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Drunk driving is a serious offense in the State of California. Drunk driving can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the specifics of the offense. You might not serve any time in jail or you might service a significant period of incarceration. In most cases, you face a serious suspension of your operator’s license.
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you might wonder where you fall on this spectrum. You might wonder what the maximum penalties are for drunk driving. You might also wonder what the court is likely to do in your particular case.
California’s drunk driving laws are complicated. It’s important to work with an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney to evaluate your case. Your exact punishment depends on a lot of things including your criminal history, any personal injuries or damages in the crash and even your remorse at your sentencing hearing.
Depending on whether the police violated your constitutional rights or defenses available to you, you might not receive a conviction at all. Working with an experienced attorney can help you explore your options and determine the best course of action. You may be able to assert defenses that result in a dismissal of your charges before trial or even a finding of not guilty.
You’re a drunk driver in California if you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more per 210 liters of breath. Law enforcement can also measure your intoxication levels by looking at the alcohol in your urine or in your blood. In addition, you can face drunk driving charges if alcohol influenced your ability to drive.
Most of the time, the prosecutor charges both theories. That means that they only have to prove one of theories in order to convict you of drunk driving. If alcohol influenced your ability to drive or if you drove with an unlawful bodily alcohol content, you’re equally guilty of drunk driving.
Usually, breaking California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC is typically a misdemeanor. You can face up to six months in jail and a suspension of your driver’s license that can last as long as ten months. You’re likely to serve time on probation and pay hefty fines.
If you have three or more drunk driving convictions in a span of ten years, you might face a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor. This is much more serious. There are minimum jail times that are measured in months.
You’re likely to face a revocation of your license for at least several years. You can face additional penalties if you refuse chemical testing. That is, if you don’t take the breath test at the police station, you can face additional penalties for that, too.
A driver can face a drunk driving charge even if they don’t have any alcohol in their system. This is because it’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs just as it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) VC prohibits driving under the influence of drugs.
You can also face charges if you drive under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol. It doesn’t matter if it was more alcohol or drugs. Either combination can result in criminal charges.
A drunk driving charge can also result in an administrative suspension of your operator’s license. You can challenge this suspension but you have only a limited window to request a hearing. It’s important to work with your DUI attorney as soon as possible to make sure that you assert your right to a hearing.