What Happens in a First Offense DUI Case?
First offense DUIs are not to be taken lightly. A first offense, even with a clean criminal background, is a life-altering event. In California, a DUI accusation typically results in two (2) DUI charges. Typically, these charges are referred to as the “a” and “b” counts, based on the DUI statutes: CA Vehicle Code section 23152(a) and (b).
The “a” count, is the general offense of driving under the influence. It is a misconception that if a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is under 0.08 percent, they cannot be convicted of DUI. CVC 23152(a) allows a person to be prosecuted for DUI if they drove a motor vehicle with alcohol in their system, and the alcohol affected their motor skills to the level of measurable impairment.
The prosecutor must prove two elements in order to obtain a conviction under 23152(a): (1) You drove a motor vehicle; and (2) You were “under the influence” of alcohol at the time of driving.
In order to determine whether you were “under the influence,” the prosecution will rely on evidence and observations collected by the arresting officer. This includes performance on field sobriety tests, observations of balance and gait, odors of alcohol, and slurred speech.
The “b” count applies to blood-alcohol and your actual BAC level at the time of driving. If you drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, you can be found guilty of per se DUI under CVC 23152(b).
Because California separates DUI into two offenses, it is possible to have a BAC less than 0.08 percent and still be convicted of DUI under CVC 23152(a). For these reasons, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who understands these distinctions, has the ability to navigate both charges, and handle your case properly.
What are the Penalties for a First Offense DUI?
Typically, a first offense DUI is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. In San Diego, the penalties include:
- Up to one year in county jail;
- Informal probation for 3 – 5 years;
- Fines no less less $390;
- A 3 – 9 month DUI program;
- A 6 month – 1 year driver’s license suspension;
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for up to 3 years; and
- Negative auto insurance impacts
However, if the court finds that aggravating factors are involved, additional penalties may be imposed. Aggravating factors may include:
- High blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 percent or higher;
- Speeding or reckless driving;
- Whether children were in the vehicle; and
- Whether an auto accident occurred
There are many factors involved during the penalty phase of a DUI case. It is important that you hire an attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to offset the damage. Call (619) 363-4811 for your DUI case evaluation.