Legal Guide

How the DUI laws affect first time offenders?

Most DUI laws across the 50 states of the USA follow a subjective standard. According to the California penal code, driving under the influence is a severe offense. If you face such charges, be ready to go through a grueling legal process consisting of fines, court appearances, and fees that can even lead to imprisonment in some more severe cases. Suppose a police officer observes the driving and concludes that it exhibits impaired driving. In that case, it is most likely that they will pull up the driver on suspicion of DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.   They might investigate further to confirm that you have chemical impairment by taking a breathalyzer test. Refusing a breathalyzer test can attract more penalties as it is mandatory as it is an implied consent law. 

The acceptable BAC levels

Breathalyzer test or Blood Alcohol test (BAC) in California sets different levels of tolerance according to the category of drivers. For adult drivers of non-commercial vehicles, the maximum limit of alcohol present in the bloodstream should not be more than 0.08%; for Commercial drivers, it is 0.04%. For ride-sharing, limo, and taxi drivers, it is 0.04%, and it is 0.05% for underage drivers.

 Someone can be guilty of driving under the influence even if the BAC is within the permissible limit if the person is under the influence of alcohol or drug and can no longer drive as a sober person would under similar circumstances.

Breath tests in California can take place before arrest and are known as PAS test or preliminary alcohol screening test. The authorities can also take the test after arrest.  Drivers below the age of 21 years or those on probation for an earlier DUI offense can refuse the PAS test but taking the test after the arrest is mandatory. Refusing to take the test after arrest will result in automatic suspension of the driver’s license for a year.

Penalties for FUI conviction

When charged with DUI for the first time in California, it amounts to a misdemeanor that can attract the following penalties.

Fines – A first-time DUI offender might have to pay fines in the range of $ 390 to $1000 together with penalty assessments that can considerably increase the amount of fine, which can run into thousands of dollars.

Jail – For most first time DUI offenders, the judge orders probation. It helps them to avoid jail term ranging between 48 hours to 6 months. Usually, judges are lenient about first time offenders who normally can evade jail term and go on probation.

Probation – Three years is the standard term for informal probation that can go up to 5 years. The terms of probation include the defendant completing a 3month DUI school consisting 30 hours classes. However, the program stretches up to 9 months and 60 hours of classes for those with a BAC of 0.20% or higher.

License suspension – 6-month license suspension is applicable for first time DUI offenders in addition to a 4-month suspension by DMV if the driver's BAC is more than 0.08%.  Both suspensions come into effect simultaneously.

First time offenders can apply for a restricted license for commuting to work or school.


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