Getting arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) doesn't mean you have to lose your driver's license.

It doesn't mean that you have to plead guilty.

It doesn't mean that you are a bad person.

In California, a person accused of DUI is usually charged under both penal code sections 23152(a) and 23152(b). The 23152(a) count addresses the impairment caused by the substance the individual has in his or her system. The 23152(b) charges an individual with driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or higher. Whether an individual is found guilty or pleads guilty to one or both of these charges, the punishment is virtually the same.

A person charged with driving under the influence of a prescription drug or combination of prescription drugs will be charged under only penal code section 23152(a). Please see our section on Driving Under the Influence of Drugs for further explanation.

A first time DUI punishment includes, but is not limited to, three years of informal probation; fees and fines totaling approximately $2000; a three, six, or nine-month driver's safety class; and attendance at a Mother's Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel.

A DUI Leads to Harsh Driving Restrictions in California

Probably the most difficult aspect of dealing with a first time DUI is the impact it has on a California Driver's License. The criminal court will impose a six-month license suspension, but allow a person to drive to and from work, in the course of business and to and from alcohol driver's safety classes. The DMV, separate from the court action, will suspend a person's ability to drive for four months, as in no driving anywhere. But, the DMV, in lieu of the four-month total suspension, will also allow that person to get a restricted license so a person can drive to and from work and in the course of business and to and from alcohol classes.

In order to obtain this restricted license, an individual must be enrolled in a three-month alcohol class and obtain an SR-22 (special liability insurance). The DMV will not force a person to suffer through a 30-day total suspension (no restriction) before he or she can obtain the restricted license. This restricted license will be in effect for five months or until the individual completes the driver's safety program (bringing the total DMV suspension to six months (30-day suspension plus five-month restricted license)). In Los Angeles County and several other counties in California, a DUI conviction will also result in the individual being forced to obtain an ignition interlock device in his or her car.

These punishments are often increased if there are aggravating circumstances such as a high blood alcohol concentration or if the charged individual was involved in an accident.

Subsequent DUIs Carry Greater Penalties

Subsequent convictions for driving under the influence carry greater penalties. A second conviction will result in increased jail time, a license suspension of one year and an 18-month multiple offender alcohol driving program. A third conviction results in a mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail and a fourth conviction within ten years is a felony.

The CA legislature has made the DUI Laws in California complex, convoluted and terribly punitive. DUI cases present a unique challenge to a criminal defendant because he or she must confront the DMV as well as the criminal court. While this process appears to violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against double jeopardy, courts have ruled it doesn't. Consequently, there are two ways an accused can lose his or her license and two ways an individual can get punished.

DUI Defense Attorney John D. Barnett Can Help

But these hurdles can be overcome. The attorneys at Law Office of John D. Barnett have a wealth of experience dealing with accusations of driving under the influence. From negotiating a better deal in the criminal court to saving your privilege to drive with the DMV, John Barnett will help.