibits driving with a BAC of .08% or higher. This means you may still be convicted of DUI even if you are not impaired, provided your BAC was 0.08% or higher at the time of driving.
The 0.08% limit applies to adult and non-commercial drivers. Underage drivers who are caught drunk-driving for the first time can be convicted if their BAC was as low as 0.01%. For commercial drivers, their BAC limit is 0.04%.
First-Time DUI Offense
A DUI is said to be a first-time offense in case you have never had a drunk-driving conviction on your criminal record before or you have not been convicted again for DUI in the past ten years of your last DUI conviction. A first-time DUI is generally a misdemeanor and carries both criminal and administrative punishments.
Criminal Penalties for First-Time DUI
It is the court that imposes criminal penalties. The penalties for first-time offenders in California vary by counties. Los Angeles and Beverly Hills punishments include:
- Three years of summary probation
- DUI School program for three months
- Penalty assessments and fines adding up to $3,600
- Jail term of up to six months
- Driver’s license suspension for six months. However, you may be allowed to obtain an IID restricted license or a restricted license
- IID Installation in your car for six months
Criminal Consequences for First Offense DUI Causing Injury
VC 23153 DUI causing injury is charged when your DUI act causes physical injuries to another person that is not you. The injured person could be a cyclist, pedestrian, passenger of your or another vehicle, or a driver of another vehicle. A DUI that results in injuries is a wobbler offense. This means it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the facts surrounding your case and criminal record.
If DUI causing injury is your first drunk-driving offense, then, generally, it will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the facts of the case allow, it may be prosecuted as a felony. For a misdemeanor charge, the consequences will be as follows:
- Summary probation for up to five years
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $5,000
- Alcohol School program for three, eighteen, or thirty months
- License suspension for up to three years
- Restitution to the injured parties
Alternative Sentences for First DUI Offenders
Sometimes, alternative options of sentencing first DUI offenders are available. These sentences are alternatives to a jail sentence. Sentencing alternatives include:
- Community work
- Roadside work
- House arrest or electronic monitoring
- City or private jail incarceration
- You could be ordered to reside in an environment that has sober-living people
Note that your attorney can have your first-time DUI charges reduced to lesser offenses like:
- Wet reckless
- Exhibition of speed
- Drunk in public
- Dry reckless
In case this happens, your license won’t be suspended by the court. However, the DMV could still order that your license be suspended. This is especially so if you have accumulated adequate points on your DMV driving history.
Probation Sentence for First-Time Offenders
Based on the facts of your first-time DUI case, a judge may sentence you to probation. If your sentence is probation, you will serve no or little jail time. However, if you are sentenced to probation, there are certain conditions the court has to order against you. You must adhere to these conditions for your probation sentence to continue. The conditions include:
- You should not drive while you have any detectable alcohol amount in your blood
- You have to agree to do DUI chemical tests any time you are arrested for another drugged or drunk-driving offense
- You have to install an IID in your car for six months
- You should not commit any other offense
In some cases, you may be given optional probation terms and conditions. This also depends on the facts of your case. They include:
- Attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings
- Taking part in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Program
- If your drunk-driving act resulted in an accident, you might be ordered to pay victim restitution
Failure to adhere to probation terms and conditions may lead to the court revoking the probation sentence. Then, the court can reinstate your original sentence, which usually, will include jail time
DMV License Suspension for First-Time Offenders
After a drunk-driving arrest, the arresting officer confiscates your driver’s license. He/she will then issue you with a temporary license (pink in color). The temporary license is meant to last thirty days. Your original license is then mailed back to the DMV. The DMV then suspends it because you violated the administrative law on license possession. In other words, a drunk-driving offense violates the terms and conditions of possessing a license.
Before the DMV suspends your license, it gives you ten days from the day you were arrested to request a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to stop the DMV from suspending the license. Provided your request to stop the suspension is timely, the DMV temporarily holds the suspension as it waits for the outcome of the hearing. If you do not request a hearing, the license suspension will automatically go into effect after thirty days. The suspension lasts four months. If you decline to take chemical tests, the DMV will suspend your license for a year. DMV license suspension is mandatory irrespective of the criminal case outcome.
Note that you might be allowed to obtain a restricted license so that you can drive to or from work. Alternatively, you may obtain an IID restricted license that will enable you to drive anywhere as long as an IID is installed in your car.
Winning a DMV Administrative Hearing for First-Time Offenders
Generally, the chances that you will win a DMV administrative hearing are slim. However, with the help of an experienced DUI attorney, it is still possible to prevail at the hearing. The DMV hearing officer considers several factors that, in turn, determine the outcome of the hearing. These factors include if:
- You agreed or refused to submit to a DUI chemical test (breath, blood, or urine test).
