man against the chalkboard holding a steering wheel, drawing beer and handcuffs showing DUI crime

Between 2019 to 2020, over 1.5 million people were arrested for DUI across the US. With the increase in driving under the influence or DUI offenses, local law enforcement agencies have been cracking down on drunk driving these past few years and intensifying its punishment severity to help reduce the high number of offenders.

Getting arrested for DUI can be a confusing and scary process, especially for first-time offenders. Understanding driving under the influence is imperative to handle any current charges and avoid being charged with one later in the future.

Suppose you’re convicted of DUI in California; your DUI penalties will depend on the circumstances following your arrest. The characteristic of the offender and facts of the case called “mitigating and aggravating factors” will determine to an extent if the conviction result will be a jury verdict or plea bargain. 

However, the minimum and maximum penalties a judge may impose are subject to the statute. More so, this sentencing also depends on the number of times you have been arrested for DUI in the past.

Nonetheless, getting arrested for DUI isn’t the end of the world. You still have rights and access to certain protections during your DUI arrest. We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on what happens after getting arrested for a DUI in California. That way, you’ll arm yourself with the necessary information needed to get yourself off the DUI hook.

 

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time?

DUI is a crime, and to some first-timers, it’s not a serious one. You might be thinking it’s your first time getting arrested for the crime, and the law should be lenient on you as a first-time offender.

Although most states in the US categorize first-time DUI offenses as a misdemeanor, the long-term and short-term consequences remain serious. DUI conviction goes beyond arrest and punishment. There are possible long-term impacts the sentence will have on your life. 

Criminal charges differ from the DMV hearing process that will determine your driver’s license suspension period. For a first-time DUI offender in California, conviction consequences generally include a $390 fine plus “penalty assessments” with everything reaching a total of $2000, at least a summary probation of about three years or more, and completing an alcohol program that costs about $500 and consists of a 30-hour class.

For a first DUI, you aren’t required to go to jail when placed on probation. However, you can get jail time if some aggravating circumstances are present, like driving above 25 miles an hour over the speed limit on the road or 30 miles each hour on freeways and the minor child being affected by the hit. 

While negotiable, first-time DUI sentences can include community service work or labor and victim impact panel participation. 

In counties like Tulare, Sacramento, Alameda, and Los Angeles in California, you’ll be placed with an ignition interlock device on your car, especially as a first-time offender, for four months. This device might cost you another $500.

 

Arrest and Booking

As with other crimes, after a police officer stops you on the road for a DUI case, you’ll be taken to the jail or the nearest police station, where your fingerprints and mugshot will be captured. You’ll be required to take a field sobriety test or breath test to determine the alcohol level in your system. You’ll aso be asked to perform a chemical or blood test to determine the blood alcohol content of your body. The breathalyzer or blood test is perfect for checking an offender after a drunk driving arrest.

Suppose you’re permitted to post bail, someone will pay for it, and you’ll be released immediately. After driving under the influence arrest, the police will take your driver’s license, giving you a temporary driving permit paper. 

This temporary permit will be effective until the department of motor vehicles or court decides whether you deserve a license suspension or license. At the police station or jail, police will cite or book you for the first time offense, and you’ll be remanded in prison until you’re bailed or released on your “own recognizance.” 

Suppose you were arrested for first offense DUI on a Friday in California and couldn’t be bailed, leading to spending the weekend in jail; you’ll get credit against future sentence for the time you spent in prison already.

 

Contact a Lawyer

Suppose you’ve been arrested for DUI; the first thing you ought to do is get an experienced California DUI attorney like Louis J Goodman. DUI laws differ by state, and each case is also different. A qualified driving under the influence lawyer will offer you legal advice to help you understand what the law entails in your county concerning DUI and explain possible defenses to get you off the hook easily. 

While some will tell you it’s unnecessary to get a lawyer, consider having one for arraignment in court. You’ll also need a DUI defense attorney after arraignment, helping you decide whether you should plead guilty to DUI arrests, go for a plea bargain, or proceed to trial. Asking for a plea bargain is the best, especially as a first-time offender seeing as it’ll probably reduce your charge to maybe reckless driving or something similar.

Another reason you might want to consider hiring an experienced California DUI lawyer after getting arrested for driving under the influence is that it helps you save lots of money. Experts have discovered that you can save up to $4,000 on only car insurance if a seasoned attorney can help you drop or reduce your first-time charge.

