Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in California. If you are charged with a DUI, not only will you be facing criminal charges, but the Department of Motor Vehicles will attempt to suspend your license either temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of the charges.  Unlike other types of criminal charges where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, when you are charged with a DUI you will likely have to fight the DMV to retain your license until your criminal charges go to court.  When you are arrested and charged with DUI, you will have ten days to request a hearing to reinstate your license. The hearing you must request is called an Administrative Per Se (APS). If you don’t request an APS, the DMV will suspend your license anywhere from four months to as many as three years, depending on your circumstances and driving history.

From Brian’s interview for the Masters of the Courtroom series on ReelLawyers.com.

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During the hearing, the DMV is required to prove three specific components in order to suspend your license.

  • They have to show that the officer who made the arrest had reasonable cause to suspect that you were under the influence (and did not pull you over to later discover that you were inebriated),
  • Your arrest was lawful and that you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over 0.08% if you are over the age of 21.
  • If you are under the age of 21, then the DMV must show that you had a BAC of over 0.01%, due to Zero Tolerance Laws.

Once these things have been established, the penalties can start to add up. Typically, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor offense, but there are times when your DUI can be escalated to a felony. If someone is injured due to your actions, or if you are arrested with prior convictions of DUI, the DUI charges can become much more serious and may result in prison time in addition to the loss of your license.

DUI with injury

If you are convicted of a DUI that results in the injury of someone, then it becomes a much more serious situation. If you are in an accident while driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, then you can face either a misdemeanor or felony charge. To be convicted of a DUI that resulted in injury, the prosecutor of the case has to prove that you met three necessary factors.

  • You must have been in violation of California’s driving laws.
  • You acted in a negligent manner that was against the law while driving.
  • Your negligent actions directly led to another individual being injured.

To be in violation of California’s DUI laws, you have to be driving while your physical or mental abilities are impaired because of consuming alcohol, while under the influence of alcohol by either having a BAC of more than 0.08%, if you are 21 or over, or 0.01% if you are under the age of 21; while under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol.  Things differ if you are driving a commercial vehicle. If this is the case, it only needs to be proven that you had BAC level of over 0.04% or more if you are over the age of 21 as opposed to the usual 0.08%. It might also be the case that you can be charged with a DUI if you are taking prescription drugs that impair your ability to drive either physically or mentally.  If your blood concentration is over 0.08% no further evidence is needed to prove that you were driving impaired. You will be charged with DUI.

DUI with Priors

If you are driving in California, you should be aware that they have a ten year “look-back period.” That means that if you are arrested for DUI and have a prior record of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol within the past ten years, then you will face increased penalties in court. Both the court and the DMV will consider your DUI a repeat offense.

Having DUI priors in your ten year “look-back period can affect the severity of:

  • Bail
  • Sentencing
  • Fines
  • Alcohol education classes
  • Suspension of drivers license
  • Jail time

Prior convictions include being found guilty of having a BAC of more than 0.08%, reckless driving that involved alcohol (wet-recklessness) or driving under the influence and causing an injury to someone else.  It is also possible to be charged with multiple DUIs even if you have not yet been convicted in a court of law. For instance, if you are arrested and charged with a DUI while awaiting trial for a second offense, making this arrest your third one, you can be convicted for multiple DUI’s if they all occur within the ten-year time span.  With each offense, the charges, fines, and penalties increase, which is why it becomes even more critical to seek proper legal representation.

DUI Manslaughter

California Penal Code 191.5(a) defines gross vehicular manslaughter as any incident where a defendant is driving while under the influence, engages in egregiously negligent acts and those acts result in another person’s death. To be charged with DUI manslaughter it must be shown that:

  • The driver was driving while intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol.
  • While driving impaired, the driver also committed another unlawful act that might have led to someone dying.
  • The driver acted with gross negligence by committing an infraction, misdemeanor or other unlawful act.
  • It was the driver’s gross negligence that directly led to the death of someone else.

Gross vehicular manslaughter is a felony charge and can result in the driver being sentenced to state prison for anywhere between four to ten years if found guilty. The state of California will also suspend your license if you are charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence.