You didn’t think you were drunk but when that car swerved in front of you out of nowhere, those three drinks that you had at the party slowed down your reflexes. You didn’t brake in time and had an accident. What’s worse than the damage that was incurred was that the policeman suspected you’d been drinking. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, and even though you knew the police would be fishing for drunk drivers, you didn’t think you were drunk driving! But according to the law, you were Driving Under the Influence. Now what?
You’re not alone. On average about 200,000 people in California are convicted of drunk driving each year, many of them on New Year’s. Many of the people convicted weren’t even drinking alcohol. If any substance can alter your state of mind, taking it before you get behind the wheel can leave you vulnerable to a DUI charge. California’s DUI laws include medications too: prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and alcohol-heavy cough syrups.
If you or a loved one was arrested for a DUI this New Year’s, it’s good to know what you’re in for in terms of penalties, fines and insurance hikes. The law is not soft on DUI convictions. Penalties are similar across the board in all the states but whether it’s called a DUI, a DWI, an OWI or an OVI, the penalties are similar.
For California drivers who are 21 or older, you cannot have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If you do, you can be arrested and convicted of a DUI offense. In many states you can be charged with a DUI just for having an open bottle or can in your car (not in California, however). Now that California and many other states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, the same holds true for a marijuana DUI offense. You can be arrested and convicted for having your marijuana and/or paraphernalia in the car.
I Had to Take a Sobriety Test!
Yes, most people who are arrested for a DUI are asked to step out of their cars and prove that they are not driving while impaired. This field sobriety test will be used against you. All police officers across the country use the same field tests to use as evidence for an arrest. The three tests run by the National Highway Traffic Safety administration are the following: The Walk and Turn Test, the One-Leg Stand Test and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.
You can still fight a DUI charge even if you failed a field sobriety test. If your test was administered wrong or in a faulty manner, you can contest the finding. However, it’s advisable that you do so with an experienced DUI attorney who knows the laws of your state. Commonly, DUI lawyers contest the outcome of the field test or even the blood-alcohol test to win their cases.
How Much Will a DUI Lawyer Cost?
This is where this all really begins to hurt, perhaps even more than the monetary (and possibly physical) damages you incurred during the accident. You are looking at a minimum of $2,000 to fight the charge but it can cost upwards of $6,000. Fighting the charge on your own has little chance of success. You will need to hire a DUI lawyer. While you may not succeed in getting your case dismissed, an attorney may help negotiate a lesser charge from a DUI to a “Wet Reckless” charge which carries lesser fines and penalties.
If this is your first DUI arrest, you have a much higher chance of having your charges lessened. If you are a repeat offender, the fines just get more expensive and the penalties much tougher. You may even lose your license.
What to Expect After a First Conviction: If it’s your first offense, expect to pay about $1,800 in fines plus $2,600+ in penalty assessments. You may spend time in jail, with the maximum being 6 months and the average about 2 days. Your license will be suspended for 30 days beginning with the date of the arrest. The maximum your license can be suspended for a first offense is 6 months, but it can be up to 10 months if your BAC was 0.15% or higher. You will be issued a restricted license after your license suspension is up. For 90 days, you will only be able to drive to and from work. You will also be required to enter an alcohol treatment program, which will cost upwards of $500. You may also have some hours of community service to serve. After you’ve satisfied all these requirements, you will have to carry an SR-22 insurance certificate for 3 years. You will also be on probation for 3 to 5 years. Other possible penalties include an ignition interlock device, which detects alcohol on the breath, and can cost up to $1,000. Your vehicle may also be impounded at your expense for up to 30 days at your expense.
What to Expect After a Second Conviction: A second conviction is about $2,000 in fines (the maximum in California is $3,000, $400 higher than a first conviction). You will likely spend about 10 days in jail and will be required to enter an 18 to 30-month-long alcohol treatment program. This will cost you upwards of $2,000. You will be required to install an ignition interlock device, which you will run you upwards of $1,000. On average, a second conviction will lead to the suspension of your license for a year from the date of arrest. The maximum suspension term is 2 years. You will also have a restricted license once you’re able to drive again. This means you can only drive to and from work. You will have to carry an SR-22 insurance certificate for up to 5 years. You will also be on probation for 10 years and could have your vehicle impounded for up to 30 days at your expense.
