Information about Particular Offenses
A DUI case involves TWO completely separate, but related, proceedings:
- Court proceedings
- DMV proceedings
The court proceedings are a criminal prosecution which (if successful) will result in a conviction. The goal of these proceedings is to punish and deter future reckless conduct. The DMV proceedings are an administrative action which (if successful) will result in the loss of your driving privileges in California (suspension and/or revocation). The DMV also can impose conditions such as requiring an IID (Ignition Interlock Device).
The Court Proceedings
A DUI (violation of Vehicle Code section 23152(a) or (b)) or a DUI with injury (violation of Vehicle Code section 23153(a) or (b)) is a criminal offense. Although it is a “driving offense” and in many courthouses is handled in a traffic court, that does not diminish its significance: DUIs are misdemeanors (or, in some cases, felonies). As such, it is subject to all the same procedural considerations as any other criminal matter and can have the same consequences.
First time DUI (non-injury) cases are misdemeanors. The “standard” penalty is a fine of $390.00, 36 months of summary probation, and a requirement that you attend an “AB-541 Program” consisting of:
- 18 hours – Group Counseling (Nine weeks of two-hour sessions)
- 12 hours – Education (Six weeks of two-hour sessions)
- Three Individual interviews lasting a minimum of 15 minutes each
- Eight Self-Help Meetings
The fine will have a “penalty assessment” added to it, as well as various other surcharges that will bring the total to approximately $1,800.00. The AB-541 programs are licensed by the State of California but administered by private providers. The costs vary by area and provider. Summary probation means you do not have to report to a probation officer or obtain permission from the court to leave the area. Many courts will add a few other conditions, which may include:
- Stay out of places where alcohol is the key item of sale (bars and nightclubs)
- Don’t drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your blood (<0.01%).
- Do not use or possess any alcoholic beverage(s)
- Attend a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) deterrent program
- Attend a HAM (Hospital and Morgue) deterrent program
- Attend some number of AA meetings
- Submit to a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening test) on request by law enforcement
- Perform community service and/or community labor
- Serve some number of days in jail
The court also imposes additional penalties for blood alcohol levels over 0.15%, refusal to submit to a test, prior convictions, etc. In short: each case is different and depends on many factors.
The DMV Proceeding
The DMV proceeding is an administrative action aimed at restricting your driving privileges. Note that the action is against your driving privileges and not your license. You cannot circumvent the action by obtaining an out-of-state driver’s license. Even if your license is issued on the moon, you still aren’t allowed to drive in California during the period of suspension or revocation.
The DMV is also likely to impose an IID condition even for a first-time DUI if your offense occurred in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Tulare County. In subsequent cases, it is almost a certainty. The periods of suspension also vary depending on whether it is a first or subsequent offense:
- First offense: 120 day suspension
- First offense refusal: One year suspension
- Second offense: Two year suspension
- Second offense refusal: Three year suspension
- Third offense: Three year revocation
The DMV proceeding is conducted by a Hearing Officer who is both judge and DMV prosecutor. The standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence” and the rules of evidence are very relaxed. So if the hearing officer believes you were driving and had more than 0.08% BAC, you will lose the hearing and your license.
Interplay Between DMV and Court Proceedings
The court doesn’t care what the DMV does except that it will order you to comply with any IID conditions and not to drive unless licensed (which is up to the DMV). The DMV, on the other hand, can base a suspension on a conviction. You can win the DMV hearing only to find the DMV then suspended your license anyway following your conviction of a DUI in court.