California law enforcement takes drunk driving very seriously, even if you don't have a prior criminal record. In fact, your first DUI conviction is subject to penalties that are similar to second and third offenses. Your first misdemeanor DUI without any penalty enhancements may lead to the following penalties:
- Three to five years of probation
- Fines ranging from $390 to $1,000
- Six months (or less) in jail
- A DUI education program (three months or nine months)
- Driver's license suspension, between six and ten months
Your first DUI conviction doesn't have to be a misdemeanor, though. First convictions are also subject to sentence enhancements if your case involved a third-party injury or fatality. For example, your first DUI with injury is punishable by heightened fines (reaching $5,000), restitution to injured parties, and other consequences.
First-time felony DUI with injury is subject to no less than sixteen months in a California state prison. Prison sentences for this offense can reach up to ten years and may include an additional one to six years for every person who suffered an injury in the accident. This sentence enhancement is based on the extent of each person's injuries and the number of people who suffered an injury.
For example, you might receive a lesser prison sentence if only one person received minor injuries. However, you could receive a heavier prison sentence if several people sustained moderate-to-severe injuries in the accident.
After a DUI arrest, you may wonder if the court will take your driver's license away. In reality, there are two ways that you can lose your driving privilege after a DUI arrest. The DMV will automatically suspend your driver's license if you fail to schedule a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest. The DMV could also decide to suspend your license if you lose the hearing.
The court may also decide to suspend your driver's license, but only if you are convicted of driving under the influence.
A first-time DUI conviction sparks an automatic six months driver's license suspension. However, the court will not actually impose the suspension; it will notify the DMV and the DMV will actually suspend your license. Lesser charges, such as reckless driving, may not trigger an automatic suspension.
To avoid a mandatory suspension, you must schedule an administrative license suspension hearing at the DMV. If you fail to schedule the hearing within ten days of your arrest, your license will be suspended automatically. Although it can be difficult to win a DMV hearing, an attorney can help you establish an effective case strategy.
In addition to losing your license, you a first DUI offense could affect your permanent criminal record and can stay on your driving record for up to ten years. However, you may be able to avoid the stigma of a DUI conviction through a legal expungement, but only if you were placed on probation and successfully completed probation.
DUI expungements are the same as other criminal expungements. To obtain an expungement for your first offense, you must file a petition with the court. A judge will review your petition. If granted, you can withdraw your no contest or guilty plea to avoid a DUI conviction on your criminal record. After an expungement, you are not legally obligated to indicate a DUI conviction on job or housing applications.
To learn more about first-time DUIs and DUI defense, contact the legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today. Our tea of DUI attorneys is dedicated to helping clients in Ventura, CA and the surrounding areas avoid the consequences of an unfair drunk driving conviction.