CALIFORNIA DUI CONVICTIONS: PART 1 – First Time DUI Sentencing
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in California[i], the punishment can include fines, jail time, classes, driver’s license suspension/revocation, and installation of an ignition interlock device in your car. Several other consequences flow collaterally from a first-time DUI conviction – the fees for the court, the DMV hassle, insurance increase, and classes can mount up to thousands of dollars.[ii]
First-Time DUI Sentencing
For a first-time DUI in California, the maximum sentence is 6 months in jail and a base fine of $390 (plus penalties and assessments, which multiplies the total). Typically, a Los Angeles County judge will grant probation for three years, during which time you will have to abide by a number of conditions: obey all laws, do not drive with any amount of alcohol in your blood, and consent to all chemical tests (including the PAS test). Other probation conditions may include:
- Fines – For a first DUI conviction, the base fine ranges from $390-$1000. However, there are multiple assessments that result in increasing a California DUI fine total to around 5 times the base amount imposed by the judge. The fine can be paid in installments. You also have the option of performing community labor in Los Angeles County instead of the DUI fine, at a rate of one day for every $125 of the base fine.
- Jail Time – The judge may, but is not required to, impose a county jail sentence of 48 hours for a first-time DUI offense. We rarely see jail on a first-time DUI in Los Angeles County.[iii]
- Alcohol Treatment Classes – For a first DUI, the required program (AB-541) is three months long. This first-time offender program consists of 30 hours of classes including group meetings, AA meetings, and individual counseling sessions. In addition, the class charges enrollment and attendance fees, but a fee reduction or waiver is possible for those who are unable to pay.
- Alcohol Education classes – Attendance at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel[iv] or the Hospital and Morgue (HAM) program may be ordered, depending upon the circumstances. Fees are $40 for each program. The MADD panel lasts for about 2.5 hours and includes presentations of the disastrous effects of drunk driving. The HAM program is 8 hours long, but split into two 4-hour sessions. The program includes travel to a Los Angeles County ER department and the Los Angeles County Morgue. Participants are required to write an essay about their experiences.[v]
- California Driver’s License Suspension – The court may order a suspension of your driver’s license separately from the DMV’s suspension order. Every DUI conviction is reported by the court to the DMV, and the DMV will suspend your license when they receive notice of the conviction from the court.
- Ignition Interlock Device – The court can order the installation of an ignition interlock device after a first DUI conviction.[vi] It is more likely to order the restriction if the BAC is over .15 percent or there was an alleged chemical test refusal. The IID has a maximum installation period of three years. The DMV separately requires installation of an ignition interlock device.[vii] In Los Angeles county, the DMV separately requires installation of an ignition interlock device for 5 months after a first DUI conviction under VC 23152, and 12 months after a first DUI conviction under VC 23153.[viii] Whether the court or the DMV orders IID installation, you are entitled to a discount for costs of the device if your income is less than three times the federal poverty level.[ix]
The “standard” plea bargain offered by the Los Angeles City Attorney or District Attorney for a first-time DUI is 36 months of court-supervised probation, a fine of $390 plus penalty assessments (or 3 days community labor), and a 3 month series of alcohol education classes (the AB-541 program). If there is a high blood alcohol level, refusal of a chemical test, or a traffic collision or accident, even though it is a first DUI conviction, the Los Angeles or Pasadena prosecutor may require more alcohol education classes, higher fines, and completion of the MADD and HAM programs.
Often times, people will plead to a first-time DUI, believing that the case is “unwinnable” and that DUI sentencing is inevitable. If you or a loved one is facing first-time DUI charges, contact our expert Los Angeles and Pasadena DUI attorneys. Years of experience analyzing DUI charges have taught us that a conviction for a first-time DUI is NOT a forgone conclusion. The sentence for a first-time DUI requires a significant expenditure of time and money from you, and will undoubtedly cause some hardship in your life. As a result, it is critical to fight DUIs to the end. These cases can be beat.
We will talk about more complicated DUI sentencing, punishment, and probationary conditions in future installments – DUI prior offenses, special allegations, and DUI felony charges, including DUI with bodily injury. But, there is no way we can blog all of the collective DUI knowledge that our Pasadena criminal defense attorneys have to offer! If you have questions about DUI charges or potential consequences, call THE LEVENTHAL FIRM today for a personal consultation.
[i] VC 23152, VC 23153
[iii] VC 23536(a), VC 23538(a)(1)
[vi] Cal Vehicle Code Section 23575(a)
[vii] Cal Vehicle Code Section 23573
[viii] VC 23700(a)(7)(A)(i) and VC 23700(a)(7)(B)(i)
[ix] VC 23700(b)(1)(A) et see