This holiday season, think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car after you’ve enjoyed a few drinks. Drunk driving accidents occur more frequently around this time of year and, as a result, Los Angeles-area police are trying to do something about the problem. You can expect an increased patrol presence and additional DUI checkpoints as you travel over the next few weeks. If you are found driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may want to visit our guide on the top questions to ask when hiring a criminal lawyer.
What is a DUI?
DUI is short for “driving under the influence,” and it is a crime in Los Angeles. Specifically, it is the crime of driving a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. What does it mean to be under the influence of alcohol? In the most general sense, it means that your consumption of alcohol has impaired to ability your senses in a way that prevents you from operating the car in the way a sober person would. There are two different ways you can face charges for a DUI.
A DUI can be based on the amount of alcohol that is in your system at the time of your arrest. You will legally be considered to be under the influence of alcohol when your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit of .08. Your blood alcohol level is generally determined by using chemical testing, such as a breathalyzer or blood test.
A DUI can also be based on a law enforcement officer’s reasonable judgment. If an officer, after reviewing your conduct, behavior, and field sobriety tests, believes that you are intoxicated, you can face charges for a DUI. This is true even if your blood alcohol content does not exceed the legal limit. If, for example, your blood alcohol content was .06, but you were unable to complete the field sobriety tests and exhibited slurred speech, an officer may have reasonable belief that you are intoxicated and not fit to drive.
Criminal Consequences of a DUI
In Los Angeles, a DUI can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Most first-time DUIs will be charged as misdemeanors. Your second and third DUIs may also be misdemeanors, but may carry a mandatory minimum sentence. This means that you may have to spend at least a few days behind bars if you are convicted. Misdemeanor DUI charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in a Los Angeles County jail and $1,000 in fines. In addition to jail time and fines, a judge has the discretion to impose the following penalties:
- 3-5 years of probation;
- Court-ordered substance abuse counseling;
- DUI school; and/or
- Community service.
A DUI will also result in the automatic loss of your driver’s license for six months. You have the right to initiate a separate hearing to contest the suspension of your license, but you must act quickly.
When a DUI involves aggravating factors the crime may be elevated to a felony. Aggravating factors could include causing bodily harm or death, driving while intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 16, or having prior DUI convictions. A felony DUI can carry a criminal sentence of up to 16 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of your specific case.
Collateral Consequences of DUI
In addition to facing jail time, fines, mandatory counseling, and the loss of your license, you will also be burdened with a criminal record. Simply having this criminal record will expose you to certain social and civil collateral consequences. These collateral consequences can affect every aspect of your life and pose serious challenges for your future. Collateral consequences of a Los Angeles DUI conviction include:
- Increased car insurance rates;
- Difficulty getting to work, resulting in the loss of your job;
- Inability to secure employment in certain industries, including healthcare, education, and government;
- Inability to participate in certain California welfare programs;
- Difficulty finding housing for you and your family;
- Financial strains related to the cost of getting your license back; and
- Suspension or loss of professional licenses.
Fighting DUI Charges in Los Angeles
This holiday season, the best way to avoid DUI charges is by not getting behind the wheel after you’ve consumed alcohol. Police will be aggressive and do everything in their power to find drivers who are not fit to operate a vehicle. If you find that you are facing charges for a DUI call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help.
Our experienced DUI attorneys know that your future is at stake and will do everything in our power to minimize the consequences of your arrest. We will fight every piece of evidence presented by the state and prepare a custom legal argument for your defense. Our aggressive approach often allows us to negotiate a favorable outcome for our clients. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our DUI attorneys and learn more.