Misdemeanor DUI Charges

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Southern California and have never been convicted of a DUI in the past, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. In most cases, a second or third DUI arrest will also be charged as a misdemeanor. You will almost certainly be charged with a felony, however, if you were in an accident that caused an injury or death while you were DUI. Our DUI felony page explains the other circumstances in which a driver might face DUI felony charges.

Nearly 97% of DUI charges in California are misdemeanors. Unfortunately, some people think “misdemeanor” means “not serious.” Every criminal conviction is serious. A criminal record affects the ability to obtain employment, credit, professional licenses, and security clearances. Criminal convictions jeopardize the opportunity to travel to other countries and the immigration status of noncitizens.

A conviction almost always results in higher auto insurance premiums.
drunk-drivingIt may be possible to expunge a misdemeanor DUI after a period of time, but expunging a conviction is not the same as erasing it. The California DMV typically does not remove expunged DUI convictions from driving records.

Internet databases that record the conviction might not remove it after the conviction is expunged. That means potential employers and others can learn about the conviction by accessing the database or DMV records. Even expunged convictions must be disclosed on most applications for government employment and occupational licenses.

Your best chance of avoiding a conviction in Orange County and elsewhere in Southern California is to retain the services of a dedicated DUI defense attorney. The Law Offices of Randy Collins has earned a stellar reputation for its skillful defense of DUI accusations. Learn more about the ways you might be able to avoid a conviction by calling (888) 250-2865.

Arrests

According to the 2015 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System, there were more than 155,000 misdemeanor arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) in California during 2013. Here’s how those arrest statistics break down in some Southern California counties:

  •           Los Angeles County                  36,254
  •           Orange County                         12,682
  •           Riverside County                        9,704
  •           San Bernardino County             9,822
  •           San Diego County                     11,852

Almost three-quarters of arrested drivers are first offenders. About 25% of arrested drivers manage to avoid a DUI conviction, either by obtaining a dismissal, a “not guilty” verdict, or a conviction of some other offense (usually reckless driving).

Laws

The primary law that forms the basis for California misdemeanor DUI charges is section 23152 of the Vehicle Code. Subsection (a) of that statute makes it a crime to drive under the influence of alcohol or any drug. A driver is under the influence of a substance when consumption of the substance has impaired the driver’s ability to drive with the same caution as a sober driver.

Section 23152(b) VC is California’s “per se” law. That subsection makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08%.

It is possible to be convicted under subsection (a) even if the driver’s BAC is less than 0.08%. Those charges should always be challenged, since juries have heard “0.08%” so often that they tend to be skeptical of DUI charges brought against drivers who were under the legal limit.

It is also possible to be convicted under both subsections. When that happens, however, only one set of penalties can be imposed.

Penalties

misdemeanor-dwiA conviction of a second or third offense DUI misdemeanor will likely result in a jail sentence. A conviction of any DUI misdemeanor will result in costly fines and a suspension of driving privileges.

Judges commonly require drivers to attend an alcohol abuse education or treatment program. Some charges subject drivers to vehicle impoundment or mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

The potential penalties for a misdemeanor DUI are influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Whether you have prior DUI convictions and, if so, when they occurred.
  • Whether your DUI charge involves alcohol or drugs.
  • If your DUI involves alcohol, the results of chemical tests that determined your BAC.
  • Whether you refused a request to submit to chemical testing of your breath or blood.
  • Whether you were involved in an accident.
  • Whether you were driving recklessly or endangered other drivers or vehicles.
  • Whether you were speeding.
  • Whether you had a minor in the vehicle.
  • Whether you were on DUI probation when you received your new DUI.

Judges and prosecutors follow guidelines when they recommend or impose penalties. Those guidelines vary, so the penalty that might be imposed in Los Angeles is not necessarily the same penalty that would be imposed in San Diego.

Guidelines are not set in stone. A skilled DUI defense attorney can make convincing arguments for lesser penalties than the court might otherwise impose. Of course, avoiding a DUI conviction entirely is the first goal of an aggressive DUI defense.

Misdemeanor DUI Defenses

california-dwi-misdemeanorFortunately, a number of defenses can be raised to defend these offenses. The defense that is best suited to your charge will depend on the facts of your case. Possibilities include:

  • Challenging an unlawful stop of your vehicle.
  • Challenging an unlawful demand that you submit to field tests.
  • Challenging an unlawful demand that you submit to chemical tests.
  • Challenging an unlawful arrest.
  • Challenging the validity of breath or blood test results.
  • Challenging the validity of field test results.
  • Arguing that your BAC at the time of driving was lower than it was at the time of testing (the “blood alcohol curve” defense).
  • Arguing that you were not driving the vehicle.
  • Providing alternative explanations for bad driving.

While the facts shape the defense, the outcome is often determined by the skill of the driver’s DUI defense lawyer. The Law Offices of Randy Collins is committed to giving each client the best possible defense. Whether that means seeking dismissal of the charges, asking a jury to return a “not guilty” verdict, or negotiating a favorable outcome, you can be assured of an experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive effort to help you avoid the consequences of a Southern California misdemeanor DUI conviction.

Need Help? Request Your Free Consult

If you’ve been arrested for DUI and are in need of legal assistance, call (888) 250-2865 or fill out the form on this page to request a free consultation for your case.