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Your Guide to DUI Penalties: Suspension, Fines and Jail

If you've been arrested for DUI, it's essential to know what the penalties are to plan your defense. A DUI charge is not always a misdemeanor. This is depending on the severity and number of offenses, penalties may range from fines to jail time.


This article will outline all of the different punishments you could face if convicted of driving under the influence. DUI penalties are no joke, so pay close attention.

Whenever you're ready to learn more about blood alcohol content, a suspended license, and a DUI fine, keep reading.


What Is A DUI?

A person is considered driving under the influence when they are impaired by alcohol or drugs, severely impacting their ability to operate a vehicle safely. The legal limit of blood-alcohol concentration for drivers over 21 years old in all 50 states is .08 percent.

Some forms have lower limits for underage and commercial drivers. For example, Connecticut has a zero-tolerance policy for people under age 21, whereas Colorado allows minors with BAC's up to .02 percent before being charged with drunk driving. In California, the limit is .08 percent for all drivers.

Any BAC over the legal limit places you at risk of being charged with a DUI. Other factors can contribute to your blood-alcohol concentration:

Your Age

Alcohol impacts older people more than younger ones. A more senior person will typically have higher levels of bacs at lower amounts of consumption. Bodyweight: the more you weigh, the harder it is for your body to process alcohol.

This means that you will typically have higher levels of BAC at lower amounts of consumption.

Individual Tolerance Level

Some people can metabolize alcohol faster than others depending on genetics and other factors, determining how much someone can drink before reaching a BAC over the legal limit.

For example, two people of equal size and weight who drink the same amount on an empty stomach may have different levels of BAC. One person could be at .04 percent while their friend is still under the legal limit at .06, even though they consumed the same quantity.

Drinking over a more extended period can also impact BAC levels. If you've consumed alcohol over several hours, then your blood-alcohol content will reflect that. If you're still above the legal limit when stopped by police for DUI, then they may charge you with a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Your breath or urine test results for any amount of alcohol over the legal limit may result in being charged with a misdemeanor or felony. If you have been arrested for DUI, it's essential to know what penalties are involved in planning your defense accordingly.

Additionally, anyone who refuses chemical testing (blood test) after an arrest may face harsher penalties than those who take it voluntarily. If you refuse testing while on probation from another DUI conviction, then one will likely lengthen your original sentence.

Typical DUI Penalties In California

The average DUI fine in California will typically range from $390 to over $1000, depending on the circumstances. In addition to penalties, you may also face additional fees and surcharges that can increase your total amount due by thousands of dollars:

  • DUI school: $25-$90

  • Impaired Driver Program fee: up to $45

Emergency Room Costs

These are for injuries caused by your accident (if any). It can range from a few hundred dollars to over $1000 depending on the severity of the damage and whether you have health insurance

Bail/Bond Payments

This ranges from several hundred dollars to one thousand dollars. If you cannot post bail before being released, it will be automatically set at around ten percent (or more) than that amount. The average bail/bond in California is approximately $1550.

Suspension Of License For A DUI

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, then your license may be suspended. Your suspension periods will depend on whether or not this is your first offense. Repeat offenders face harsher penalties on average than their less-experienced counterparts. Suspension lengths in California for the first offense of DUI range from 90 days to six months.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has specific guidelines. These are for how long your license will be suspended if you are found guilty.

For those who have never been convicted or had their license suspended previously, then the minimum period is 90 days.

However, this can increase depending on what test results show and whether or not there were previous offenses within the past ten years. If the BAC was .08 percent over the legal limit, you might face an additional four months suspension. This time frame increases by two further months each time you commit another offense during probation.

Penalties become more severe with increased levels of intoxication. One year's revocation is issued at a BAC of .15 percent over the legal limit. 18 months' revocation is administered at a BAC level of .20 or greater.

These can increase to two years if you have been convicted twice before (or more) within the last ten years.

If your license has already been suspended for another DUI conviction: If this is not your first offense, then it will depend on whether or not you were previously eligible for an Ignition Interlock Device-restricted driver's license during that suspension period.

One year's revocation is imposed at a blood alcohol content between .08 and 21 percent above the legal limit. Nine months are given with BAC levels from 21 to 40 percent above the legal limit. Six-month suspensions apply in all other cases.

Can You Get Jail Time From A DUI?

