If you have been arrested for a DUI offense in California, you likely have a lot of questions about what to expect. This is a primer for those facing a first offense DUI in California. A first offense DUI can have significant consequences — you should consult one or more DUI lawyers in the county you were arrested to discuss the specifics of your case.
The purpose of this guide is to provide a brief overview of how the process works, and the possible penalties you may be facing as a result of your DUI arrest. Each DUI case is different so contact a DUI attorney to learn where you stand.
Initial Steps for a California First DUI Arrest
The first thing to remember is to settle down and start dealing with the situation. Often people are too stressed to face the consequences of their DUI arrest which readily leads to suspended drivers license, larger fines, and sometimes another DUI!
Next, if it is still within 10 days of your arrest, you should submit a request of an administrative hearing with the California DMV. If you make the request in time, any potential suspension of your California drivers license will be delayed until a hearing is held and a decision is rendered. If you’ve engaged a DUI lawyer, they can guide you through this process and even represent you with the DMV.
Third, you should meet with one or more DUI attorneys who work in the county you were arrested for your first DUI. Most DUI attorneys offer a free initial consultation that allows you to discuss the specifics of your DUI arrest without obligation.
Will my driver’s license be suspended or revoked?
The answer to this question depends on whether or not you submitted to a chemical DUI test when originally pulled over. If this is your first dui charge in the state of California and you agreed to the test then you will likely be facing up to 6 months of license suspension. Those who refuse the initial chemical test may have their license suspended for up to 1 year. You may face a longer suspension if your blood alcohol concentration was significantly above the .08 legal limit. Whether or not you will be allowed a restricted license is statutory and will be based upon the specific facts of your case.
If you did not submit to a chemical DUI test to measure your blood alcohol content, your situation is more complicated than a “standard first DUI.” You should definitely consult a DUI attorney, and you can review this article on DUI refusal.
How much can I expect to pay in fines?
For those who are found guilty in their first California dui, the base fine ranges from $390 to $1,000 plus “penalties and assessments” which add to the total fines paid to the court. Typical fines can range anywhere from $1400 to $2500, include court costs and fees on top of that. When it is all said and done, the AAA estimates that you can expect to pay upwards of $10,000 for first offense conviction in California, though payment arrangements can be made with the court to make this burden a little bit easier.
Do I need to hire a DUI Lawyer?
You always have the right to hire a lawyer in order to represent you in a criminal matter. In order to make sure you hire a lawyer who is experienced with California first DUI cases, you should consult with several in the area and weigh your options; nearly all law firms in the state offer free consultation services.
Make no mistake, hiring as DUI lawyer is not inexpensive. Depending on the jurisdiction of your DUI arrest and the specifics of your case, a DUI lawyer may or may not be able to help. The only way to tell is to meet with one or more DUI lawyers to discuss the specifics of your case.
Can I get the charges reduced?
Depending on the facts of your case you may be facing “enhancements” (bad facts like speeding, high blood alcohol concentration, refusing to provide a chemical test, children in the car, etc. for which there are harsher penalties) or additional charges. In some cases you may be able to get your DUI charge reduced to Wet Reckless. You will still be facing $600 to $1200 in fines, and this charge is still treated as an alcohol-related charge on your record. In order to find out if your first DUI California can be reduced to Wet Reckless, you should consult with a qualified lawyer in your area.
Are there any other penalties?
Apart from fines and a suspension of your driver’s license, you may be facing other penalties for your first California DUI. There is a mandatory 48 hours of jail time for all first offense DUIs, though it may be possible to get this converted to a community service sentence. You will need to complete anywhere from 12 to 45 hours of DUI school, and anywhere from 3 to 5 years of probation that will most likely not involve a probation officer, but in some cases may.
In addition to the common penalties listed above, some individuals may even face further penalties. Ignition interlock systems may be installed on the dashboard of your vehicle which contain breathalyzers that require a clean (alcohol-free) breath to start your engine, and you may even have difficulty visiting Canada. For some professions, even a first DUI conviction will have serious repercussions on career advancement.
In addition, starting July 1, 2010, individuals arrested and then convicted of a first offense dui, in Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare and Sacramento counties, will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device on their vehicle for 5 months (12 months if an injury was involved). This is a pilot program which is why the penalty only applies to these four counties.