 

DUI Court Appearances

After your DUI arrest, you’ll be given a summons or ticket telling you the date to appear in court and face DUI charges. Your first court appearance is called your arraignment or initial appearance. You’ll likely stay in a courtroom filled with other arrested offenders that came for arraignment like you. 

Ensure you watch and monitor what the judge tells others when talking to them, seeing as you’ll probably get the exact questions when it gets to your turn. 

The arraignment procedure follows this pattern:

  • Judge calls your name, and you walk to the podium in front of the judge and address them as “your honor” politely
  • The judge checks your file and verifies that it’s you and your information are correct
  • The judge will read the charges against you and the maximum possible sentence to receive from the charges
  • Judge asks if you came with an attorney, need time to get a private lawyer, or you want a public defender
  • The judge will proceed to ask for your plea – not guilty or guilty to the charges
  • Finally, the judge will examine your bail conditions and decide on it – to change it or allow it to stay the same.

 

The DUI Court Process

DUIs in California are mostly misdemeanor offenses; thus, it follows the exact court process like other misdemeanors. Unless you’re facing a DUI felony charge, the information below might apply.

DUI cases in California follows three stages:

  1. Arraignment
  2. Pretrial conference
  3. Trial

However, most misdemeanor DUI cases don’t go to trial. Your case can be dismissed before or during the trial. You can also agree to plea for a less severe charge. 

Arraignment

An arraignment implies a short hearing with a judge where you enter a plea of not guilty or guilty or no contest (nolo contendere).

Pretrial Conference

A pretrial conference is often a few weeks after arraignment. Your lawyer must have filed motions (court requests) that might likely help your case during this period. Some typical pretrial motions include:

  • Motion to suppress contaminated evidence or one obtained illegally
  • A Pitchess motion that will unravel misconduct by an officer
  • Discovery motion to enable them to get proof that the prosecutor won’t turn over
  • Motion to discuss your case due to lack of evidence
  • Motion to split a urine or blood sample to conduct an independent test

These motions can help you win the case without going further. It could also result in discovering key evidence that will enable you to come to light or remove anything that will hurt you from the case.

The pretrial conference is likely the time for the prosecutor to propose a plea deal, an arrangement where you plead guilty to a lesser crime or for a reduced sentence. Common DUI plea bargains are:

  • A non-DUI charge that’s still alcohol-related called Wet reckless
  • A DUI without jail time when you complete your probation

Trial

If both arraignment and pretrial conferences fail, you’ll go on trial. However, it’s unlikely to happen in misdemeanor DUI.

 

You Have to Undergo an Alcohol and Drug Education Program

As a first-time DUI offender, the court will order you to complete a drug and alcohol education program. You must finish this program before your driver’s license is reinstated. 

The program involves paying for and attending several hours of drunk driving prevention classes. More so, your drinking habits will be assessed under this program, and a trained counselor will evaluate to find out if you suffer from alcohol abuse disorder.

After the evaluation result is out, showing that you have alcohol abuse disorder, the counselor might direct you to take a court-approved alcohol treatment education program before they restore your driving privileges. 

The number of hours a person must attend DUI school depends on the case-to-case basis and the substance abuse assessment test. DUI treatment and education programs vary from one center to another. However, they generally consist of sessions centered on:

  • Personal and legal consequences of DUI
  • How drugs and alcohol can affect driving safety and performance
  • How to avoid drunk driving from now on

Ultimately, this program aims to prevent people from DUI ever again. Some treatment center performs follow-up interviews after completing required classes to examine the program’s success and reinforce techniques to avoid recidivism.

 

What is Supervision on a DUI?

A DUI law book with a gavel

While it’s likely for a DUI to end up in jail term, most driving under the influence cases in California will possibly result in probation. DUI probation refers to court supervision over a DUI offender for a certain period. 

There are two probation types for DUI offenders: informal and formal probation. Summary or informal probation is mandatory in misdemeanor DUI cases, while formal probation is for felony DUI. 

There are certain conditions the court expects a DUI offender to comply with during the probation period. They include:

  • Must drive with a valid temporary license
  • Mustn’t get any new cases
  • Pay all applicable fees and fines
  • Attending AA meeting
  • Completing a morgue and hospital program
  • Doing community labor
  • Doing community service
  • Don’t drink with any atom of alcohol in your system
  • Complete a court-approved DUI course
  • Complying with other conditions, the court may require

Once you’ve completed your probation terms, your DUI case will be terminated. You can even become eligible for an expungement

On the other hand, if you violate your probation condition or fail to complete it, the court may revoke your probation and give you the maximum sentence commensurate with your original driving under the influence offense. This first time conviction could range from 6 months imprisonment in county jail and a $1,000 fine for a first-time offender.

