Being arrested or charged with DUI (driving under the influence) is stressful and emotional. Knowing what steps are vital in protecting your future is important because a DUI conviction can attract severe and long-lasting consequences, including mandatory jail time and revocation of professional licenses.
DUI is one of the leading causes of dangerous and fatal traffic accidents. No wonder Bakersfield judges and prosecutors are harsh on DUI defendants. However, you do not have to face the criminal justice system alone. We at Koenig Law Office can be your voice during the investigation and in court to help you challenge the allegations and achieve the best possible outcome.
Our tenacious and aggressive attorneys will give the alleged crime the attention it deserves. We will devote ample time to investigating the facts of your case to build reasonable defenses that could convince the court to drop the alleged DUI crime. If that is impossible, we will strive to negotiate a favorable plea deal like dry reckless, which carries lighter penalties.
Understanding the Crime of DUI
You commit a DUI offense when you drive or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The most prevalent DUI convictions under drunk driving laws are for operating a vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) greater than the legal limit.
The Vehicle Code defines what is lawful and unlawful when driving a vehicle. The Vehicle Code sets the legal BAC limit for all motorists and the penalties you can face for violating any DUI law. According to Vehicle Code (VC) 23152, the prosecutor could file any of the following DUI charges against you upon your arrest on suspicion that you were driving under the influence:
- Drunk driving under VC 23152 (a) — Under this statute, it is unlawful to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, regardless of your BAC limit.
- DUI per se under VC 23152(b) — The prosecutor can file a "DUI per se" charge against you if he/she has evidence to prove that you were driving with a BAC at or exceeding the legal limit of 0.08%, even if you did not display signs of impairment at the time of the arrest.
- Driving while addicted to the drug under VC 23152(c) — As the name suggests, you commit this crime when you drive a vehicle while addicted to any drug, including lawful prescription drugs like Vicodin.
- Commercial vehicle DUI under VC 23152(d) — This statute makes it illegal for commercial driver's license holders to drive with a BAC of 0.04% or above.
- DUI by Uber, limo, or taxi drivers under VC 23152(e) — Under this statute, which was effective on 1st July 2018, it is illegal for Uber, limo, taxi, or ride-sharing drivers to drive with a BAC of 0.04% or higher while having a passenger onboard.
- Driving under the influence of drugs under VC 23152(f) — According to this statute, driving under the influence of any drug, including prescription drugs, is illegal.
- Driving under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol under VC 23152(g) — This law applies when you drive while impaired by both alcohol and drugs.
Generally speaking, after an arrest for allegedly driving under the influence, the prosecutor will most likely pursue your charge under VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b) because they are the primary DUI laws for adult drivers. However, whether the prosecutor will charge you under both statutes or pursue the case independently will depend on the facts and circumstances of the DUI crime.
Standard Penalties for Common Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Convictions
A DUI conviction generally attracts severe consequences. The severity of your DUI conviction penalties will depend on several factors, including the specifics of your case, age, criminal record, and whether you refused a chemical test. Below are the specific penalties to expect after a DUI conviction without aggravating factors:
If you do not have a past DUI conviction, the prosecutor will pursue first-time DUI charges. A conviction for a first-time misdemeanor DUI will attract the following consequences:
- A jail time not exceeding six (6) months.
- Informal probation for not more than six months.
- Up to $390 minimum fine and not more than $1,000 maximum fine.
- Three (3) to nine (9) months of DUI school.
- A suspension of your driver's license (DL) for not more than nine (9) months.
If it is your first DUI conviction, the court could allow you to obtain a restricted license, which restores some of your driving privileges before your DL suspension period expires. For example, you can drive to and from school or work with a restricted driver's license.
No matter the penalties you could face upon conviction, it is a brilliant idea to retain the services of an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest for an alleged DUI offense. Your attorney can help you request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), also known as the DMV hearing, within ten days after your arrest.
Once your attorney requests this administrative hearing, the DMV will put the automatic suspension of your DL on hold until the conclusion of the hearing. If you win the DMV hearing, the department hearing officer or judge will not suspend your DL, meaning you will retain your driving privileges.
A second DUI offense is still chargeable as a misdemeanor, but the penalties are harsher than those listed above for a first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction. If you are guilty of a second DUI in ten years, you will face all of the above-listed penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in addition to the following:
- Your jail time will increase to up to one (1) year.
- 2-year driver's license suspension, but the court could provide you with a restricted driver’s license after one (1) year.
- Up to 30 months of DUI education.
Depending on the judge's discretion, your sentence for a second-time DUI conviction could include other additional penalties.
The prosecutor will charge you with a third-time DUI if you have two past DUI convictions within ten years. Although a third-time DUI is still a misdemeanor, the judge will not be lenient with you upon conviction because it shows you are a notorious offender and are unwilling to learn from your past mistakes. If guilty of this crime, your penalties could include the following:
- A fine ranging between $390 to $1,000 and penalty assessments that could raise the total to up to $18,000.
