Under California law, “driving under the influence” may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. In many cases, the DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor, which is a less serious criminal charge than a felony and carries less severe penalties. Anyone sentenced to incarceration for a misdemeanor DUI will serve their time in a local or county jail instead of a California state prison.

California motorists face not one, but two, potential charges if accused of driving while intoxicated. Drivers who fail a blood alcohol test and have a BAC of .08 or higher may be charged with violating California Vehicle Code § 23152(a) (driving while under the influence of alcohol) and violating California Vehicle Code § 23152(b) (driving with a BAC of .08 or higher). Juveniles who have a BAC of .08 or higher may also be charged with violating both California Vehicle Code § 23152(a) and California Vehicle Code § 23152(b).

Even a conviction for a misdemeanor DUI carries harsh consequences. A likely sentence for a DUI charged as a misdemeanor will likely result in thousands of dollars in fines, suspension of your driver’s license, mandatory enrollment in a driver’s education class, and jail time.

A DUI may be charged as a felony in certain cases. One circumstance when this occurs is when another person was injured or killed. Also, if the DUI charge is the driver’s fourth DUI in ten years or the driver has a prior felony DUI, the current DUI may be charged as a felony.

California prosecutors will charge driving under the influence as a misdemeanor if

  • no one was injured,
  • it is a wet reckless, first, second, or third DUI in the prior ten years, and
  • the driver has never been convicted of a prior felony DUI.

Penalties for misdemeanor DUI may include

  • up to one year in jail (six months for a first offense),
  • driver’s license suspension or other restrictions,
  • informal probation for three to five years,
  • fines, fees, and court costs,
  • installation of an interlock ignition device,
  • home detention or work release where applicable, and
  • alcohol and drug education classes for from three to nine months.

These penalties may be increased if penalties if the driver refused to take a chemical test, the driver’s blood-alcohol level was over .15%, a passenger was under 14 years of age, or the vehicle was being driven 30 MPH or more over the speed limit on a California freeway or 20 MPH over the speed limit on a California road, street, or highway.

The Dolan Law Offices can answer your questions and provide valuable advice and service if you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.

Penalties For Misdemeanor DUIs