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How long after a drinking and driving (DUI) accident can you be charged with a DUI?

Los Angeles, CA |

My daughter was 18 and had been drinking and driving. She was traveling around 60 mph in a 45 zone. A car pulled out in front of her and she lost contoll of the car trying to avoid collision. She hit a light pole and a tree, totalling her car. There were minor to moderate injuries to herself and two passengers. At the hospital they tested her BAC although I don't know the results. She admitted to the police to drinking 3 shots of vodka 1-3 hours prior - she's about 125lbs. This was over 11 months ago. She has never been charged for anything. How long after the event can you still be charged? The DMV suspended her license immediately following the 30 day temp license she was given the day of the accident. According to their records it was suspended for a DUI.

Also, assuming no charges are filed in the next 30 days, can the Dmv records be corrected so a DUI doesn't appear on her drinving record?

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Attorney answers 4


Because your daughter was under 21 at the time, the DMV was notified that alcohol was involved and a one year suspension of her license was initiated under California's "zero tolerance" rule, which basically states that a person under 21 cannot have ANY measurable amount of alcohol in their system. Even though you, and quite possibly law enforcement, are unaware of the BAC, if she did not contact the DMV within 10 days of the accident/officer taking her license, that suspension automatically kicked in 30 days later (this could have been challenged but it sounds like it wasn't). The DMV is a separate proceeding from the court. It is essentially up to the arresting agency to take the proper steps to both cause the suspension and initiate the court process.

The officer sends his reports to his supervisors, who then process the paperwork to the DMV in Sacramento. That is how the license suspension kicks in.

As for court, the officer either himself/herself takes the paperwork to the DA or City Attorney for filing of criminal charges, or it gets referred to a detective for further follow up for the same. Because she gave blood, they may have been waiting for the blood results to come back for filing. However, it is very possible that in the interim, officers got transferred, paperwork was misplaced...who knows what. At any rate, no news is good news. Given there were injuries, it is possible that felony charges rather than misdemeanor charges could be filed. As for misdemeanor charges, they have one year from the time of the incident to file charges. For felonies, it is three years. So again, no news is good news.

One other thing to point out, if the blood test was over three hours from the time of the accident, the prosecutors have a more difficult time showing her blood alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time of driving. On a DUI, the real issue is what is the blood alcohol level at the time of DRIVING, not the time of the TEST (or in her case, the blood draw). However, with someone under 21, she doesn't necessarily have to be over a .08 percent blood alcohol level. In California, we have a few other laws that punish under 21 drivers for having lower levels of alcohol in their system, without getting into too much detail.

Bottom line: misdemeanor charges has a one year statute of limitations, and felonies have three years. So again - no news is good news.


Since there were no injuries, the DA has 12 months to charge your daughter w/ a DUI misdemeanor. You have another month to wait - DON'T CALL THE DA.

Don't help the government w/ the case against your daughter. If she is in the same address as when in the accident, they should know her address. A warrant could be issued for her if they cannot find her.

Get a lawyer to check it out "quietly" before your month is over. Check out the lawyers at

Good Luck on Your Case,
Joshua Dale


Criminal court case and DMV are two separate proceedings. If the DMV has already suspended the license, the outcome in court or whether the case has been filed or not, will have no impact on the license suspension.

If it has been 11 months, lie low. It could be the case got lost in the paperwork. I would count my lucky stars then.

Jacek W. Lentz, Esq.


I think Mr. Dale and Mr. Lentz might have misread this inquiry. The writer said there WERE injuries to the passengers, so this is a felony DUI if it is a DUI at all. The statute of limitations on most felonies is three years, but I have no idea why they would not have taken action within 11 months anyway. The time frame over which the vodka was drunk (1-3 hours) is too vague to have any idea whether there would have been an illegal B/A level shown in the blood test.

However, the last thing you want to do is call anyone up and ask "Hey, why haven't I been charged yet?" Bad move. Waiting is hell. Reminding a prosecutor to file charges is hellier. I would certainly not inquire of the police or D.A.. I suppose your daughter might go review her hospital chart and see if the blood test result is in there, but even this is very risky. It could cause a nurse to remember that a blood test got overlooked and make her/him call the D.A. So leave it alone, is the advice from here.

And you might want to read the following article:

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