Driving under the influence, or DUI for short, is when a person enters a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. DUI offences are serious and lead to heavy fines, jail time, and permanent records that the offender will carry for the rest of their life. Drugs here can refer to recreational drugs or the ones prescribed by a medical professional.

Apart from store-bought alcohol, abuse or overuse of medications like cough syrups and over-the-counter drugs also fall under DUI. Therefore, it is wise to refer to the labels or ask your medical practitioner to know more about the drugs you are prescribed.

Though DUI is a severe offence, all hope is not lost. By hiring a DUI defense lawyer, you can prove your side of the accident and the events that preceded it.

Conditions for DUI

The common factor in proving DUI cases is the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits. In the state of California, it is punishable to drive a vehicle if,
  • You are over 21 years old, and your BAC is 0.08% or higher
  • You are under 21 years old, and your BAC is 0.01% or higher
  • You are on DUI probation, and your BAC is 0.01% or higher, irrespective of age
  • You drive a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license, and your BAC is 0.04% or higher
  • You are driving a passenger for hire, and your BAC is 0.04% or higher
An important point to remember is that it is unsafe to operate even if your BAC is below the legal limit. Practising responsible drinking and driving habits will go a long way in preventing DUI accidents.

The Repercussions

The severity of punishment for DUI cases is the lowest for first-time offenders. The fines and jail sentences increase considerably as the offender commits multiple DUIs.

Punishment for DUIs That Don’t Cause Serious Injury or Bodily Harm

First Offense: A fine ranging from $390 to $1000 and additional penalty assessments. The offender can face up to 6 months of jail time. Additionally, the offender’s driving license will be suspended for 6 months.

After the first offence, the offender will be subjected to 3 years of informal probation, which can go up to 5 years. As part of the probation, the offender must also complete a 3-month DUI school containing 30 hours of classes. The duration of courses could go up to 9 months and 60 hours of class time if the offender had a BAC of 0.20% or more.

Second DUI: Second-time DUI offenders will be fined between $390 and $1000 and additional penalty assessments. They could face up to 1 year in jail, which can sometimes be served via house arrest or jail-alternative work programs.

Second-time offenders have a 2-year license suspension period from the criminal court and an additional 12-month administrative suspension.

Additionally, offenders can apply for a restricted license that they can use to commute between school, work, and the DUI school. Offenders charged with driving under the influence of drugs cannot apply for a restricted license.

Second-time offenders must also install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). The offender must blow into this device every time they start their vehicle. If the IID detects an unsafe BAC amount, it prevents the engine from starting.

Third DUI: Like the first 2 offences, the offender will be fined between $390 and $1000 plus penalty assessments. Jail time can range from 120 days to 1 year.

Third-time offenders are subjected to 3 years of license suspension with an added 12-month administrative suspension.

Third-time DUI offenders will be under 3-5 years of informal probation.

Third-time offenders can apply for a restricted license and should drive with an IID for at least 2 years. In the case of drug DUIs, the offender must complete 12 months of suspension before applying for a restricted license.

Punishment for DUIs Involving Serious Injuries and Death

The punishments are more severe when a DUI results in serious or life-changing injuries or death.

For DUIs involving injuries: The prison sentence for offenders can range from 16 months to four years. Fines can be anywhere from $390 to $5,000, based on the offender’s history.

For DUIs involving death: Drivers responsible for DUI accidents that result in the death of another person are charged under California state’s vehicular manslaughter or murder laws. Based on the seriousness of the injury, the offender can be charged with a misdemeanour or a felony.

Depending on the charges, the offender could face fines of up to $5,000 and jail time of anywhere from 4 years to life.

Fourth DUI within 10 Years

If a person is charged with a fourth DUI in 10 years, the DUI will be considered a felony. The offender, in this case, can be fined up to $1000 along with additional penalties and jail time between 16 months and 3 years.

Other Consequences

Legal punishments aside, insurance companies may refuse to consider the offender or may charge high premiums. Additionally, DUIs stay permanently on record and may hinder prospective education, employment, housing, and events in other areas of life.

Though punishments may vary, the bottom line is that DUI is a serious offence that will change someone’s life. Considering the grave consequences, it is advisable to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to decide on the possible proceedings.