- The arresting officer had probable cause that made him/her believe you were intoxicated
- Your BAC level was more than the stipulated legal limit at the time of driving
- You were lawfully arrested
- The arresting officer advised you of the consequences of refusing to do a DUI chemical test
Aggravating Factors that Can Lead to Sentence Enhancement for First-Time Offenders
There are certain factors that, if present in a case, may increase the punishment for a DUI conviction. These factors are known as aggravating factors. A judge would consider these factors when sentencing an offender even if it is the offender's first-time DUI offense. Common aggravating factors include:
- Driving with a BAC of 0.15% or more
- Refusal to do a chemical DUI test
- If your drunk-driving act resulted in an accident
- Drunk-driving over the speed limit. That is, 30 miles per hour over the stipulated average speed on highways or 20 miles per hour over the average speed on street roads
- Drunk-driving while carrying child/children under 14 years in the vehicle. Apart from being an aggravating factor, this act can be charged as a separate crime of child endangerment under PC 273a.
- Drunk-driving when you are under 21 years old. 21 and above is the legal age of public alcohol consumption in California
The increased penalty applied depends on what particular factor is present in your case and your criminal history.
How an Attorney Can Help You to Fight a First-Time DUI Offense
The most effective way to challenge a charge of the first DUI offense is for you to hire an attorney immediately after you are arrested. For your attorney to be able to build a strong defense for your case, you need to brief him/her about the facts of the case promptly. After briefing him/her, an experienced DUI attorney does the following:
A skilled attorney will quickly find and interview people he/she thinks can be potential witnesses. He/she will retrieve videos recorded at the traffic point if available or take photos of the scene of the crime.
For instance, an officer might state that he/she pulled you over because your vehicle had a broken headlamp. However, the video footage your attorney obtains may show that the arresting officer did not see the front part of the car before he/she pulled you over.
Conduct research and filing motions
Many regulations apply to DUI investigations, and traffic stops. An expert attorney knows what areas he/she has to research. He/she knows what proof he/she will need to support the motions he/she will file. Common motions your attorney can file include a motion to suppress evidence (PC 1538.5a). For instance, an officer should have a reasonable suspicion of DUI to stop your car. If his/her suspicion wasn’t reasonable, the stop would be rendered illegal.
Motions are usually filed before trial. Therefore, if your motion to dismiss is successful, it will lead to your case being dismissed.
Most first-time drunk-driving cases don’t reach the trial point. Instead, they end due to negotiations between an attorney and the prosecution. Often, negotiations result in case dismissal or reduction of charges. Your attorney knows what proof will most likely convince the prosecution to dismiss your case and what proof will lead to a charge reduction.
First-Time DUI Offense Criminal Record Expungement
A drunk-driving conviction, even if it is a first-time offense, may forever remain on your criminal history unless you get an expungement. Record expungement refers to the deletion of the legal record of a conviction from the national database. If your record is expunged, it will appear as though you were never convicted of the offense.
To have your record expunged, you have to present a petition in court. The judge then reviews the petition and confirms its eligibility. In case the judge accepts the request to expunge your record, you will be permitted to withdraw your plea of no contest or guilty. Then, you will enter a ‘not guilty’ plea, and your case gets dismissed.
The main advantage of deleting your drunk-driving conviction record from the national database is for employment reasons. Note that California law forbids any employer from inquiring about a person’s criminal conviction during an interview. However, if you are being interviewed for a conditional job, the employer is legally right to ask about your convictions. Usually, in this case, a DUI conviction has to be disclosed. If the conviction was expunged, you don’t need to disclose it.
Also, note that an employer is not allowed by the law to discriminate against you on the grounds of an expunged criminal record. Therefore, in case he/she becomes aware of your expunged DUI conviction, he/she should not consider it when choosing a candidate to employ or promote.
Other benefits of expunging a DUI conviction apart from preventing employment discrimination include:
- It will be simple for you to acquire a professional license
- Your conviction cannot be used in impeaching a person’s credibility in a court of law. It will only be used if you are being charged with a subsequent DUI offense
- In certain cases, record expungement can help a person to avoid immigration penalties like deportation.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
As we have explained, the punishments for a first-time DUI can equally be as long-lasting and severe as those of other DUIs. Hiring an attorney may help lower these consequences. Also, the attorney may build strong defenses for you, which can help to reduce or dismiss the charges. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, our attorneys are well-equipped to provide you the best legal representation. Call us at 310-273-9600 for a free consultation. We offer expert DUI defense services in Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles area.