Despite harsh DUI laws, drunk driving is more common than you think in California. According to the CDC, 1.8% of Californians reported driving after having too much to drink. This statistic only represents those who admitted to driving while impaired. Many people don't readily admit committing this crime, and too many others simply don't know when they've had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel.
As a result, 10,327 people died in accidents involving drunk drivers between 2003 and 2012 in California. To avoid becoming a crash statistic, keep these five facts in mind before you get behind the wheel.
- California operates about 2,500 sobriety checkpoints throughout the year.
Given this number, it's easy to see why drunk driving is so risky from a legal perspective. Sobriety checkpoints must be announced in advance, so you could potentially avoid them if you receive alerts. Check on social media, local reader boards, and with state patrol to learn about planned checkpoints. Sobriety checkpoints catch many drunk drivers off guard. While police usually need probable cause to make a stop, they can stop you at a sobriety checkpoint at random intervals. This means even if you are driving perfectly, you can be stopped and arrested for a DUI if you were drinking.
- You can be charged with a DUI even if your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was below .08%.
This fact surprises many. The BAC threshold in California is .08%. But if you were driving impaired with a BAC of less than .08%, you can still potentially be charged with DUI. Don't assume because you've only had one drink you're good to go. Know that the law provides for “exceptions” to the BAC threshold. Namely, if you appear to be impaired and are behind the wheel, you can be pulled over and asked to submit to a road sobriety, breath, or blood test. Even if your BAC was below the legal threshold, you could still be charged with a DUI if you were driving while impaired.
- Fines and fees for a first-time DUI offense can mount to $3,600.
And this number doesn't even begin to cover the collateral costs of a DUI. For example, your insurance rates will rise for several years. You may also have to pay victim restitution, attend DUI School, or install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your car, at a cost to you. In reality, a California DUI is expensive. If you knew about all the costs associated with a DUI, you probably wouldn't risk it.
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will automatically suspend your license when you are arrested for a DUI.
Unless you request a DMV hearing, your license will be suspended automatically after a DUI arrest. You will be given a temporary license good for 30 days when your license is confiscated. Basically, the DMV can suspend your license even before the court convicts you. And if you don't act fast, say goodbye to your driving privileges. In reality, you will face two legal processes after a DUI arrest: criminal prosecution and an administrative license suspension through the DMV. That means more court dates, more paperwork, and a greater need for a lawyer.
- The “look-back period” for DUIs in California is ten years.
The penalties for a second DUI offense go up considerably. You will face at least 96 hours and up to one year in a county jail, a fine of between $390 and $1000 (plus penalty assessments), a two-year license suspension (and 12 month waiting period for a restricted license), and 18-30 months in a DUI school, at a cost to you. That means after just one DUI conviction, you have to be very careful for the next ten years if you want to avoid steep penalties.
A DUI conviction in California is serious. While other states may let you off with a slap on the wrist, California imposes harsh penalties that will disrupt your life for years to come. Always drive sober or get a sober ride. And if you do find yourself facing DUI charges, call an attorney right away. An attorney can go over all the potential penalties you could face for a DUI conviction, which go beyond what we've listed here. An attorney can also help you decide how to best handle your case given the consequences you face.
Being arrested for a DUI is stressful, but experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you face your charges. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you navigate the criminal prosecution process from start to finish and are not afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.