Each day, approximately 500 people are arrested for DUI in California. Arrest is most likely to occur after pulling into a DUI checkpoint, violating some rule of the road, pursuant to informant's report -- or after being involved in an accident (regardless of fault).
A felony charge may result if arrested for accident related DUI and someone other than the driver was injured.
It is NOT against the law to drink and then drive. However, it is illegal to drive while impaired, OR with your blood alcohol percentage above a certain limit. The prosecution has the BURDEN of PROVING you were "impaired" (as defined by law), or that your blood alcohol level was in excess of the legal limit, AT THE TIME OF DRIVING.
RISING BLOOD ALCOHOL: After consumtion, your blood alcohol level begins to rise as your body absorbs the alcohol. Lets say you had a shot of whiskey at 12:00 a.m., got pulled over at 12:05 a.m., and took a test at 1:00 a.m. Under these facts, your blood alcohol level at the time of testing should be significantly higher than it was at the time you were driving. Since your blood alcohol level can rise .02% to .03% per drink, this could constitute a defense to Driving Under the Influence Alcohol.
Note that a DUI arrest causes two separate and distinct actions - one by the court and one by the DMV
First offense DUI
The Maximum penalty for a FIRST offense DUI is a $1,000 fine, plus mandatory penalty assessments, 6-months in jail, 6-month license suspension, and vehicle impoundment.
Minimum penalty without probation is $390 fine (maximum of $1,000) , plus mandatory penalty assessments, 96 hours jail (48 hours of which must be served continuously) and suspension of driving privilege for 6 months (pursuant to Veh. C. § 13352(a)(1). Note that no treatment program is required, but DMV will not re-instate one's driver's license without proof of completion and a 3-year SR-22 insurance filing.
Minimum Sentence with probation is $390 fine (maximum of $1,000) , plus mandatory penalty assessments, 3 to 9 month treatment program (depending on BAC level), 48 hours jail (all served continuously), 6-month license suspension, 3 to 9 month treatment program and a 3-year SR-22 filing.If only registered in your name, the vehicle driven may be impounded for not more than 30-days at your expesnse pursuant to Veh. C § 23594.
For a first offense DUI, the DMV will suspend your license for four months. However, this can be converted to a 1 month hard suspension followed by a 5 month work/school restriction upon proof of enrollment in a DUI school and proof of insurance (the "SR-22" form), etc. A second offense DUI within 10-years carries a maximum of one-year in jail and a two-year license suspension, but a restricted license "may" be available after a 90 day hard suspension.
DMV Refusal Cases
For cases involving refusal to submit to a chemical test, the suspension is 1 year; no work restriction is permitted. A 2nd refusal within 10 years carries a 2 years suspension.