- Not more than five years of informal probation.
- Install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle for not less than two years.
- One hundred and twenty (120) days to one year of detainment in jail.
- Attend a DUI program for not more than thirty(30) days.
- A suspension of your driver's license for up to three (3) years.
The prosecutor will file a fourth or subsequent DUI for a fourth DUI violation within ten years since your last DUI offense. The violation is a felony, carrying the following potential penalties upon conviction:
- A fine ranging between $350 to $5,000 and penalty assessments that can increase the total to not more than $18,000.
- A suspension of your driver's license for not more than four (4) years and possible revocation of your DL permanently.
- Up to five (5) years of formal probation.
- Up to three (3) years of custody in the state prison.
- Mandatory installation of IID in your vehicle.
It is worth noting that the ten-year look-back period the prosecutor will consider before filing a fourth-time DUI charge against you covers pending DUI charges and prior convictions. Priorable DUI offenses the prosecutor will consider for that matter include the following:
- A wet reckless offense under VC 23103.5.
- A DUI offense under VC 23152(a).
- Driving with excessive BAC or DUI per se offense under VC 23152(b).
- DUI with injury.
- Expunged convictions of any of the above offenses.
Aggravating Factors that Can Harshen the Above Standard Penalties for a DUI Conviction
The above-listed penalties for a DUI conviction could be harsher if this crime has aggravating factors, such as:
- You Refused Chemical Test After an Arrest
While you can lawfully refuse a breathalyzer test after stopping your vehicle at a DUI sobriety checkpoint, refusing a chemical test after an arrest for an alleged DUI offense is unlawful under VC 23612. Chemical test options the arresting officer will provide you with include:
- Blood test.
- Urine test.
- Breath test.
You can take the test you prefer among any of the above, but if it is unavailable, you must accept the available chemical test to determine your BAC level. Refusing a chemical test will attract penalties of its own. Among the most severe penalties for this offense is an additional license suspension of one, two, or three years, depending on whether it is your first, second, or third DUI conviction.
- DUI With a Child Under 14 Onboard
Once you are arrested for DUI with a child under 14 in your car, you will receive all the standard penalties for a DUI conviction and additional enhancements for having a minor onboard.
According to VC 23572, you will receive the following sentencing enhancement if the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you were impaired and had a child under 14 onboard at the time of your arrest:
- Additional and consecutive forty hours in jail for a first-time DUI offense.
- Additional and consecutive ten days in jail for a second-time DUI offense.
- Additional and consecutive thirty days in jail for a third-time DUI offense.
- Additional and consecutive ninety days in jail for a fourth-time DUI offense.
It is worth noting that the above sentencing enhancement under VC 23572 will apply to your DUI conviction regardless of the following factors:
- Whether you intended to harm the child.
- Your driving pattern.
- Your BAC level or level of impairment at the time of the arrest.
- Excessive BAC
An excessive BAC level is another sentencing enhancement factor the court will consider when determining your appropriate sentence for a DUI conviction. If your BAC level at the time of the arrest was 0.15% or above, this sentencing enhancement could apply to your case, resulting in harsher penalties upon a conviction for the alleged DUI offense.
The idea behind excessive BAC levels is that when you have more alcohol in your blood, it makes you a more dangerous driver on the road, endangering the lives of other motorists and road users. If you are guilty of the alleged DUI crime and had an excessive BAC, you should expect a longer jail sentence, a DL suspension period, higher fines, and a more extended version of DUI school.
For instance, if it is your first DUI conviction, you should expect an additional two years of DL suspension and six months of DUI school on top of the standard DUI penalties you would face if your BAC level were not excessive.
Other aggravating factors that the court will consider during your sentencing hearing for a DUI conviction include:
- Whether you had an open container of alcohol in your vehicle.
- Whether you caused an accident.
- Whether you were under 21 at the time of the arrest.
- Whether you were speeding.
The type of enhanced punishment you will receive for any of the above aggravating factors will depend on the following:
- Your criminal history (specifically your prior DUI convictions).
- The circumstances of your unique DUI arrest.
If your attorney can challenge the alleged DUI crime, none of these aggravating factors will apply to your case. Hence, allowing an experienced DUI attorney to be your legal voice during the investigation and prosecution process for an alleged DUI offense is a decision you cannot regret.
Penalties for a DUI that Caused the Injury or Death of a Person
If you are guilty of a DUI that results in another person's injury or death, your potential penalties will be severe and life-changing. Below is a general overview of some of these DUI-related offenses and associated penalties:
DUI With Injury
According to VC 23153, you commit the crime of DUI causing injury or DUI with injury when you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cause an accident that leads to another person's injury. For instance, if you hit a tree while driving under the influence and it falls on another person, injuring him/her could attract a charge under this statute.