In most cases, you cannot receive jail time for a first offense of driving under the influence in California. However, there are some exceptions to this rule:

  • If your blood alcohol level was .15 percent or more over the legal limit at the time of the arrest

  • Driving with children younger than 14 years old under your control and passengers younger than 18 years old who were drinking as well will result in a minimum 90-day sentence

  • if both charges apply then, it can increase to 180 days behind bars

Suppose you operate an off-road vehicle while intoxicated (on non-public roads). In that case, you could face up to six months imprisonment because of California's "dry reckless" law. This is meant to deter persons from driving recklessly while intoxicated.

If you are found guilty of driving under the influence within ten years of being convicted for another DUI offense, then your jail sentence will be increased to a minimum of five days in custody (or 45 consecutive days if there is no prior conviction).

This can grow to 30 days with BAC levels between .08 and .14 percent over the legal limit, or 60 additional day sentences are issued at .15 or more. If you have been charged twice before during that time frame, it could be doubled. Repeat offenders also face up to two full years behind bars.

What You Can Do to Minimize the Impact Of A DUI

It is possible to reduce your chances of having a DUI conviction on your record by taking steps to ensure that you do not drive under the influence.

The best way to avoid this situation is by arranging for another form of transportation. If you are drinking, make sure other people can take care of driving home (or at least know where you plan to go).

It would help if you never got behind the wheel when any amount of alcohol has been consumed. Even one drink too many could result in criminal charges and costs. These are associated with court fees, fines, penalties, and increased insurance rates.

If someone else can't pick you up or arrange alternative transportation, try calling a cab company. Do this after every alcoholic beverage you consume while out socializing.

If someone has been arrested on a DUI charge, then it is possible to obtain legal counsel from criminal defense attorneys. They can help them avoid penalties and costs that could negatively impact their life for years to come.

It would help if you also get professional advice before making significant decisions about how to handle your case. Without knowing all of the details surrounding your arrest, it would be hard to make the best choice for your future.

How to Get Your License Back With S22 Filing?

Once your California license has been suspended due to driving under the influence, then it is possible to file for what's known as an S22 DMV hearing within ten days after the conviction. one can use this document to request that you're entitled to drive on a restricted license. This option is available following either:

  • A first-time DUI offense that didn't involve injuries or death

  • Another type of misdemeanor charge (which doesn't automatically revoke your driver's license).

  • There were no previous convictions in the past five years before applying for an S22 form.

The filing fee must also be paid by cash or money order. If using a check or credit card, then additional fees will apply. If approved, then legal documents could come back with a restricted license within 30 days of filing.

The DMV has the right to deny an S22 form for any reason (including but not limited to refusing to take a blood test or failing one).

This could result in additional charges and penalties if the applicant is later convicted by pleading guilty, no contest or "nolo contender". This means that they do not wish to fight against their DUI charge- these documents will be reviewed before one can approve.

If you're trying to avoid having your driver's license suspended after being charged with driving under the influence, then it would be beneficial to know what actions are available and how long suspension periods will last depending on which type of offense was committed.

How Long Does A DUI Stay On Your Record?

A DUI charge can remain on your record for decades, depending on how it is handled. When someone pleads guilty or no contest to a California DUI offense, then this will be reported by the DMV. It could appear on their driving history indefinitely.

However, if they fight against these charges in court), then there might not be any mention of prior convictions. This is true even after an acquittal is returned.

If someone has completed probation without incident over three years ago but did not obtain an expungement order at that time- then they may still need to disclose previous convictions when applying for jobs that require criminal background checks (which include but are limited to some government agencies).

Another possibility would involve obtaining what's known as "non-disclosure". This can help prevent employers from gaining access to criminal records. Even if they do find out about these charges, then it's possible that one could disregard this depending on the circumstances.

To get started with a non-disclosure or expungement, contact a lawyer who specializes in fighting DUI charges. Look for those that have extensive experience helping defendants fight against their revocation.

When someone is trying to avoid having their driver's license suspended after being charged with driving under the influence, it would be beneficial to know what actions are available and how long suspension periods will last depending on which type of offense was committed.

Your DUI Case Made Simpler

Now that you understand the gravity of a DUI and how it affects someone's life, you are well on your way to handling your case. DUI penalties must be prevented and/or dealt with after the fact.

If you are reading this, it is likely that you have already been charged with a DUI and would like to resolve the matter as quickly and painlessly as possible.

If you're looking to file an S22 with your local DMV, you should get in touch with us, and we will gladly accommodate your pressing needs.

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