VISTA DUI DEFENSE LAWYER
I am Vista DUI attorney Peter M. Liss. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including a DUI involving a car accident or a felony DUI anywhere in San Diego County, I can help you. I have personally defended hundreds of individuals following their DUI arrest in North County, and I can promise you top-quality representation for a reasonable fee.
About DUI Charges in San Diego County
When someone is arrested for driving drunk and they have a Blood Alcohol Level above 0.08%, they will be charged with a DUI. But the charge can also be applied to anyone who is suspected to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, whether or not they are found to have a BAC above 0.08%.
Why are There Two Different DUI Charges?
In California, those accused of driving under the influence of alcohol are usually charged with two different offenses, “driving under the influence of alcohol” and “driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.” Both offenses carry the same penalties. You cannot be sentenced for both crimes, but you may be found guilty of one, both or neither of the charges.
Can You Get a DUI if your BAC was Under 0.08%?
Driving under the influence is a crime even if your blood alcohol content was below the legal limit as long as the alcohol affected your ability to drive. If you are a non-commercial driver over the age of 21 and are arrested with a BAC of .05% or below, you are presumed innocent of DUI. But if your BAC is below 0.08% but above 0.06%, then the case will mainly rely on the police officer’s testimony, including how you fared on the Field Sobriety Tests -if you agreed to take these optional tests.
Any drivers under 21 are subject to California’s zero-tolerance DUI law, meaning they can get a DUI for driving with a BAC over 0.01%. Commercial license holders cannot drive with a BAC over 0.04% at any time, while drivers for hire (for companies such as Lyft) cannot have a BAC above 0.04% while on the clock.
Can you Get a DUI for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs?
You can also be charged with a DUI even if you did not drink if the officer had reason to believe you have taken either legal or illegal drugs that impaired your driving ability. You could also be charged if the police officer believed a combination of alcohol and drugs impaired your driving ability.
Those accused of driving under the influence of drugs are only charged with this one specific charge. If drugs and alcohol are present, the charge will be “driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.”
There is no legal limit defining how much marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or other drugs someone may consume while behind the wheel. You can be charged with driving under the influence when taking prescription drugs if they affect your ability to control a vehicle; explaining to the police that you have a prescription for a medication can be used as evidence against you.
How do Police Identify Drunk Drivers on the Road?
Driving behaviors that indicate a lack of concentration or control are often signs of impairment; for example, taking turns too widely, failing to stop at intersections, drifting between lanes, inappropriate slowing or stopping, seemingly random changes in speed, or operating a vehicle at night without headlights. Police also look for anything wrong with your car, like missing license plates, expired registration, or inoperable rear lights, which then give them a basis to stop your vehicle and check for alcohol or drug consumption.
What Should I do if I am Pulled Over and the Officer Asks if I was Drinking?
If you have not been drinking, then simply say “no.” If you have been drinking, do not lie, but instead, refuse to answer the question and state that you are invoking your 5th Amendment rights. You are not required to answer any questions that may incriminate you. These same rules apply when an officer asks where you are coming from, especially if you just left a bar or a party.
It is worth noting that while you are legally required to take a blood or breath test, you have the legal right to refuse to perform any field sobriety tests.
DUI Sentences in Vista
Those found guilty of driving under the influence in San Diego County face jail time, fines, alcohol treatment programs, vehicle impoundment, a suspension of their driver’s license, and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device. The specific penalties vary based on whether or not you have any previous DUIs on your record or if your case involves circumstances that could result in enhanced penalties, such as excessive speeding or a notably high BAC. No matter what penalties you face, you can expect a DUI conviction to change your life and to cost you big time, both in terms of court fines and higher insurance costs.
If you fail to submit to a chemical test after being accused of operating a vehicle under the influence, you violated the state’s implied consent law and will face a mandatory 1 year license suspension and a mandatory jail sentence.
Sentences for the First DUI Offense
On the first DUI conviction, if probation is granted, a potential sentence includes attending an alcohol or drug program of 3 or 9 months and a $390 to $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments of an additional 180% of the fine; a jail sentence of 48 hours to 6 months may be imposed but is not mandatory. The DMV will impose a driver’s license suspension of 6 months, but you can end the suspension early by installing an ignition interlock device.
If probation is NOT granted on the first DUI conviction, a potential sentence includes 96 hours to 6 months in jail, a $390 to $1,000 fine, and a 6-month license suspension.
Whether or not you receive probation, your vehicle may be impounded for 6 months, and the court may, but is not mandated to, require you to install an ignition interlock device on your car for up to 6 months. If you have any questions about DUI probation, be sure to ask your 1st-time offense DUI attorney in San Diego.
