DUIs are criminal offenses in California. As a criminal offense, DUIs are charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. While misdemeanor offenses are less serious than their felony counterparts, a misdemeanor DUI can have a substantial impact on your life.
If you’re facing any DUI charge, contacting a dedicated DUI lawyer is a smart move. The right DUI lawyer may be able to help you have the charges dropped or downgraded to something less severe, like a wet reckless charge. To schedule a free consultation with a DUI lawyer who can evaluate your case, call us today at (310) 896-2724.
Penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI
The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI depend heavily on the circumstances of your arrest and your criminal history. Factors that affect what penalties you face and how severe they can be includes:
- Prior criminal history, including past DUI and wet reckless convictions
- The passengers in your vehicle
- Your driving behavior
- Damage to property
- Injuries to other people
While there are differences in sentencing based on the unique factors of each case, a misdemeanor DUI penalty may come with:
- Months in a county jail
- Fines and assessment fees totaling over $1,000
- Months of DUI education classes
- License suspension for six months or more
- Probation lasting for three to five years
Variations in the range of occurring both because of the facts of your case and the strength of your defense. A stronger defense can translate to substantially less severe penalties, even without a downgrade of the initial charge. It’s one reason why many people turn to the expertise of a DUI lawyer.
Prior DUI Offenses
One of the biggest things to affect what happens with a misdemeanor DUI charge is your prior drunk driving history. In California, DUIs are “priorable” offenses. Being a “priorable” offense means that repeated convictions for DUIs come with increasingly harsh penalties. For example, a first offense may come with:
- Up to six months in jail
- License suspension of six months
- Three months of DUI school
A second DUI offense under similar circumstances may entail:
- Up to a year in jail
- License suspension up to two years
- Either 18 or 30 months of DUI school
A third DUI offense jumps up to:
- Up to a year in a county jail or more than a year in a state prison
- License suspension of up to 3 years or a license revocation
- 30 months of DUI school
After a third DUI conviction in a 10-year period, individuals stop facing misdemeanor charges and instead face felony charges.
Misdemeanor DUI Plea Bargains
The above penalties are in the maximum range of possible penalties, which can be more common for DUI cases that make it to trial. However, most DUI charges are settled with a plea bargain well before a jury trial begins.
The penalties can range much more substantially with a plea bargain. In many cases, particularly those where the defendant chooses not to seek a DUI lawyer for their representation, they can end up being at or close to the maximum penalties. For individuals who choose to have an expert on their side, the penalties can be much more forgiving.
A skilled DUI lawyer can improve your plea bargain by attacking the prosecution’s evidence against you. Any bit of evidence that can be challenged in court will make it more difficult for the prosecutor to secure a conviction at a trial. This gives you and your lawyer leverage to gain more favorable terms for any plea bargains.
Downgrading to a Wet Reckless Charge
Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to negotiate for a “wet” reckless driving charge instead of a DUI charge. While it is still a misdemeanor and will count as a DUI for the purposes of future charges, you face only the following penalties:
- No more than $1,000 in fines and fees.
- 12 hours of DUI school
- Up to 2 years of probation
A “wet” reckless has neither a mandatory jail sentence or a license suspension. However, you may still face an administrative license suspension through the DMV if you didn’t opt to fight that process.
Automatic License Suspension After a DUI Arrest
When you are arrested for a DUI offense, the DMV is notified. This triggers an automatic process known as an administrative per se suspension. Under this process, the DMV will suspend your license for a minimum of four months, starting 30 days after your arrest.
You can contest the DMV’s suspension, but you must act quickly. If you fail to request a hearing to fight the administrative process within 10 days of your arrest, the suspension will kick in. Even if you have the criminal charges dropped or reduced to one that doesn’t require a suspension, like a wet reckless charge, you will be without a license for months.
Beating a misdemeanor DUI charge can be difficult if you try to do it alone. Instead, call us today at (310) 896-2724. Our DUI lawyers are ready to help you with both the administrative and criminal aspects of your pending charge. Your initial case evaluation with one of our experienced DUI lawyers comes at no cost, so don’t wait to connect with us!