Even a first time driving under the influence (DUI) charge can have serious consequences. Although most often filed as a misdemeanor, a San Diego DUI lawyer can explain the circumstances under which the district attorney may pursue enhanced penalties.
The Elements of DUI
A person may be found guilty of DUI if it is proved they were:
• Driving a motor vehicle • Under the influence of alcohol or drugs or had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher
It is important to note that under the influence of alcohol while driving and driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher are two distinct charges, but an accused may be convicted of only one. Also, as a San Diego DUI lawyer emphasizes, driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is what as known as the “per se” law, meaning the prosecution does not need to prove any impairment on the part of the accused; their BAC content alone is sufficient for a conviction.
Finally, different classes of drivers are held to more restrictive standards.
• Commercial license holders are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.04 or higher. • Drivers under 21 years old are prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.01 or higher.
Criminal and Civil Proceedings
Two separate actions begin with a DUI arrest; the criminal case and an administrative hearing conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Although the same issues are present in both, a San Diego DUI lawyer reports that different standards of proof apply, different procedures are followed and the outcome of one does not necessarily impact the other.
The DMV Hearing
One of the primary factors to consider is that no constitutional protections for the driver apply at the DMV hearing; it is not considered a criminal proceeding. Consequently, a San Diego DUI lawyer cautions that unless the driver requests a hearing, their license will be automatically suspended. The driver is, however, entitled to legal representation at the hearing.
The Criminal Case
A criminal conviction for a first time DUI carries a variety of penalties, including:
• Up to six months in jail • Fines, fees and penalties of between $1500 – $2000 • Suspension of driver's license for six months • A three-month alcohol class • Informal probation for three years
The above are the punishments for what is considered a “standard” DUI. Enhanced penalties may be imposed if any of the following circumstances were present:
• A BAC of 0.15 percent or higher • Refusal to submit to a chemical test • Driving at excessive speeds • Causation of an accident • Driving with a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle
Contact a San Diego DUI Lawyer for Legal Advice
A DUI arrest does not automatically have to lead to a conviction. An experienced DUI attorney can attack the prosecution's case on many different grounds. Whether your case may involve circumstances permitting a plea to a lesser charge or some affirmative defense, it is important to explore your options. Call James V. Hairgrove, a San Diego DUI attorney, at 619-667-3743.