Second Offense DUI Sentences
On the second DUI conviction (within 10 years), a potential sentence includes attending an alcohol or drug program for 18-36 months; a $390 to $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments of an additional 180% of the fine; and 96 hours to 1 year in jail.
If probation is granted, the DMV imposes a 2-year license suspension, though installing an ignition interlock device may cause the suspension to be terminated early. A 2nd-time offense DUI attorney in San Diego can be critical in helping you to secure these terms. If probation is not granted, a potential sentence also includes a 2-year license suspension, with no possibility of receiving a restricted license during that time.
With or without probation, your vehicle may be impounded for 12 months, and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car for 12 months.
Possible Third DUI Offense Sentences
On the third DUI conviction (within 10 years), the potential sentence includes attending an alcohol or drug program for 18-36 months; a $390 to $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments of an additional 180% of the fine; 120 days to 1 year in jail; and a 3-year license revocation by the DMV which can become restricted with an ignition interlock device. A 3rd-time offense DUI attorney in San Diego can help you get the minimum sentencing possible.
You may also have your vehicle impounded for up to 12 months, and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car for 24 months.
Four or More DUI Convictions in 10 Years
A fourth or subsequent DUI (within 10 years) is almost always charged as a felony, so you must work with a 4th-time offense DUI lawyer in San Diego if you have been accused of this crime. A potential sentence includes attending an alcohol or drug program for 18-36 months; a $390 to $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments of an additional 180% of the fine; and a 4-year license revocation.
If probation is granted, a potential sentence also includes 180 days to 1 year in jail, plus a 4-year license revocation by the DMV, which may allow the revocation to become a restriction with the installation of an ignition interlock device. When probation is not granted, the potential sentence also includes up to 3 years in state prison; the exact time is up to the court.
Your vehicle may also be impounded for 12 months, and you may be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car for 36 months.
When is a DUI a Felony?
Aside from a 4th or subsequent DUI within 10 years, a DUI can also be a felony if it involves an accident. A felony accident DUI is charged when the drunk driver was negligent or violated a traffic law and injured another person even slightly. The potential sentence includes attending an alcohol or drug program for 3-9 months and a $390 to $1,000 fine, plus penalty assessments of an additional 180% of the fine and a 1-year license suspension by the DMV, which can be changed to a restricted license with an ignition interlock device.
If probation is granted, a potential sentence includes 5 days to 1 year in jail, plus a 1-year license suspension. The verdict is up to 3 years in state prison if probation is not granted.
Your vehicle may also be impounded for 6 months, and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car for 12 months.
What is a Wet Reckless Charge?
A “wet reckless” is a reduced offense from DUI that can still be used as a prior if you are charged with a DUI in the future and will result in two points being added to your DMV record. It will result in a lower fine and may reduce the probation period. The court and DMV record will show a conviction for reckless driving (with alcohol conditions). The DMV will not take any further action to suspend your license for the conviction, but you still face a 4 month suspension for having a BAC of .08 or above.
What About Military DUIs?
Anyone charged with drunk driving on a military base, as well as members of the armed service who are charged with DUI off the base will be charged in a federal court. JAG officers prosecute these cases and while the penal codes are the same as under California law, the sentences are typically lighter.
What Alternative Sentences are Available in DUI Cases?
Alternative sentences are usually only available as part of a plea bargain, where you agree to plead guilty to one or more criminal charges. Whether or not you can receive an alternative sentence depends on the particular facts of your case, the charges you plead to, the agreement your attorney reaches with the prosecutor, and whether the judge is willing to accept that agreement. Alternative sentences can include alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs, community service, counseling and/or attending AA meetings, MADD VIP programs, probation, electronic monitoring under house arrest, and other sentences.
DMV License Suspensions after a DUI Arrest
Most people charged with driving under the influence will have their license suspended, which can be a real problem in a car-centric county like San Diego as it can make it incredibly challenging for a person to get to work or class. If you are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving and refuse to take a blood or breath test, you will automatically lose your driving privileges for one year. If you take the test and your BAC is above 0.08%, the police officer will take your driver’s license and give you a 30-day temporary driving permit.
You Must File for a Hearing Within 10 Days
You have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing with the DMV or you will lose your license for four months on a first-time DUI. The suspension increases to six months if you are convicted of a DUI. Your Vista DUI attorney can help represent you at this hearing, which will allow you to fight this license suspension and enable you and your attorney to preview the evidence against you, which could make fighting the charges easier during your criminal trial.
If you lose the DMV hearing or are convicted of driving under the influence, your DUI lawyer in Vista can help you obtain a restricted driver’s license so you can get to work or school.