Most persons convicted of a simple first offense driving under the influence misdemeanor (DUI) in California get the same or similar sentences, as long as there was no accident involved.
After hundreds of DUI cases in dozens of California criminal justice courthouses, this is my detailed update on real first offense DUI sentences as of July 2011 for Vehicle Code 23152 convictions.
Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor crime in California, and is written down in Vehicle Code sections 23152(a) and Veh Code 23152(b). These two sections are separate crimes, and nearly everyone gets charged with both as misdemeanors to start the case.
But if the defendant is willing to plead guilty to one of the Vehicle 23152 charges (known as the “a” or the “b” counts), the prosecutor will generally dismiss one, and the defendant gets sentenced for a single misdemeanor count (rather than 2). It’s a common plea agreement at the first court date – dismiss one charge, Defendant pleads guilty to the other.
In some courts, the defendant without an attorney will get screwed when pleading guilty alone, and end up convicted of both misdemeanors (the “a” and the “b” count), but it rarely makes any difference in the final sentence.
Technically, the law states that a violation of either VC 23152(a) or VC23152(b) can result in a maximum jail sentence of 1 year in the county jail and a fine of $1500++++. That means if you get charged with both an “A” and a “B” count, you are facing a maximum of 2 years in the county jail. But that is rare.
The most common sentence is as follows (I have it memorized):
A 30 day jail sentence that is “Suspended”, which means not carried out so long as the defendant completes 3 years of Summary Probation under the following probation terms and conditions:
1) Serve 4-10 days actual jail time with a recommendation from the judge that this time be converted to a Sheriff’s Community Work Program service if the defendant qualifies (no violent history, etc); every court has a different name for this aspect of probation.
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2) enroll in and complete a First Offender DUI substance abuse counseling program as authorized by the state legislature (known an AB548 program – usually 12 weeks);
3) pay a fine usually totaling $2400 once court costs and assessments are added;
4) obey all laws and do not drive without valid license and insurance.
If any of the probation terms are violated, the suspended sentence is imposed, and there may be separate penalties for the probation violation itself.
OTHER FACTORS THAT MAY AFFECT DUI SENTENCING:
Keep in mind the above description is a general listing of what most first offenders get. But there are many factors that can increase the sentence, such as:
1) a high blood alcohol content; 2) prior convictions; 3) having minors in the car; and 4) a collision (regardless of whether or not a person was hurt). There are other aggravating factors not listed here.
IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE REQUIRED IN SACRAMENTO, LOS ANGELES, and ALAMEDA COUNTIES
Beginning July 1, 2010, a new takes affect that requires a first time DUI defendant to install an alcohol detecting interlock device on any car they own or have access to . This program is brand new, and is being tested in 4 counties – Sacramento, Tulare, LA and Alameda.
DRIVERS LICENSE SUSPENSION HANDLED BY DMV INDEPENDENTLY
Recently the law has changed in regards to what happens to a Drivers License after a DUI arrest. Presently, at teh time of the arrest, the arresting officer takes possession of the drivers license and issues a DMV notice of suspension in 10 days. The driver then has 10 days to request a hearing to challenge the suspension with DMV administrative officers. The court does not take action against the drivers license. It all happens with DMV.
GET AN INDICATED SENTENCE IF YOU ARE NOT SURE
If you want the judge to tell you what your sentence will be before you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty, ask for an “indicated sentence” before entering a plea.
If you are not sure if you are technically guilty and may have a defense, get an attorney to help. There are lots of defenses to DUI charges, and there are inherent error rates in testing machines that may affect the reliability of a test result.
An attorney can give you detailed advice about your case and the evidence, and in DUI cases can go to court for you while you go about your life.
** this is only a guide for general information, and not meant to be a prediction on your case.
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