 

Does a DUI Conviction Mean You Have a Substance Abuse Problem?

The financial and legal consequences of getting a DUI arrest and conviction are dire enough; another thing to worry about as a first-time DUI convict is the implication on your health and well-being. 

Suppose you’re arrested for DUI; it doesn’t mean you’re battling with a substance abuse disorder. You might be a light or moderate drinker who unfortunately made the wrong decision and drove while drunk. 

Nonetheless, a DUI arrest is a sign that you’ll need to monitor and control your alcohol consumption. It’d be great if you could make adjustments to your drinking and driving behavior, just like other similarly-arrested first-time DUI offenders. 

However, suppose you keep drinking and driving and become a repeat offender regardless of the negative consequences. In that case, it’s a big red flag that will seriously affect your work and personal life. While DUI cases aren’t irrefutable addiction proof, it’s a sign that you might have an alcohol control problem and might be needing professional care.

That’s why the court always recommends attending drug and alcohol education treatment programs to ensure you get valuable resources and help on how to handle such intending addiction before it grows. 

 

What Happens if You Get a DUI in California?

A first-time DUI conviction in California is classified as a misdemeanor. The convicted offender faces these penalties:

  • Probation

First-time DUI offenders usually receive a three-year informal probation term. As a probation condition, the defendant must complete a three-month alcohol school, consisting of a 30hourr class.

Nevertheless, for offenders with BACs of 20 percent or more, the program consists of 60-hour classes and nine months programs. 

  • Fines 

A first-time DUI carries a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000 and different “penalty assessments” that may substantially increase the offender’s amount to pay. The total amount is many thousand dollars. 

  • Jail

A first-time offender may receive two days to six months jail term. However, if the judge orders for probation, which is often the case, there’s no compulsory jail time. Often, judges are lenient on first-time offenders and don’t give jail term sentences. 

  • License Suspension

For first-time DUI convicts, there’s often a six-month license suspension. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can also impose a four-month administrative suspension if the driver has a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or more after a DMV hearing. 

Offenders who refuse BAC testing will be given a  one-year administrative suspension. However, if there are two imposed suspensions, they’re allowed to overlap. Thus, the offender won’t need to complete the two full suspensions. Furthermore, first-time offenders can also apply for a restricted license to and from work and school.

While the restricted driving license requires that you use an ignition interlock device (IID), you may start driving right away with it.

 

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life?

DUI’s impact on your life and others close to you can be profound and extensive. The following are some ways DUI can affect your life:

1. Personal Relationships

DUI convictions often have a lasting impact on personal relationships. It can negatively affect your relationships, including your partner and family. 

2. Education/Employment Related Fallout

DUI convicts often face employment consequences, especially the restriction on driving ability. Thus, if your job requires driving, this can pose a serious problem. Even if your job doesn’t entail driving, getting to your workplace can be challenging. 

Besides employment-related effects, your professional reputation may also suffer. Whether it’s at your current workplace or you’re job hunting, you might have to disclose your DUI conviction. However, this depends on the prospective employer’s hiring criteria. 

3. Automobile Insurance

Your automobile insurance can become canceled due to a DUI conviction. Even if it weren’t discontinued, you’d surely see an increased rate. If the worst happens and the insurance company cancels it, you’ll have a hard time finding replacement coverage. 

Sadly, a new insurance policy will surely come with higher premiums.

 

Summary

While getting a DUI arrest and conviction in California isn’t the end of the world, it may be the beginning of many other woes for you and your loved ones. As a first-time or second DUI offender, you’ll need to arm yourself with the valuable information in this piece to enable you to come out unscathed when arrested for driving under the influence. 

Don’t forget to hire an experienced DUI attorney like Louis J Goodman if you’re in Alameda and nearby towns. You’ll need expert representation to come out victorious. 

Louis Goodman

Louis Goodman

Louis J. Goodman is a former Deputy District Attorney and experienced Alameda County Criminal Defense Lawyer, and can help you understand and exercise your Constitutional Rights.

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