In most cases, the criminal charges will consist of two offenses: 1) driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), and 2) driving with .08% or higher blood-alcohol concentration (the so-called "per se" offense). You can be convicted of both offenses, but only punished for one; the penalties are identical. If you refused to submit to chemical testing, you will be charged only with the DUI. Separate from the criminal charges, an administrative license suspension for either having .08% or refusing is administered by the DMV.
Basic Criminal Penalties
Under current California DUI law, a first offense is punishable by jail from a minimum of 4 days up to a maximum of 6 months. There is also a fine which, along with mandatory assessments and depending upon the jurisdiction, amounts to over $1500. A suspension of 6 months may be imposed, and three months of attendance at a state-approved DUI school will be required; this may be increased in the event of high blood-alcohol levels. Some judges may also require community service, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) and/or attendance at "victim's panels" or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The usual period of probation (informal in most cases) is three years.
Additional Penalties: "Enhancements"
If so-called "enhancements" are proven or admitted, the law requires more severe minimum penalties. These involve, for example, having a child under 14 in the car, speeding in excess of 20 mph on surface streets or 30 mph on highways, refusing to submit to chemical testing, or having one or more prior convictions within the previous ten years. The speed enhancement carries a minimum 60-day jail sentence. If the case involves a refusal to submit to chemical testing for blood-alcohol, the driver's license suspension is for one year and there is no possibility of obtaining a work-restricted license. One or two prior convictions carry increased jail sentences and longer license suspensions; three or more "priors" changes the offense to a felony, punishable by commitment to state prison.
Driver's License Suspension
A license suspension of 4 months is also imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, although this may be reduced to 30 days followed by five months of work-restriction if you submit proof of 1) insurance and 2) enrollment in an approved DUI school; the court may also impose a suspension. (See our section entitled License Suspension.)
Additional resources provided by the author
You are invited to visit the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor, with websites for offices at the following locations. Each website contains extensive information concerning DUI laws and legal procedures.