A California DUI first offense occurs when a driver is charged with DUI for the first time. California’s driving under the influence laws state that it is illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle with any of the following blood alcohol content (BAC) levels:
- 0.08% or higher for average licensed drivers
- 0.04% or higher for operating a commercial vehicle
- 0.01% or higher for any person operating any vehicle under 21 years old
What Are Some Consequences for a DUI First Offense?
In California, DUIs are “priorable” offenses, which means that the punishment increases with each DUI conviction that takes place within a 10-year period. However, even for first time offenders, the legal consequences of a DUI can be harsh.
Most DUIs are prosecuted as a misdemeanor but some can be charged as a felony if it involves bodily injury or property damage.
When convicted of a driving under the influence for the first time in California, the criminal penalties can include:
- Fines between $390-$1,000
- Up to six months in county jail
- A three-to-nine-month alcohol and/or drug education program
- Three year summary probation
- Installation of a ignition interlock device for a period of time
Also, the DMV penalties can include:
- 6-10 month driver license suspension
- A restricted license
- Required to file an additional SR22 insurance (a type of automobile insurance policy for high-risk or DUI drivers).
What Is Needed to Prove a California DUI First Offense?
The state prosecutor has the burden of proving that the driver was under the influence at the time of driving. A person who has taken a breath or chemical test would not be automatically guilty because the breath tests that are used may sometimes have inaccurate readings. Also, the police officer administering the test may not follow the proper procedures.
If there is any mistake in administering the test or the calibration on the breathalyzers are not accurate, the test results could be suppressed.
To convict a driver of a DUI, the prosecutor has the burden to prove:
- The police officer had probable cause to pull over the driver at the time of the arrest.
- The arrest was lawful.
- The defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or the defendant was driving with an illegal BAC.
Are There Any Defenses for a DUI First Offense?
In California, there are several defenses that can be used to fight a DUI charge. Many times the officer will point out the your physical appearance appeared that you were under the influence such as:
- Red, watery eyes
- Slurred speech
- Flushed face
- Strong odor of alcoholic beverage
- Unsteady on feet
This physical appearance can be challenged by innocent explanations since the symptoms could be the caused by other things such as allergies, sickness, or eye irritations.
Other possible defenses that could be used to fight a DUI charge in California could be:
- The field sobriety test that was administered was conducted improperly.
- The PAS breathalyzer was not calibrated properly and/or was faulty.
- The officer did not conduct a proper 15-minute observation period before your breath test.
- You BAC was on the rise and you were under the illegal BAC level at the time of driving.
- Diabetes and Hypoglycemia or diet falsely inflated your BAC.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a DUI First Offense?
California has harsh penalties for DUIs even for first time offenders. An experienced DUI/DWI lawyer can help you present the best defenses for your case. that could be applicable in your case and help you fight the DUI charge against you. An experienced attorney can also help you restore your license and avoid any possible license suspensions that the DMV could impose. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer if you need help with DUI charges.