Understanding the Different Types of DUI Charges in California
Driving under the influence is a prevalent problem in the United States – According to a fact sheet published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million drivers were arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The report found that drugs, both legal and illegal, were involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes. While these numbers indicate incidents over the course of a year, the report also found that on an average, 29 people are killed every day in accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver in the U.S.
That means one death every 50 minutes.
These numbers are not pretty, and while average citizens may not know these facts, many of them also stay uneducated about the consequences of getting arrested for a DUI.
If you’re a resident of California, here’s a guide to the charges you may face if you’re arrested:
- Vehicle Code 23152(a)
It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
The per se limit for Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in the U.S. is 0.08%, which means that a driver found with a 0.08% or higher BAC is considered to be legally impaired to drive.
However, you can still be arrested for a DUI if your physical and mental abilities are found to be too impaired by alcohol to drive with the caution of a sober driver, even if your BAC is under the per se limit.
- Vehicle Code 23152(b)
It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
This charge is based on the per se limit i.e. 0.08% BAC. Any person found driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more can be prosecuted under VC 23152(b), although such drivers are generally prosecuted under a merged charge VC 23152(a) and 23152(b).
- Vehicle Code 23152(f)
It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.
“Any drug” here includes both illegal substances and legal, prescribed drugs. If a driver is suspected to be drug-impaired, they could be charged with a drug DUI in violation of VC 23152(f).
- Vehicle Code 23152(g)
It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.
This is pretty self-explanatory. A driver could be charged under VC 23152(g) if they are found driving under the influence of both alcohol and illegal substances or legal, prescribed drugs.
- DUI with Bodily Injury – Vehicle Code 23153(a),(b),(f),(g)
These charges are similar to Vehicle Codes 23152(a),(b),(f),(g) respectively, with the added implication of an act that “proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”
- DUI Resulting in Death – Vehicular Manslaughter and Murder
If a DUI results in death, the defendant can be prosecuted under the following charges:
- Negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated PC191.5b
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated PC191.5a
- Second-degree murder PC187 “Watson Murder”
- Second-degree murder PC189
The penalties for DUI in California depend on the number of prior DUIs and the severity of the offense. Charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies, and penalties increase for every subsequent DUI arrest and conviction.
A First DUI is a misdemeanor. It carries $390 to $1,000 in fines plus penalty assessments up to $3,600, up to 6 months in jail, a 6-month license suspension with a 4-month administrative suspension imposed by the DMV, 3 years of probation, and 3 months and 30 hours of DUI school.
After 30 days of hard license suspension, you may qualify for a restricted license. For a BAC of 0.20% or higher, the requirement increases to 9 months and 60 hours of DUI school.
A Second DUI within 10 years of the first is a misdemeanor. It carries $390 to $1,000 in fines plus penalty assessments up to $4,000, up to a year in jail, a 2-year license suspension and a 1-year administrative suspension imposed by the DMV, 3 years of probation, and 18 or 30 months of DUI school.
After 90 days of hard license suspension, the driver may qualify for a restricted license. This period is 1 year for drivers arrested while driving under the influence of drugs.
A Third DUI within 10 years is a misdemeanor. It carries $390 to $1,000 in fines plus penalty assessments up to $18,000, up to a year in jail or 16 months in state prison, a 3-year license suspension and a 1-year administrative suspension imposed by the DMV, 3 to 5 years of probation, and 30 months of DUI school.
After 6 months of hard license suspension, the driver may qualify for a restricted license.
Beyond the third DUI, we start moving into felony territory. A Fourth or subsequent DUI within 10 years of the first DUI is considered a felony.
Also, a DUI that involves bodily injury to another party is considered a “wobbler” offense, which means that the driver can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. A DUI with injury carries harsher penalties than standard DUIs.
A Felony DUI carries penalties of $390 to $5,000 in fines plus penalty assessments up to $18,000, up to 16 months in jail or 3 years in state prison, a 4-year license suspension with a possibility of permanent suspension, 3 to 5 years of probation, 30 months of DUI school, restitution to the injured parties, and a record that identifies the person as a convicted felon.
A DUI Resulting in Death can carry penalties ranging from a year in jail up to 25 years in state prison.
If you’re arrested for driving under the influence in the state of California, it would make sense for you to hire an experienced DUI lawyer who will suggest your next course of action as well as help you craft an apt legal defense. Nevertheless, you’d be better off driving responsibly.