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California Drunk Driving Collisions

DUI Penalties and the Consequences of Drunk Driving

In California, an individual is considered to be “under the influence” if their blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or more. Driving under the influence (DUI) is against the law. There are also additional laws that prohibit riding bikes and scooters while intoxicated, which are called boating under the influence (BUI).

Commercial drivers have a stricter BAC standard applied to them. They can get arrested if they have a BAC of .04 percent or more. Lastly, California implements a very strict Zero Tolerance Law  for drivers under the age of 21 getting behind the wheel with a BAC of .01 percent or more. 

Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit 

Determining the level of a driver’s impairment comes along with a few factors including:

  • Gender
  • Body size
  • Amount of drink consumption, along with the strength of the drinks
  • Time of consumption
  • Time of food consumption before being arrested
  • Medical condition(s) that may contribute to how the body metabolizes the alcohol consumed

California DUI Penalties

There are various penalties that are implemented after getting a DUI in California. Each one is determined based on different circumstances. Potential sentences may include:

  • Jail – First offense is up to 6 months. Second offense is 96 hours up to 1 year. Third offense is 120 days to 1 year. 
  • Fines and Penalties – First offense is from $390 to $1,000. Second offense also has the same fine. Third offense is up to $1,800. 
  • License Suspension – First offense is 6 months. Second offense is 2 years. Third offense is 3 years. 
  • Interlock Ignition Device (IID) – First offense is up to 6 months or a 12 month restricted license. Second offense is 1 year. Third offense is 2 years.

A judge or prosecutor will carefully review the situation and determine the most appropriate punishment for the driver who was under the influence while they were behind the wheel. 

Penalties for Death or Injuries After a DUI Charge

Injuries. If your reckless driving behavior resulted in an injury, you can expect to face penalties that are more severe. Such defendants are sometimes referred to as “wobblers.” 

Wobblers can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony for driving under the influence. If charged as a felony, the injury caused by the DUI will carry a prison sentence of 16 months to four years. Depending on the past history of the individual charged with driving under the influence, fines may range from $290 to $5,000.

Death. Reckless drivers who were under the influence and contributed to the death of another person may be prosecuted under California’s vehicular manslaughter or murder laws. Such an individual is expected to be charged with:

  • Negligent vehicular manslaughter.
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter. 
  • Second-degree murder.

Penalties for these types of offenses differ greatly. A less severe punishment for situations including a misdemeanor-negligent-vehicular-manslaughter-while intoxicated conviction- could include a maximum $1,000 fine along with one year in jail. However, a second-degree murder conviction may carry 15 years to life in state prison.

Implied Consent and Rejecting Blood Alcohol Tests

In California, the implied consent law applies to drivers who have been lawfully arrested due to driving under the influence. They are required to do a BAC. Drivers may choose to do either a blood or breath test. Those who refuse to take part in this test will have to pay a $125 fine and will have their license suspended. Licence suspension varies depending on the offense: 

  • 1st Offense – 1 year suspension
  • 2nd Offense – 2 year suspension
  • 3rd Offense – 3 year suspension

There are two types of labels given to drivers who are pulled over for reckless driving. One term is called “wet reckless.” Wet reckless is when a reckless driver is pulled over with intoxicating substances, such as drugs or alcohol in their system. Another term is called “dry reckless.” Dry reckless is when a reckless driver is pulled over, but there are no drugs or alcohol involved.

Getting a Plea Bargain for a DUI

In California, it is not prohibited to initiate a plea bargain for a DUI case. However, there are certain restrictions, depending on the circumstances. Typically, plea bargaining is allowed when: 

  • The evidence is not sufficient enough for the prosecution to prove the DUI charge.
  • The testimony of an important witness can’t be acquired.
  • A plea deal won’t create a substantial change in the sentence.

If a prosecutor decides to reduce a DUI to a reckless driving charge, he or she is required to explain their reasoning for the reduction in court. They are also expected to state whether the offense included alcohol or drugs along with the facts supporting their conclusion.

SR-22 Requirement

To restore your license suspension, it is essential to notify your insurance company. They will file an “SR-22” with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). SR-22 is a certificate that confirms you have met the minimum insurance requirements. 

Also, this certificate is a requirement for acquiring a “hardship license” to have the accessibility of driving to places including work or school during a DUI suspension. 

Available Damages

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries. 

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

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If you or someone you know has been injured, reach out to our legal team 24 hours a day by calling us at (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected].

Read More About Car Accidents 
Our excellent team of car accident attorneys have created several resources for you to read through. Feel free to browse these topics and read the ones you would like to learn about more. 


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