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DUI in California

Being intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle and other forms of machinery is punishable in every part of the U.S., including in the state of California. Driving is already a risky activity, resulting in many injuries and fatalities each year.

The chances for motorists experiencing trouble magnifies exponentially when alcohol or other controlled substances are involved. To reduce the number of people drinking and driving, laws regarding DUIs are heavily enforced.

There is no shortage of police constantly looking for signs of swerving in and out of traffic, driving erratically on the highway, or slurred speech by the driver. These are all signs of an impaired motorist.

What Happens the First Time on a DUI Charge?

Since intoxicated drivers are not apt to operate a vehicle, the police will usually apprehend people suspected of being drunk on the road. Will a DUI ruin your life? Find out here.

Since intoxicated drivers are not apt to operate a vehicle, the police will usually apprehend people suspected of being drunk on the road.

Unless there is a designated driver in the car with the intoxicated individual or they are driven home by someone in the area, the expectation should be an arrest. However, first officers are required to assess whether a driver is drunk or not. To do this, they may ask the driver if they are okay with taking a breathalyzer test.

A breathalyzer is when a suspect blows into a handheld machine that measures the alcohol content in the air they exhale. Suspects do have a choice in this before being arrested. However, in California, breathalyzers are mandatory after being detained at a police station.

Even if the driver refuses a breathalyzer at the scene, police may not impose a field sobriety test. This includes walking in straight lines, reciting a list of numbers or other commands, and checking their balance and posture.

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Important Considerations

If someone is arrested for a DUI, the consequences may vary and are predicated on the individual's number of past convictions, among other variables. To courts, it is known as mitigating or aggravating factors. Based on this, the result can end in a jury needing to settle the case or a plea deal. Sometimes, a judge may recommend treatment for alcoholism.

The charges to be assigned and the severity of their punishment is ultimately at the discretion of a judge. Judges impose them according to the statute, handing down convictions after looking at the peculiarities of the person involved.

The state of California keeps records of past convictions for ten years. After ten years, the charge is expunged from the past DUI holder's record. This usually happens when there aren't repeat DUI convictions by the same person.

The first time someone is caught with a simple DUI, they are typically charged with a misdemeanor. Here are some of the penalties that are to be expected from this event:

A Fine

First-time DUIs have fines ranging from $390 to $1000. This is not where the monetary penalties end, however. Drivers can have fines increased much higher through collection expenses. Base fines don't determine the total amount of money paid after a DUI.

Suspension of Driver's License

Newly charged DUI convictions are punishable with suspended licenses. On the first offense in California, the suspension duration can go up to six months. The DMV also suspends driver's licenses administratively, even before a driver is charged before a court.


Probation is usually handed down for first-time DUIs. The probationary period can last anywhere from there to five years. During this time, compulsory courses on driving intoxicated are imposed, for 30 hours over three months. But if the blood alcohol level of an offender was higher .20% or higher, the period can extend to 60 hours of DUI courses for nine months.

Prevention of Repeat DUIs

Nathalie Nicole Smith states that working hard and staying true to yourself are sure ways to win in life.

Penalties imposed on drivers committing DUIs help to encourage them make wiser decisions before getting into a vehicle while intoxicated. It gets significantly more difficult and expensive to drive after more than one DUI, necessarily done to reduce vehicle accidents.