For many people, a first-time DUI arrest is typically the first arrest ever. This type of situation can be frightening, stressful, and confusing. However, the most important thing you need to do is learn about the potential penalties you face and the defenses you can use.
If you’re lawfully arrested for a first-offense DUI in California and results from the chemical test indicate you have a BAC of .08% or more, law enforcement will confiscate your license and issue an “Order of Suspension/Revocation” and a temporary license that is valid for 30 days upon being issued. This means that the suspension order goes into effect when the temporary license expires.
If you wish to fight the license suspension, you have ten calendar days from when you receive the suspension order to request a DMV hearing. If you fail to request a DMV hearing, or if you lose at this hearing, the DMV will suspend your license for at least four months, require you to carry “SR-22” insurance to reinstate your license after the suspension and pay fees to the DMV.
Keep in mind, after completing a 30-day hard suspension—which is part of the four-month suspension—you may be eligible to apply for a restrictive license. A restricted license enables you to drive to, from, and for work and an education DUI program. In order to get a restricted license, you need to enroll in a DUI program, provide the SR-22, and pay a license reissue fee.
Most first-time DUI offenders are required to complete a 30-hour program lasting three months. But if you BAC was .20% or higher, you must complete a 60-hour class that lasts nine months.
Completely separate from the administrative process, the criminal process is handled by the courts. In general, a first DUI conviction in California is considered a misdemeanor.
If convicted of a first-time DUI, the penalties include the following:
- Mandatory jail sentence of anywhere from two days to six months, although no jail is required if probation is granted.
- DUI probation for three to five years.
- A fine ranging from $390 to $1,000.
- License suspension for up to six months. However, the administrative and criminal suspension periods are allowed to overlap and the total suspension time can’t exceed the longer of the two suspensions.
- Attend support group or victim impact programs.
A DUI will remain on your record for 10 years. So if you have any other DUI arrests, you will face harsher penalties. Your DUI can also have an impact on employment, college admissions, and other aspects of your life.
If you have been arrested or charged with DUI, it is in your best interest to retain legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The criminal penalties above only exist if you are convicted of a DUI, so having a good lawyer on your side may help you win your case or get your DUI reduced to a less serious offense.