A man wears handcuffs in front of police car lights

DUI Penalties for Repeat Offenders

Zachary McCready June 16, 2021

Driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in California total more than 125,000 every year, though statistics during the pandemic have yet to be released. California also accounts for the most traffic fatalities in the nation, with almost a third of them being alcohol-related — 3,563 fatalities occurred in 2017, with 1,120 of them involving alcohol.

What happens to those 125,000-plus drivers who are arrested for DUIs? If it’s a first offense with no aggravating factors (such as injury or fatality), the consequences can be costly, but you should be able to continue on with your life. That first DUI stays on your record for 10 years and a second or subsequent DUI during that time will result in escalated penalties. You can find yourself in a situation that makes just meeting the challenges of daily life extremely difficult.

If you’re facing DUI charges in or around the Long Beach, California area, including Cypress Hill and Lakewood, contact me at the McCready Law Group. I am a former police officer turned defense attorney who can help you through the whole DUI arrest, charging, and trial process with the goal of obtaining the best available outcome.

California DUI Laws

Two statutes cover driving while impaired or intoxicated in California. Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC makes it illegal to drive under the influence. Vehicle Code 21352(b) VC makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Generally, a DUI arrest will lead to being charged under both 23152(a) and 23152(b).

For marijuana and other drugs, Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC is applicable, resulting in a charge of DUID (driving under the influence of drugs).

A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor punishable by 48 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, and the mandatory attendance of a DUI school for three or nine months, depending on your BAC. There is also a six-month driver’s license suspension as well as a four-month DMV suspension if your BAC is 0.08% or higher, though the suspensions generally run concurrently. The installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) is required if you seek a restricted license for driving to and from work.

Most judges prefer probation over jail time for first-time offenders. Informal probation can run from three to five years.

Aggravating Factors and Repeat Offenders

If you are arrested for a DUI and you have a passenger under 14 years of age, you can be charged with a “DUI with child endangerment,” which carries enhanced mandatory jail time. Jail time varies depending on whether it’s a first or subsequent offense.

If you injure someone while driving under the influence, you can be charged either with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and injuries sustained. A felony conviction can lead to 16 months to four years in jail. If your DUI involves a fatality, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter or even murder. The manslaughter charge carries a one-year jail sentence, while second-degree murder could land you in state prison for 15 years to life.

Remember, your first DUI stays on your record for 10 years, as do plea bargains that lead to a record of a “wet reckless” conviction. If you get a subsequent DUI within those 10 years, penalties increase with each conviction:

  • SECOND OFFENSE: A misdemeanor with 90 days to one year in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, 18 or 30 months of DUI school depending on BAC, driver’s license suspension for two years, restricted license after one year with the installation of an IID for at least 12 months.

  • THIRD OFFENSE: A misdemeanor with 120 days to one year in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, 30 months of DUI school, driver’s license suspension for three years, restricted license after one year with the installation of an IID for at least 24 months.

  • FOURTH OFFENSE: A felony with 16 months or two or three years in state prison, a fine between $390 to $1,000, 30 months of DUI school, driver’s license revocation for up to four years (cannot drive for four years with no provision for a restricted license), mandatory IID installation.

If you’re convicted of a felony, you will also lose your voting and gun ownership rights.

Alternative Sentencing Options

If you try to go it alone when facing a DUI charge, you may be unaware of your rights to alternative sentencing options under California law. These options include:

  • Cal-Trans roadside work

  • Community service

  • Electronic monitoring or house arrest

  • Residence in a sober-living environment

  • Incarceration in a private or city jail

Possible Defenses

Your possible defenses remain pretty much the same whether it’s your first or subsequent offense. These include:

  • Probable Cause: Police must have a valid reason for pulling you over in the first place. I can check the dashcam video from the police vehicle to see if they had probable cause.

  • Breathalyzer Test: Police must follow specified procedures, and the breathalyzer itself must be properly calculated — both can potentially be challenged.

  • Blood Test: If you are administered a blood test rather than a breath test, we can challenge the process. The sample may have been contaminated during handling or testing.

  • BAC: If the test is conducted later than the actual arrest, your BAC may have risen naturally. We can argue that at the time of arrest, your BAC was below 0.08%.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rodriguez v. United States that any traffic stop “must be temporary and last no longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop.” If the officers who pull you over make you wait too long while they call in support or take other delaying actions, we can challenge that as well.

How an Attorney Can Help

Before you decide to go it alone when charged with a DUI and just plead guilty because you feel the consequences are already cast in legal stone, call me at the McCready Law Group. I have experience using several proven methods to challenge the evidence. I can also argue for alternative sentencing or seek a plea bargain for a lesser offense.

Even the most generous of any sentencing for a DUI is going to inject major hurdles and challenges into your life that you never experienced before being convicted. You can’t even drive to a friend’s home for a birthday party until your suspension runs out. Even with a restricted driver’s permit, you’re going to have to blow into an IID just to use your vehicle. The stigma of having a conviction on your record can make it difficult to obtain employment or professional licenses — and that’s just for a misdemeanor conviction.

If you’re in or around the greater Long Beach area and facing a DUI charge, call me immediately. We’ll work together to develop a solid strategy to achieve the best available result.

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