Pick Your Poison
California DUI laws are broadly reaching. They penalize driving under the influence of any controlled substance. The substance can be alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and even over the counter drugs in some cases. In general, all first-time DUI offenders face the same standard California DUI penalties:
- Up to 6 months in a county jail
- Summary probation for at least 3 years
- Six months license suspension (you will be eligible for a restricted license after 30 days)
- At least 3 months of DUI classes (which focus on drug and alcohol use), and,
- A fine of up to $1,000 (plus penalty assessments)
In Tulare, Alameda, Sacramento, and Los Angeles counties first-time DUI offenders will also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in their car. Other possible penalties include community service and drug and alcohol treatment. The court may order you to attend alcoholics anonymous (AA) meetings if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drug treatment if you were driving under the influence of drugs. These additional penalties are not standard for all DUI cases, however, the judge is likely to order some form of drug or alcohol treatment, counseling, or therapy if he or she believes you have a substance abuse problem.
These base penalties will not change if you were impaired by a substance other than alcohol. Nevertheless, a drug DUI case will differ slightly from an alcohol DUI case because proving drug impairment is more difficult than proving alcohol impairment. For example, there is no blood-content limit for drugged driving. A blood, urine, or saliva test may detect the presence of drugs in the defendant's bloodstream. There are no specific laws on the amount needed for a conviction, but such test results may still be used in court. A drug recognition expert, or DRE, may examine the defendant to identify signs of impairment, and the DRE's analysis, including any toxicology results, may be used in the case as well.
Keep in mind, while the penalties for a DUI do not vary based on the substance that you were impaired by, you could face additional criminal charges if you were found with drugs in your possession or transporting them in your car when you were arrested. These cases tend to be complex and are best handled by an experienced attorney.
The Amount Matters
It is important to know that while the base penalties for a DUI are the same for all substances, the penalties for a California DUI can vary based on how much alcohol you had in your blood at the time you were driving. When penalties are increased because of certain circumstances, it is called a sentencing enhancement. Having a high blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, can result in a sentencing enhancement. For example, a first-time DUI offender who had a BAC of .15 or higher may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device in any car they drive or own for up to three years. A high BAC driver may also have a longer license suspension and 9 months DUI school. This differs from drugged driving DUIs in that there are no content limits for drugs in your system.
A DUI is a DUI no matter the substance that impaired you. Whether you had just taken an over the counter drug, a prescription drug, an illicit drug, or were drinking, California will hand down the same base penalties for all those convicted of a DUI. And those penalties are severe. You may face additional penalties in light of aggravating circumstances or certain facts, such as a high BAC or a substance abuse problem. Consult with a seasoned California DUI defense attorney if you have questions about the penalties you may face in your DUI case. An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on what your sentencing may consist of. A skilled attorney may also be able to help you fight your charges, which could result in your case being dropped. A DUI is worth fighting because of the high cost in terms of your time and money. But you shouldn't face a DUI alone; make sure you have a strong advocate in your corner.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing DUI charges? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we are experienced in DUI defense and can help you fight your charges. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare, and Kings Counties for over ten years and will not be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.