For many people, a first offense DUI is the first time they run into trouble with the law. Let’s discuss the severity of a first offense DUI, if it is generally a misdemeanor or felony offense, and other factors of importance when it comes to potential charges and penalties for driving under the influence.
What Is DUI in California?
Driving under the influence (DUI) occurs when a driver operates a vehicle at or above the legal blood alcohol limit, while impaired by drugs, or in an otherwise unsafe manner due to substances in their body.
You may be charged with DUI if the police officers prove or suspect you have one of the following in your system:
- Prescription medicine with side effects affecting your driving
How Do The Police Prove DUI?
In general, the police will work to obtain evidence of DUI through breath tests or field sobriety tests. In more rare cases, they may request the driver take a blood or urine test.
In some cases, the driver admits to drinking before driving. This makes it easy for the police to build a case against the driver. Remember – always use your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.
First Offense DUI: Misdemeanor or Felony?
Most first offense DUIs will be prosecuted as misdemeanors. It’s also possible for your defense attorney to get the charge further reduced to a traffic violation like reckless driving.
Misdemeanor first-offense DUI is punishable by:
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Possible ignition interlock device use
- Driver’s license suspension
- DUI school for up to nine months
Additionally, the conviction will appear on your criminal record. This can lead to complications with employment, housing, and more.
When Is First Offense DUI a Felony?
While the penalties for misdemeanor DUI are already severe, there are some cases that can lead to felony charges even for a first offense.
Generally, a first offense DUI is a misdemeanor unless the DUI led to an accident causing injury or death. Then, the case becomes much more serious.
If someone is injured as a result of the driver’s impairment, the driver faces:
- Up to three years in jail
- A three-year license suspension
- Numerous years of probation
- Restitution payments to the injured party
If someone loses their life in a DUI accident, the driver faces:
- A murder or manslaughter charge
- Up to 10 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Long term driver’s license suspension
- Restitution payments to the victim’s family
The driver may also face further legal trouble from a civil, personal injury, or wrongful death lawsuit.
If the driver caused an accident that resulted in injury or death and then left the scene, otherwise known as a hit-and-run, then the penalties will be increased even further.
What Should I Do After My First Offense DUI?
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, there are steps you can and should take to begin preparing your defense.
First, contact a defense attorney. You should not attempt to fight your DUI charge alone. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help you determine the best defense strategy and guide you through what you need to do to get the best case outcome.
They know how to investigate and collect evidence refuting the claims against you, like:
- Challenging chemical test evidence
- Challenging field sobriety test evidence
- Challenging the police officer’s training and background
- Challenging the reason for the stop
- Proving innocence
Next, you want to keep a low profile and not get caught committing any new criminal acts while your case is still pending. Work to stay out of trouble and focus on building the strongest defense possible with the help of your attorney.
Orange County California DUI Defense
We know that the period after an arrest is stressful and confusing for many, especially if it is your first-time facing criminal charges. The team at Law Offices of Randy Collins is here to help protect you after a DUI arrest. Contact us today to discuss your case with our passionate and experienced defense attorneys.