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Driving Under the Influence in California

Driving under the influence, i.e. "D.U.I." or Driving While Intoxicated, i.e. "D.W.I." is considered a serious offense in California even though it is normally a misdemeanor. The penalties have been incrementally increased over the years while the legal limit has been cut almost in half, from .15 parts per million ("ppm") alcohol in the bloodstream, to the current .08 ppm. It only takes a few drinks for the average size person to be legally "under the influence" even though they might not feel drunk or high. The law says that if you have .08 ppm in your blood steam, and/or you fail the field sobriety tests, you are legally in violation of the law.

Driving under the influence in California is a "priorable offense." This means that each time there is a conviction within a 10 year period the penalty goes up. While the first time may not result in jail time, the 2nd offense will require at least 2 days in jail, and the mandatory jail time goes up from there for each conviction. At some point most judges will put a defendant in prison.

Besides jail time, there are substantial fines, penalties, license restrictions and suspensions, and certain counties in California (including Los Angeles) require the installation of an automobile ignition interlock device ("IID") that means you cannot start your car without blowing into the device to make sure you have no alcohol in your system. And the defendant pays for that out of their own pocket! Your insurance rates are guaranteed to sky rocket and, additionally, some courts require a visit to the local morgue to see accident victims (and may even require an essay about it.) Obviously, a DUI cannot be taken lightly!

Handling a DUI case without an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney is not recommended. The law is too complex and the penalties too severe not to retain a competent DUI attorney. The Law Offices of Kenneth H. Lewis can represent you and make sure all of your rights are protected and that you get the best possible results.


Arrested for DUI? Contact our Los Angeles DUI lawyer to start your defense today!


DUI Penalties in California

Under California state law, the amount of fines and jail time you can face is largely dependent on if you have had prior convictions. A conviction for DUI stays on your record for 10 years and will count as a prior conviction if you receive another DUI conviction during that time.

Possible Penalties for DUI:

  • First Offense: A maximum jail time of 6 months, $390 to $1,000 fine and a driver’s license suspension of 6 months
  • Second Offense: 96 hours to 1 year in jail, $390 to $1,000 fine and a 2-year driver’s license suspension
  • Third Offense: 120 days to 1 year in jail, $1,800 maximum fine and a 3-year driver’s license suspension

Restricted Licenses and IIDs

If your driver’s license was suspended, you may be eligible for a “restricted license.” This allows you to drive to important locations such as school or work. If you have a restricted license you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID).

If this is your first offense, you may have the choice between a six-month IID installation after your license is reinstated or a 12-month restricted license. If it is your second offense, you must complete a 12-month IID requirement and if it is your third offense you must complete a 24-month IID requirement. This may be completed while having a restricted license or after you have your driver’s license reinstated.

Your Rights at a Traffic Stop

If you are pulled over or asked to stop at a police checkpoint, you need to exercise your constitutional rights against self-incrimination and not say anything incriminating. Once you admit to drinking alcohol, you have begun to incriminate yourself.

California is, however, an implied consent state, which means that if you have a driver's license, you have already consented to take a breath or blood test. If you fail to do so, you will forfeit your driving privileges for at least a year. Even if you are sober, if you are asked to conduct a breath or blood test, you must comply or risk losing your driving privileges.

Representation After a DUI Arrest in Los Angeles

After an arrest, it is highly important that you seek the representation of an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney. The penalties you will be facing if you are found guilty are just too serious to face without competent counsel. Additional charges may be brought against you if you have been accused of DUI with an injury, or vehicular manslaughter.


Arrested and charged with a DUI? You need to act quickly and contact our Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as possible.


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