What You Need to Know
If you were arrested for a first time DUI, it’s often your first arrest ever—or at least your first arrest of this kind. It can be upsetting, stressful and even frightening. The most important thing you can do is to take time to understand the penalties you face, and the defenses you can use. You should not plead guilty, and you should get a professional opinion on your case.
What happens after my first DUI arrest?
After you are processed by police officers, they will take away your drivers license and give you a form that serves as your “temporary” license along with a notice of potential DMV suspension. The officers will then forward a copy of this notice to the DMV to process. The DMV will review the details of your case and, in most cases, will decide to suspend your license.
To stop this from happening, you must request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest. (In some rare cases, police will give you a suspension notice during the arrest process, but will mail it out afterward. In these circumstances, you have 10 days from receiving the suspension notice to request your DMV hearing.)
Your DUI means you now face two separate processes: the “administrative” process at the DMV, and the criminal justice process through the court system. Either of these processes can result in your license being suspended unless you fight them. And if you are convicted of DUI in the criminal justice process, you will face other substantial consequences as well.
What are the administrative (DMV) penalties for a first offense DUI?
If you do not request a DMV hearing, or if you lose at this hearing, the DMV will both:
- Suspend your license for at least four months, and
- Require you to carry “SR-22” insurance to reinstate your license after the suspension. SR-22 insurance costs more than regular car insurance.
This is in addition to the fees you’ll have to pay the DMV and any points the DUI puts on your drivers license.
The DMV process is not part of the court system, but you do have rights. For example:
- You have the right to be represented by an attorney.
- You can request that your hearing be done in-person rather than over the phone; most DUI lawyers will use this method because it is generally advantageous to your case.
- You can require the arresting officer to appear at the hearing and give testimony. Their story is often much weaker than you think it is. This can be invaluable to your case.
- Your license suspension will be postponed until your hearing takes place. This is often months away, and could allow you to resolve your DUI entirely in the court system without ever facing suspension.
The best way to keep your license is to have a DUI lawyer handle the hearing for you.
What are the criminal penalties for a first offense DUI?
The criminal process is handled by the courts, and is completely separate from the DMV process. If convicted of a first DUI offense, the penalties include:
- Mandatory jail sentence of anywhere from 3 days to 6 months. In some cases the jail sentence can be waived as part of your probation.
- A fine of anywhere from $390 to $1000.
- Additional financial penalties that can bring the total you owe to several thousand dollars or more.
- You will be required to attend at least three months of DUI classes (see below).
- You will be on DUI probation for 3-5 years (see below).
- Your DUI will remain on your record for 10 years. During that time, if you have any other DUI arrests, you will face much tougher penalties. Your DUI can also affect employment, college admissions, and other aspects of your life.
What are DUI safety classes or “DUI School”?
DUI classes are required for all convicted DUI offenders. It is a series of classes you must pay for and attend, and you will need to give proof that you completed them to the courts. The classes are designed to teach you the dangers that driving under the influence poses to other people as well as yourself. They are also designed to get you to reflect on your use of alcohol and/or drugs and reduce, or eliminate, your use of these substances.
Most first time DUI offenders need to complete a 30-hour program that lasts three months. If your blood alcohol content was .20% (two and a half times the legal limit) or higher, however, you will be required to complete a 60-hour class that lasts nine months.
Failure to attend or complete these classes comes with additional penalties.
How does DUI probation work?
DUI probation is generally “unsupervised” probation, meaning there is no probation officer who keeps an eye on you. However, during this time you will have to follow certain rules, and if you are caught breaking them you face penalties for probation violation:
- You cannot violate any law that results in your arrest (in other words, anything more serious than a speeding ticket)
- You must not drive while your license is suspended, period
- You cannot drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system
These are baseline DUI probation requirements. The judge may impose other requirements as well. If you violate them, you will almost certainly be sent to jail to serve any jail time that was waived at your trial. You may face other consequences as well.
Are there other first time DUI penalties?
Potentially, yes. Some DUI drivers will be required to install an interlock device on their car, so that you have to blow into a breath testing device to start the vehicle. Other possible penalties include mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, community service, or wearing an alcohol-detecting “SCRAM” bracelet on your ankle. Many of these penalties are less common with a first time DUI, but they are all possibilities at the judge’s discretion.
You will also face additional, mandatory penalties if you refused to take a blood, breath or urine test; if your blood alcohol level was very high; or if other aggravating circumstances are present in your case.
How do I fight my DUI?
The criminal penalties above only exist if you are convicted of DUI. But prosecutors often have a hard time proving a DUI charge—sometimes even if a breath test says you were over the legal limit. By focusing on the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence, a good DUI lawyer may be able to win your case or get your DUI reduced to a much less serious offense.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.