What Are The Sentencing Guidelines For A DUI Conviction In Marin County?
In Marin County, a first DUI with no prior convictions typically results in a sentence of two days in jail. However, since there are alternative sentences available, this is often served without the person actually having to go to jail. In some cases, we get credit for time served when someone has been in custody for over two calendar days. For example, if someone was arrested at eight or nine o’ clock and didn’t get out of jail until sometime after midnight, then we may get credit for the additional time that was served. There is also a fine of about $2000. In most cases, a payment plan can be set up for less than $100 a month, but the total amount usually needs to be paid over the typical probation period of three years.
By law, probation has to be three to five years. In most first DUI cases where there is a conviction, the probation period is three years. In addition, the person would have to complete DUI school, which typically lasts three months (32 hours in total). DUI school needs to be done in person unless the person lives out of state. If the person lives out of state, then there are alternatives to attending DUI school in person, but I’m not going to get into all of that right now. However, people should know that even if they live outside of California, there are ways to deal with these penalties without having to come back to California and attend the DUI school.
Another penalty for a DUI conviction is driver’s license suspension, which the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will impose for six months. Typically, the Marin County courts or the clerk’s office will notify the DMV that there has been a conviction, and then Sacramento will send a letter informing the driver of the suspension. So, those are typically the main penalties on a first DUI without priors and when there has not been an accident or injury.
There are a few other things that are required. While on probation, the person must not break any laws. The courts refer to probation as being conditionally released to the community as long as the person stays out of trouble and complies with the conditions of probation. As long as that happens, then the person will not have to serve that six month sentence in jail.
The other condition is zero tolerance, which is in addition to obeying all of the regular laws that we face every day. Zero tolerance means no alcohol at all in your system when driving over the three years of probation. Even registering a blood alcohol content of 0.01 would violate the zero tolerance condition. Depending on how much someone weighs, that could result from having just half of a beer or a few ounces of wine; it doesn’t take much. I have seen a case in which a person drank the night before, and was still over a 0.01 in the morning when they went to work. Remember, 0.08 is the legal limit, and 0.05 is where the toxicologist for the DA’s office will say that almost everybody is impaired. So, that’s your standard disposition.
There are other consequences of DUI conviction for more serious cases that involve prior convictions (even those that occurred more than 10 years ago). Marin County takes different actions when a DUI involves an accident, injury or a high blood alcohol level. Marin County sticks fairly closely to a formula that they came up with in June of 2016, called the DUI and wet reckless policy. A letter was sent out to judges, attorneys and the public defender’s office informing them of the changes to the guidelines. They don’t necessarily stick to it, but they remain fairly close to it in most cases.
When there is a second DUI conviction, the minimum sentence is 15 days in jail and 96 hours, which is the equivalent of four days and nights. This time can typically be served in two 48-hour increments, meaning that people could choose to serve this time on their weekends. To finish up the 15 days, there is a sheriff’s work program after the time has been served in jail. The program is usually only a handful of days after the 96 hours in custody with good time credits. In California, you are supposed to get half time on these sentences, which is why it computes to only a few days after the 96 hours have been served.
On a third DUI, there is a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail, 30 of which have to be actual custody time. For a fourth DUI conviction, I believe the memo stated that the maximum penalty is a state prison sentence. So, that really hasn’t changed. If we are in that type of situation, then we are always trying to keep our client out of state prison and get them into a residential program. Avoiding state prison is typically the number one goal when someone is facing a fourth DUI within 10 years.
There are two levels of blood alcohol content: 0.15 and 0.20. In Marin County, a level of 0.20 or higher results in an additional five days in jail, which can typically be done in the sheriff’s work program by picking up trash under the supervision of the sheriff. If you have five days or less, then they may just decide to send you to a non-profit instead of having the sheriff watching over you while you do whatever they have you doing. That is a recent modification that came out within the last few months.
If there is an accident, they’ll always ask for 10 days in jail, but those 10 days are not mandatory in custody jail days. Instead, they can be spent in the sheriff’s work program or whichever work alternative program has been assigned. An alternative program is something that the attorney needs to request if there is a disposition in the case that results in a guilty plea. If someone has a DUI and no prior DUIs within 10 years, then it’s considered a first DUI. But if you received a DUI conviction 12, 15 or 20 years ago, then that’s called a stale prior. A stale prior typically results in an additional five days in jail, which can typically be done in the work program without doing actual in custody time.
This new policy increased some of the penalties that they were asking for in exchange for offering what’s known as a wet reckless on some DUI cases. A wet reckless is when someone has a lower blood alcohol level (typically a 0.08, 0.09 or 0.10) and there is no accident, injury or prior convictions involved. The decision to offer a wet reckless charge will be made on a case-by-case basis. If someone is above the level of 0.10, then it’s rare that they will even consider granting a wet reckless, and you would at least need a very compelling reason or a very good argument. In some cases, I have convinced them to grant a wet reckless for a client above a 0.10, but there are a lot of things that need to go right for that to happen.
So, in regards to the wet reckless charge, the disposition would be a fine of about $1000 or less (about half the amount that it would be for a regular DUI conviction). The DUI school would be a 12 hour school instead of a 32 hour school. If you do lose the DMV hearing, then you would need to be enrolled in a 32 hour DUI school in order to get your license reinstated on a restricted basis. A lot of people who get wet reckless charges still end up needing to do the 32 hour DUI school. There is still the zero tolerance condition on the probation for a wet reckless, and the probation is still typically three years.
There is another requirement for all of these dispositions (wet reckless, first DUI or DUI with priors), which states that if you are pulled over by an officer who suspects you of driving under the influence, then you have to take the chemical test if requested by that officer. If you do not, then you’d be in violation of probation. If you are on probation for a first offense DUI, you’d be facing a maximum of up to six months in jail. The maximum penalty on a wet reckless is three months or 90 days in jail as opposed to the six months and 180 days on the first offense DUI. A probation violation would result in 90 days in jail with half time, so the most you would potentially serve is 45 days.
Those are the penalties for DUI cases in Marin County. It is very important to know that in a lot of cases, we are dealing with multiple offenses, driving on a suspended license because of prior DUIs, probation violations, prior DUIs and other things of that nature. They are very strict in Marin County and are very often looking to have people serve jail time, especially on probation violations. People need to be aware that it is always a potential in these cases, especially when they’ve been in trouble before. When facing these types of charges and allegations, it is very important to get a top criminal defense attorney who practices mainly DUI law, who understands this and understands Marin County’s procedures.
This has to be dealt with properly. Simply going in and throwing yourself at the mercy of the court is never a good idea. The judges there will often say that you should talk with an attorney. So, be careful with these offenses. There are other potential penalties that I haven’t gone over, but we’ve covered most of the main ones, which should give you a pretty good background on what you might be facing if you have a DUI in Marin County. Another thing which is kind of standard in California applies to individuals who are under 21 and facing a DUI or alcohol driving related charge or allegation. If that is the case and you are convicted, then you are looking at a minimum of one year of no driving if you lose (or fail to request) the administrative per se hearing with the DMV.
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