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What to Expect for a 1st-Time DUI in California

A lot of things happen very quickly after a drunk driving arrest. For many people, a 1st-time DUI is the first time they've ever been arrested, taken into custody, or have to appear before a judge. It is important to know what to expect for a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge in California. It is just as important to know where to turn for help. 

The prosecutor may try to convince you that you have no choice but to plead guilty and even a public defender may be encouraging you to take a plea deal. However, before pleading guilty to any crime, make sure you understand your rights to challenge the charges. Contact an experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer to clear your name.

First Time DUI Charges

There are a few different driving under the influence (DUI) charges a driver can face, even if it is the first time they were under arrest. First time DUI charges can include:

23152(a) VC and 23153(b) VC

The most common DUI charges against a first-time offender include charges under Vehicle Code 23152. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152

  • (a) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
  • (b) It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.

Under 23152(b) VC, a driver commits a per se DUI just by having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, as tested by a breath or blood test. The driver does not have to be driving recklessly or show other signs of impairment. With a per se DUI, impairment is presumed with a BAC over the limit. 

The first time the driver may hear the specific charges against them and the specific penal or vehicle code violations is usually during the arraignment. This is where the driver is read the formal charges and can respond guilty or not guilty. Generally, it is recommended to plead not guilty so you have time to talk to your lawyer about your case. If you plead guilty, the case will be over and you will be sentenced for a DUI. 

License Suspension is Not After the Criminal Trial

One of the most confusing parts for a first-time DUI client involves explaining that their driver's license can be taken away even if they are never found guilty of a crime. In California, a driver's license is usually confiscated by the police officer during the arrest. The driver is then given a temporary permit that is good for 30 days. This temporary permit can be misleading because a driver only has 10 days to ask for a license suspension hearing. 

The DMV will suspend your driving privileges 30 days after a DUI arrest. This does not depend on the outcome of your criminal case. Just the arrest is enough to trigger the suspension. The only way to avoid or delay the suspension is to request an administrative hearing with the DMV but you only have 10 days after the arrest to do so. Contact your East Bay DUI defense lawyer immediately to begin this process so you can keep your license. 

If you request a hearing, the license suspension will be stayed until after the outcome of the DMV hearing. The good news is that your DUI defense lawyer can generally handle the administrative hearing. You also don't have to usually go to the DMV hearing and your lawyer can handle it on your behalf. 

Consequences of a 1st DUI Conviction

Unless there was an injury involved or other criminal charges, most 1st time DUIs are charged as misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are lesser offenses that are usually non-violent in nature, such as DUI, petty theft, probation violations, or drug possession. The penalties for a misdemeanor 1st offense DUI usually involve: 

  • Up to 6 months in county jail, and
  • Fine of up to $1000

In some jurisdictions, there is a minimum jail time of 48 hours, even for a 1st DUI. However, the minimum amount of time may depend on the court and the judge. In some cases, you may receive credit for time served or participate in work release. 

Driving Restrictions After a 1st DUI Conviction

In addition to jail and fines, drivers have a number of other restrictions that come with a conviction, including restricted driving privileges. A driver usually faces a 6 months driver's license suspension after a DUI conviction. However, the driver may get a restricted license after installing an ignition interlock device (IID).

There is no longer a waiting period for most 1st DUIs to get an IID installed. Generally, you should wait until the criminal case has been resolved before installing an IID. For most first-time DUI offenses, the driver will have to keep the IID installed for 5months. After 5months, if there are no other violations and the driver has completed DUI school and court payments, the driver can apply to have their regular driver's license reinstated without restrictions. 

DUI School for a 1st DUI Conviction

Another part of a DUI that most people don't expect is having to go to DUI school. DUI school is usually ordered by the court as a condition of probation or is required by the DMV to get the driver's license reinstated. DUI school is a program that involves educational classes, group participation, and individual counseling. 

Most drivers convicted of a first-time DUI will have to go through the 30-hour program. However, if the driver had a high BAC (over 0.20%), they may have to go through a nine-month/60 hour program. 

Probation After a 1st DUI Conviction

Probation is a way for people to avoid staying in jail after a conviction. There are usually a number of terms and conditions the individual has to follow in order to stay out on probation. Violating the terms of probation may lead to getting put into jail or other penalties. 

For probation after a DUI, the conditions of probation generally include drug and alcohol restrictions. This usually involves agreeing not to drive with any measurable alcohol (0.01% or higher) for 3 years. Other terms may include agreement to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test during a traffic stop. 

1st Time DUI Defenses for East Bay Drivers 

It may seem like a lot to process all at once but it can be a great relief to know that you have someone on your side to fight for your rights. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of DUI defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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