What to Expect After a Third Conviction: You’re looking at upwards of $18,000 in fines and 120 days in jail (the maximum is 1 year of incarceration). Your license will be suspended for 3 years but you will be eligible eventually for a restricted one with a required SR-22 insurance certificate. You will be required to enter a 30-month multi-offender alcohol treatment program which will cost more than $2,000. You may lose the rights to your vehicle or your car may be impounded at your expense for up to 90 days.
California Three Strikes Law applies not only to violent felonies but to multiple DUI offenses, especially those that result in severe injuries and even death. You can face jail time and license revocation, which can be permanent.
What to Expect After a Fourth Conviction: Fines can reach up to $18,000 and you could face up to 16 months in state prison. Your license will be suspended for 4 years and you will be required to enter a 30-month long multi-offender alcohol treatment program, which will cost more than $2,000. Your car may be impounded for up to 90 days at your expense or you may lose all rights to your vehicle. You are also vulnerable to a felony charge even if no one was hurt and there was no accident. If you do get convicted of a felony you will most definitely lose your vehicle.
What if I refuse to be tested when I get pulled over?
Refusal to comply with a breathalyzer or field test can result in an immediate suspension of your license. You will also be liable to criminal charges for refusing or failing a BAC test. You can request a hearing if you believe the suspension was unjustified but do not assume you’re better off taking the route of refusing over taking and failing a test. The penalties for refusing a BAC test are as follows: First offense is a 1-year suspension of the license. Second offense: your license is revoked for 2 years. Third offense: Your license is revoked for 3 years.
What Is an SR-22 certificate?
Once you’re convicted of a DUI, you will likely need an SR-22 to keep your car on the road. The “SR: stands for “statement of responsibility” and ensures that you are covered fully. Some people with DUIs need to file for this form of insurance for as long as 5 years! As you probably already guessed, the points for the DUI charge and the loss of the Good Driver discount will result in a substantial increase in your insurance rate. If you need an SR-22 and are not sure how to file for one, contact an Insurance Specialist at (888) 772-4247.
What if someone is injured or killed in a DUI accident?
It’s especially awful when there are casualties as a result of drunk driving. Sometimes, Auto Insurance becomes invalid and the damages of an accident become the full responsibility of the DUI driver. A drunk driver can be charged with a felony if someone is killed or injured. In that case, the drunk driver is looking at 1-5 years in state prison.
What type of probation do I have to serve, if any?
Even first-time offenders are usually placed on probation for at least 3 years but usually no more than 5 years. If you violate the terms of your probation, additional penalties may be added. The terms of a probation period include not driving with any detectable alcohol in your system and driving only to and from work and to any required alcohol treatment programs. You may also be given community service hours that you will need to serve.
Will my DUI be on a criminal record?
Yes, a DUI goes on your criminal record and can stay there for 10 years in California. In some states, it stays there permanently.
No, a DUI does not show up on an employment background check. It’s mainly used by DMV.
Will my Auto Insurance go up after a DUI?
Yes, a DUI will also add points to your license and increase your insurance rates. DUIs have the highest points.
Can I get a DUI removed from my record?
In California you can apply to your District Attorney’s office to have a DUI expunged from your permanent record. First, you must serve all penalties and pay all fines. If you served time in a state prison, however, you will not qualify. You also will not qualify if you have other criminal charges pending.
What’s an Aggravated DUI?
A California Aggravated DUI has more severe penalties. Aggravating factors for DUI cases include past convictions of DUI, a high BAC, reckless driving, speeding, having a suspended license and causing injury and/or property damage. Having a child in the car at the time of the offense is also an aggravating factor. If a drunk driver causes injury or death to more than one victim, there’s a 1-year enhancement of the penalties for each victim. The maximum enhancement is 3 years. People caught drunk driving in safety enhancement and construction zones receive double the standard fines for the DUI.
What if I got caught drunk driving and I’m under 21?
You will face two types of prosecution: one for the DUI and another for possessing alcohol while underage. This violates California’s Zero Tolerance Law, which is very harsh on underage drunk driving. Penalties for drunk drivers under the age of 21, include license suspension for 1 year, criminal charges, DUI school, and upwards of $1,000 in fines.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and the language contained therein will govern such policy. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.