In Sonoma County, the DUI penalties are fairly standard, however, there is sometimes some room to negotiate for a more favorable sentence.
First DUI Penalties
If you are convicted of a first time DUI, you will be sentenced to serve anywhere from two days to sixth months in the county jail. You may be able to serve that time in a jail alternative program such as work release. On work release, you work one day for the county for each day you owe in jail. You can do your work days or weekends or on your day off and be home at night with your family. You may be placed on probation for a period of three years during which time you will be ordered not to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system. You will likely be fined $2397.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you will have to attend and complete either the First Offender DUI program, which is three months, or the Extended First Offender program, which is nine months. Your driver’s license will be suspended by the DMV. There is a mandatory suspension period of 30 days. If you did not refuse a chemical test, are over the age of 21 and have enrolled in a First Offender DUI program, you may be eligible for a restricted driver’s license after the minimum 30 day suspension period has passed. Once you complete the DUI program, you can apply to have your license reinstated.
Wet reckless is a slang term for Vehicle Code section 23103.5, alcohol related reckless driving. In Sonoma County, the District Attorney never files this charge on the complaint, but will sometimes offer a plea to a wet reckless as a lesser charge. The District Attorney is under no obligation to offer this lesser charge to anyone in any circumstance. But sometimes, if a defendant has a very low blood alcohol level (.08-.09%), no criminal history, and there was no bad driving in the case, the District Attorney may offer a plea to a wet reckless in exchange for dismissing the greater DUI charges. The fine for a wet reckless is typically less than a DUI, and the DUI school could be shorter as well. However, a wet reckless, like a DUI, is still two points on your driving record and will be used against you as a prior DUI should you be charged again in the future.
Second DUI Penalties
If you are arrested or cited for a DUI and you have a prior DUI conviction or alcohol related reckless driving conviction (wet reckless) within the last 10 years, you could be charged with a second DUI. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to serve anywhere from 10 days to one year in county jail. You may be eligible for a jail alternative program such as work release. You may be placed on probation for a period of four years, during which time you will be ordered not to consume or possess any alcohol. You will likely be fined $2397. Your driver’s license will be suspended for one year or longer. You will have to attend the Multiple Offender Drinking Driver Program, which is 18 months long.
Third DUI Penalties
If you are arrested or cited for a DUI and you have two prior DUI or alcohol related reckless driving convictions (wet reckless) in the last 10 years, you could be charged with a third DUI. If you are convicted and the priors are proven, you will be sentenced to serve anywhere from 120 days to one year in the county jail. You will likely be fined $2397. You may be placed on probation for a period of up to five years, during which time you will be ordered not to consume or possess any alcohol. You will be ordered to install an ignition interlock device on any car you own or operate to prevent you from driving with any alcohol in your system. Your driver’s license will be suspended up to three years. You will have to attend the Multiple Offender Drinking Driver Program, which is 18 months long. You will be designated a habitual traffic offender by the DMV.
Refusal To Take A Test
California Vehicle Code section 23162 is the implied consent law. This law requires that anyone who drives a motor vehicle in California must submit to a chemical test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol level if the driver is arrested for DUI. Refusing to submit to a chemical test will result in the DMV suspending your license for at least one year. In addition, the District Attorney can charge a refusal enhancement on your case that could result in a longer jail sentence and a longer DUI program. If your case goes to jury trial, the jury could consider your refusal as consciousness of guilt.
The prosecutor can charge enhancements attached to the DUI allegation which can be used to increase your sentence and your license suspension. Examples of common enhancements seen in DUI cases are:
Having a Child Passenger Under 14 in the Vehicle
California Vehicle Code section 23572 states that anyone convicted of a DUI who has a passenger under the age of 14 at the time of the offense shall receive a sentencing enhancement in addition to the DUI sentence.
- First offense: an additional 48 hours jail
- Second offense: an additional 10 days jail
- Third offense: an additional 30 days jail
- Fourth or more offense: an additional 90 days jail
Child Endangerment in DUI Cases
In Sonoma County, it is common for prosecutors to file a separate child endangerment charge if a child is in the car during the DUI. Child endangerment can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor under Penal Code sections 273a(a) and 273a(b). Felony child endangerment is punishable by up to 6 years in state prison. Misdemeanor child endangerment is punishable by up to one year in the county jail. If probation is granted in a child endangerment case, it is mandatory that it be 48 months of formal probation which includes 52 weeks of parenting classes. After an arrest for DUI with a child in the car, the arresting agency may also file a report with Child Protective Services (CPS) which triggers an investigation.
