A lot of people believe that a first-time DUI is all created equal. I even hear people saying, you're gonna hire a lawyer on a first-time DUI? In thinking that a first-time DUI is treated the same every time across Los Angeles County is just foolish because there's all sorts of different factors that determine the significance of a first-time DUI, which is covered under California Vehicle Code 23152.
Significance of Blood Alcohol Level
One factor is how high the person's blood alcohol level was because the higher the blood alcohol level, the more dangerous the person is perceived and the more likely they're going to get a very harsh punishment because of that high BAC related to their DUI. So, that's one big factor that controls how the prosecutors and judge are going to treat a particular first-time DUI.
Another thing is, when you have a first-time DUI you have a much stronger chance to be able to get something other than a DUI on your record, because if you're close to the legal limit, if you're close to the .08, then you have a good argument that you should be a speed contest or a wet reckless or some sort of a moving violation.
So, that first-time DUI with a low blood alcohol level is a great opportunity to either get something less than a DUI or even try to fight the case and challenge the prosecutors that it's a close-call.
Another big thing regarding a first-time DUI is whether anybody is injured. If someone is injured and the injury is bad enough, not just some soft tissue injury, then you may be facing a felony.
That will be $100,000.00 bail and with a felony, you'll also be looking at potentially going to jail or prison and a lot of times if the injury is bad enough they will charge a great bodily injury allegation. Then you'll be facing a strike and prison time and not being able to get that DUI off your record because of that great bodily injury.
First-Time DUI Punishment
This is problem one of the biggest things on people's mind when they get that first-time DUI. You're obviously scared. You've been roughed-up, thrown in the back of a police car, usually spent some time in jail and they let you out with a citation to appear in court and now you're on the internet trying to figure out what's going to happen to you.
Of course, there's no one-size fits all answer. It depends on what happened in your first-time DUI — how high your blood alcohol level was, how dangerous you are perceived by the prosecutors and judge based on what you were doing. So, when you start to talk about punishments, they are usually dictated by whatever it that you did related to that first-time DUI.
But just to give you a general idea of what type of punishment you're looking at, bare minimum, for any DUI in Los Angeles, we know this because the legislature has lined up punishments for these first-time DUI's.
Misdemeanor Probation and a Fine
So, you'll be looking at three to five years being put on a misdemeanor summary probation. Usually, in most courts in most cases, you're going to get a three-year probation, which basically means you can't get in trouble for three years, otherwise you violate your probation, and not only would you be facing the new charges, you'd also be facing a probation violation.
In addition to that, you could get a $390.00 fine — the usual minimum fine. But, the problem with that is they tack on a 200% penalty assessment in all criminal courts for fines. So,, that puts the fine up near $2,000.00. Once you start to do the math on it and once you add in the court fees which is how the courts make money.
First-Offender Alcohol Program
In addition to the probation and the fine, you're also going to be looking at a first-offender alcohol program. Most times it's going to be a three-month alcohol program that you have to pay for and you have to go to progress reports until you're done and then you'll get a completion slip and you'll be done with it.
If your first-time DUI is serious enough where you've done something that's out of the ordinary like dangerous driving, high blood alcohol level, speed, some sort of an accident, or if you're a young driver, you might be looking at a six or nine-month alcohol program. It's better to have a three-month alcohol program, which is a big pain in the neck because it costs more money, it takes more time away from your job and your family responsibilities.
So, that's pretty much the bear minimum that you're looking at for any DUI in Los Angeles County, but there are other penalties that can be heaped on you, like jail time.
You could be looking at up to six months on a first offense and you could also be looking at community service, Cal Trans, community labor, AA meetings. There's all sorts of things. They could make you put a scram device on your leg so that you cannot drink alcohol during your probationary period. They can order you to do a number of different things in really just trying to protect the public from people who drink and drive.
You're going to be given what's called a Watson warning, where they tell you, if you drink and drive and you kill somebody, you're now on notice that you will be charged with murder if somebody dies during a DUI.
That's even applicable for a first-offense now in Los Angeles County, because they figure most people know how dangerous drinking and driving is and they should realize that it's foreseeable that if you drink and drive and crash into somebody with an automobile you could kill them.
So, there's a whole host of different punishments and penalties. This is why it's so important for a first-time DUI to get the best possible DUI attorney on your side and working for you right from the beginning.
Our Los Angeles DUI Attorneys Can Help You
So, there's a number of different factors that you have to look at when you have a first-time DUI. I would say, above all, when it comes to a first-time DUI, the best chance you have is to actually do something with an attorney because of various things that could be going on depending on how serious the circumstances are surrounding your DUI, how dangerous you were, what your blood alcohol level was, whether anybody was injured.
There's all sorts of things that can impact your first-time DUI and you must get an attorney to be able to put yourself in the strongest position to get the best possible result, get out of the criminal justice system as fast as you can, protect your driving record, stay out of jail and clean your record.