Depending on the specific facts of your case, the prosecutor can file a VC 23153 violation as a misdemeanor or a felony because it is a wobbler. If charged as a misdemeanor, a VC 23153 violation conviction will attract the following probable penalties:
- Up to five (5) years of informal probation.
- Up to $5,000 maximum fine.
- A jail term of up to one (1) year.
- Up to three years of DL suspension.
- Enroll in a court-approved DUI school.
- Pay restitution to the injured parties.
Conversely, when charged as a felony, a VC 23153 violation conviction will attract the following penalties:
- A fine not exceeding $5,000.
- Up to four (4) years of jail time.
- Enroll in a court-approved DUI school.
- A strike on your criminal record under the three strikes law.
- HTO (habitual traffic offender) status for not more than three years.
- Revocation of your DL for up to five (5) years.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
The crime of gross vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code (PC) 191.5(a) occurs when you drive under the influence, causing the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation. Below are some of the situations in which the prosecutor could charge you with the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated:
- While driving with a BAC exceeding the legal limit, you drive onto a sidewalk hitting a pedestrian and killing him/her instantly.
- After consuming or sniffing cocaine, you drive over the posted speed limit, causing an auto accident that kills the driver or passengers onboard.
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony carrying the following potential penalties:
- Up to ten (10) years of custody in the state prison.
- A fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Felony probation.
- Driver's license suspension for not less than three (3) years.
It is worth noting that a PC 191.5(a) violation conviction could attract fifteen (15) years to life in prison if you have a past conviction record for any of the following offenses:
- DUI under under VC 23152.
- DUI causing injury under VC 23153.
- Vehicular manslaughter while operating a boat under PC 192.5(a) or (b).
- Gross vehicular manslaughter under PC 192(c).
Potential Collateral Consequences for a DUI Conviction
Unfortunately, you will face several collateral consequences for a DUI conviction on top of the required standard penalty for your offense. Below are some of the most common collateral consequences to expect upon a conviction for this crime:
Increased Auto Insurance Rates
If you are guilty of this crime, chances are your auto insurance company will increase your premiums. The premium rate increase will typically depend on the following factors:
- Your age.
- Driving experience and history.
- Your residence place.
Once your license is revoked or suspended by the DMV, you must request an "SR-22 certificate" of insurance to reinstate your driving privileges. The SR-22 certificate, also known as "SR-22 insurance," verifies that you have the minimum vehicle insurance liability coverage. Obtaining this certificate will mean you are a high-risk driver, increasing your coverage costs.
If someone was injured or killed in a crash caused by your impaired driving, he/she could sue you and seek damages for the losses resulting from the accident. A DUI conviction will be admissible evidence in a civil lawsuit, increasing the chances of the plaintiff or claimant winning damages, which you must pay in full.
A Criminal Record
Unfortunately, a DUI conviction will appear during any criminal background check, regardless of whether you have multiple prior convictions or this is your first conviction. Unless you obtain an expungement under PC 1203.4, a DUI conviction record is permanent, meaning it will not disappear automatically after serving your jail time and paying all your dues.
Aside from serving jail time and paying hefty fines, having a criminal record for a DUI conviction can make it challenging to:
- Obtain a professional license.
- Secure a reliable housing.
- Secure a reliable employment.
Legal Defenses that Could Help Avoid or Reduce the Above Penalties of a DUI Conviction
A reliable and seasoned defense attorney could help you avoid a DUI conviction or negotiate for a favorable plea bargain option with less severe consequences. While every DUI case is different, the following defenses could work in your favor for the best possible outcome in the alleged DUI crime:
- The breathalyzer equipment used was defective.
- The arresting officers lacked probable cause for your arrest.
- You had a health issue that caused excessive mouth alcohol, for example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- The police mislead you during field sobriety tests.
- The high BAC results recorded were due to rising blood alcohol, meaning your BAC was lawful when you were driving.
- You are a victim of police misconduct, for example, racial profiling.
- The prosecutor has insufficient evidence against you.
With proper arguments backed up with evidence, the above defenses could be viable to obtain a reduced charge or dismissal of the alleged DUI crime. Common evidence your attorney could use to back up his/her defense arguments includes the following:
- Eyewitness(s) testimonies.
- Split blood testing.
- Expert forensic witness(s) testimonies.
- Surveillance videos.
- Accident reconstruction expert testimony.
Find an Experienced Bakersfield Defense Attorney Near Me
Our experienced attorneys at Koenig Law Office understand how devastating the penalties of a DUI conviction can be and will work tirelessly to have the alleged DUI crime dismissed or reduced to a lighter charge.
We will investigate and analyze the alleged DUI crime to find weak points in the prosecutor's evidence that will help us prepare defenses to challenge his/her case against you for the best possible outcome. Call us at 661-793-7222 if you are under arrest or investigation or have a pending DUI charge in Bakersfield.
Our attorneys will review every aspect of the alleged crime to prepare suitable defenses that will work to your advantage for a favorable outcome.