California Vehicle Code section 23577 imposes additional penalties on those convicted of DUI who refuse to take or complete a chemical test.
- First offense: must enroll in the 9 month DUI school instead of the 3 month school
- Second offense: an additional 96 hours in jail
- Third offense: an additional 10 days in jail
- Fourth or more offense: an additional 18 days in jail
High blood alcohol level
If your blood alcohol level was above .15% at the time of the DUI, the judge and the DA can use that fact to increase your sentence. If your blood alcohol level was above a .20% at the time of a first offense DUI, the judge will order you to enroll in and complete the 9 month DUI school rather than the 3 month school.
Reckless Driving and Speeding
California Vehicle Code section 23582 allows a judge to impose an additional 60 days in jail if you are found to have
- drove recklessly in violation of California Vehicle Code section 23103
- drove more than 30 mph over the limit on a freeway
- drove 20 mph over the limit on any other roadway
DUI schools, also known as drinking driver programs (DDP) are mandatory for everyone who has been convicted of an alcohol related driving offense. The purpose of these DUI schools is to educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving and to provide information on drug and alcohol abuse. The state’s goal in requiring you to attend this school is to reduce the chance that you or anyone else will ever drink and drive again. While you need to complete a DUI school to ever regain a California driver’s license, you may be able to have experienced DUI conviction lawyer Amy Chapman negotiate on your behalf to have the length of the school reduced.
If you are ordered to attend and complete a DUI school as a result of a DUI or wet reckless conviction, it is imperative that you attend a program authorized by the state of California. Failure to attend and complete the court ordered DUI school could result in a warrant for your arrest.
Sonoma County DUI school
In Sonoma County, there is one DUI program. Information about the Sonoma County DDP program can be found at this link.
Overview of the different DDP programs
Wet reckless program:
Six week program with six two hour education classes.
First Offender Program:
Three months with 10 one hour groups, 10 two hour education classes, and three individual 15 minute sessions.
Extended First Offender Program:
Nine months with 30 1.5 hour groups, seven two hour education classes, and five individual 15 minute sessions.
Multiple Offender Program:
18 month program. 26 two hour groups, 6 two hour education classes, 26 individual 15 minute sessions, six one hour groups once a month for the final six months.
What Happens if I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
As a licensed California driver, you are required to submit to a chemical test if you are arrested for driving under the influence as part of the state’s implied consent laws. However, the implied consent laws do not require drivers to submit to field sobriety tests. If you are pulled over, you do not have to perform the horizontal nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, the one-legged stand test, or any other field sobriety test requested by the officer.
Law enforcement officers do not always tell drivers that they have this choice. Your Sonoma County DUI lawyer will determine if your rights were violated while you were stopped.
When is a DUI Classified as a Felony Instead of a Misdemeanor?
In some instances, a California DUI charge is classified as a misdemeanor; in others, it is a felony. Felonies carry more severe penalties, such as longer jail sentences and larger fines, than misdemeanor charges.
A driver may be charged with felony DUI if it is that driver’s 4th offense within 10 years. In addition, if the DUI resulted in an injury or a fatality—regardless of whether the driver has ever been convicted of a DUI before–the driver may be charged with a felony.
A driver may be charged with a misdemeanor DUI if it is the first, second, or even third DUI conviction.
What are the Penalties for a DUI Resulting in Death?
If a driver is intoxicated and causes an accident that results in the death of another individual, the driver could face four, six, or even up to ten years in a California prison, depending on the facts of the case. If the driver has prior convictions, the driver could face a prison sentence ranging from 15 years to life. Hefty fines and other types of punishments may also be issued.
Prosecutors must show that a driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. In addition, they must prove that the driver engaged in negligent behavior that directly resulted in the death of someone else. Sonoma County criminal defense attorney Amy Chapman addresses weaknesses in the prosecution’s case while strengthening her clients’ defense.
Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer