Monday, June 23, 2008

A California DUI/ Drunk Driving /DWI arrest triggers two separate cases.

The first is the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) action in which a persons’s driving privileges may be suspended or revoked. The second, is the criminal court case, where various criminal punishments are available. It is crucial to retain counsel immediately with respect to the California DMV case because if you are arrested for a California DUI, you only have ten days from the date of arrest to request a hearing with the California DMV. Failure to request such a hearing within the time limitation will result in an automatic suspension of driving privileges.

There are two California statutes that are typically used to charge California DUI defendants. The first statute is California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and has to do with whether a person is “impaired” by alcohol to the extent that it affects their ability to safely drive a car. Impairment is typically proven with evidence such asfield sobriety tests, testimony regarding the defendant's driving patterns, and the appearance of the defendant.

The second statute, Vehicle Code Section 23152(b), is brought against those who have a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08% or higher at the time of the arrest. This charge is based solely on body chemistry and the prosecution does not need to prove actual impairment.

If a person is convicted under both statutes, they will only be punished once. However, remember that the California DMV may still take action with respect to your driving privileges regardless of what happens in the California DUI/DWI court case. It is possible to have the charges dismissed or be acquitted of the California DUI charges and still have your license suspended.

The California DMV punishment may vary from a four month suspension if it is a first offense, to a one year suspension for a second offense, and a two year suspension for a third offense. Restricted licenses are sometimes available for a first offense after the first thirty days of the suspension have passed. Please note that if an accused refuses to take a chemical blood or breath test, the California DMV punishment will be increased. A one time offense will result in a one year suspension, a second offense will trigger a two year suspension, and a third offense will trigger a three year suspension.

If arrested for a California DUI, there is also a possibility that it may result in felony charges. The first way to be charged for a felony California DUI/DWI is if the defendant has three prior convictions within the past ten years. The second way to be charged with a felony is by violating California Vehicle Code Section 23153 which makes it a felony where drunk driving causes injury to a person other than a driver. The third way to be charged with a felony DUI/DWI is when the driver has a prior felony California DUI conviction within the past 10 years.

Minors may also be charged with a California DUI, although they have separate rules and punishments. California has a zero tolerance law which means that anyone under 21 who is driving with a .01% alcohol level or higher will be subject to a one year suspension of their driving privileges. This punishment is in addition to the California DUI criminal court case. For more information go to