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DUI Sentencing Guidelines In The San Francisco Bay Area


  • Please note that due to Covid-19 and recent California Penal Code Amendments the below sentencing guidelines and defenses have been modified. Please contact us to get a more in depth update on what you can expect from different Bay Area Counties regarding charge reduction and the possibility of avoiding a conviction through the Penal Code §1001.95 diversion program.

California is among the states that take DUI offenses very seriously. Every year, hundreds of people are pulled over under the suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol in the San Francisco Bay Area alone. The consequences of a DUI charge can be quite harsh and costly. California classifies DUI offenses as crimes. In other words, an individual who is stopped under the suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the circumstances and any aggravating factors involved.

If you get pulled over on suspicion of driving while under the influence or if you have been charged with a DUI, it is crucial to find a DUI attorney who represents clients in the San Francisco Bay Area County where you were arrested. An experienced attorney who knows the law can help you fight the charges. Many times, DUI charges can be reduced, dropped, or dismissed. However, in order to obtain favorable results, a skilled Drunk Driving attorney should be hired to handle the case. Without the legal assistance of an experienced DUI attorney, you will not have the knowledge and resources to effectively combat the charges. Without a doubt, the penalties and consequences of a DUI can be severe. For this reason, you do not want to take a chance. Instead, enlist an attorney who can help you avoid stringent penalties. Find the best DUI attorney you can who you feel comfortable with after an initial consultation with the lawyer who will actually represent you.

The sentencing guidelines in the San Francisco Bay Area for DUI charges depend on various factors. For instance, first-time DUI offenders will face lesser penalties than those convicted of prior DUIs. Therefore, the punishment and penalties correlate to the severity of the DUI offense and the number of times an individual has been charged or convicted of a DUI.

The following illustrates the sentencing guidelines for DUI offenses without enhanced penalties in San Francisco:

First DUI Offense

A first DUI offense without injury is considered a misdemeanor with a conviction resulting in getting three to five years of probation. In most cases the probation would be three years, unless the charge is reduced to something less than a DUI (for example a wet reckless is now a one year probation). What probation requires is that you obey all laws and do not drive with alcohol in your system. There will be additional penalties from the DMV resulting from the Court reporting a DUI conviction. Those penalties include a requirement to carry SR-22 insurance for 3 years and a suspended license. That suspension can be modified to a restriction for work only driving or a restriction requiring an ignition interlock device to be in any car you drive. DUI School will also be required. Additional Court penalties can include fines of up to $2,000 sometimes more in certain Counties). The separate DMV Administrative Per Se Hearing matter can also result in a license suspension with the above possible modifications. The length of license suspension depends on the alcohol level and length of DUI School.

Second DUI Offense

A second DUI offense within ten years of a prior conviction can result in three to five years of probation, 96 hours to one year in jail, well over $2000 in fines, a driver’s license suspension of up to two years, completion of an 18 month DUI school, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. In many Counties there are alternatives to jail such as a Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program or Electronic Monitoring/Home Detention.

Third DUI Offense

A third DUI offense within ten years of a prior conviction can result in three to five years of probation, A minimum of 120 days in jail and up to one year in jail, well over $2000 in fines, a driver’s license suspension of up to ten years, completion of an 18 month DUI school, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. There is a one month mandatory jail requirement and every County has their own system on how they deal with the mandatory minimum and alternative sentencing. It is a good idea to get yourself in a Residential Treatment Program asap after arrest for a 3rd DUI within 10 years.

Fourth & Subsequent DUI Offense

A fourth and any subsequent DUI offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, which is known as a wobbler since it can be either. Most likely, though, it will be charged as a felony. The penalties can result in a jail term of up to three years, up to $10,000 in fines and penalty assessments, driver’s license revocation, DUI school or alcohol treatment program, three to five years of probation, installation of an ignition interlock device, and restitution costs.

Aggravating Factors That Could Enhance A Sentence Or Penalties

DUI penalties can be enhanced, even if it is a first-time offense. Sentence enhancements can be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances. A DUI can be enhanced if the driver refused to submit to a chemical test (resulting in a minimum of one year no driving), had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above .15% or above .20%, had a minor (14 years and younger) present at the time of the arrest, caused an accident, caused bodily injury, or drove 20 to 30 mph above the speed limit. DUI enhancements result in costlier fines, longer jail terms, longer driver’s license suspension or revocation, monetary restitution, attendance in an alcohol education program and sometimes parenting classes, and the installation of an ignition interlock device.

It is also worth noting that at the time of a DUI arrest, the arresting police officer typically confiscates the driver’s license. In turn, the officer hands the driver a written notice stating that the driver’s license will be suspended. However, you could possibly avoid a driver’s license suspension altogether if you request an administrative per se hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of the initial arrest. If nothing else, the request for a hearing can postpone the suspension of your license until the matter is resolved at the administrative per se hearing. Hiring a DUI attorney can improve the odds of avoiding a suspension. Moreover, if you enlist an attorney within the ten-day period, they can request the administrative hearing on your behalf and represent you. As long as the Administrative Hearing is requested with DMV within 10 days of arrest, you can usually keep driving for at minimum many months while your lawyer fights your cases in Court and with DMV.

For more information on DUI Sentencing Guidelines in the San Francisco Area, it is highly advised to consult with a DUI attorney. At the Law Firm of Aaron Bortel, we specifically handle matters in court and with DMV concerning DUI arrests and charges. You are welcome to contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your current case or expunge an old DUI Conviction.

Aaron Bortel

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