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What Happens When You Get a Second DUI in California?

second dui

If you have been arrested or convicted of a second DUI in California, you should be aware that the consequences are typically much more severe than they were during your first offense. Nearly all penalties—from jail time to license suspensions—will increase in duration and severity during repeat DUI convictions, and judges are also less lenient when dealing with repeat offenders.

What Counts as a Second DUI?

If you have any previous DUI conviction on your records in the past 10 years, it will count as a “prior” DUI in all subsequent arrests and convictions related to driving while under the influence. Certain other offenses, such as a wet reckless conviction, also count as a prior DUI. However, it is critical to note that DUI arrests (not resulting in convictions) do not count as a first-time DUI.

Like a first-time DUI, any subsequent offense will be handled by two different processes: the criminal justice system and the California DMV, each with its own set of penalties.

What Are the Criminal Penalties of a Second DUI?

When convicted of driving under the influence for the second time in California, penalties typically imposed by the court are as follows:

  • Three to five years of probation;
  • A minimum of 96 hours to a maximum of one year in county jail;
  • Between $390-$1000 in fines, plus additional penalty assessments that can be thousands of dollars more;
  • Completion of an 18-month or 30-month court-approved California DUI school;
  • Installation of an IID; and
  • A two-year driver’s license suspension.

Aggravating Factors

A second DUI conviction may carry harsher penalties if certain aggravating factors are involved, such as:

  • Driving with a blood-alcohol content of .15% or higher
  • Refusing to agree to chemical testing or a breathalyzer
  • Speeding while under the influence
  • Underage DUIs
  • Driving under the influence with a minor passenger

If any of these factors apply to the case, the prosecution may seek harsher penalties. These penalties may include increased jail time, mandatory participation in a substance abuse treatment program, higher fines, and community service. When the charge is increased to a felony, the defendant may face prison time instead of a county jail sentence.

What are the California DMV’s Penalties for a Second DUI?

The California DMV typically imposes administrative penalties upon a driver who has been arrested for a second DUI, even if there is ultimately no conviction. The California Department of Motor Vehicle is the only authority that can or will suspend a California driver’s license and/or give restricted licenses.

An automatic license suspension is triggered in one of two ways:

  1. As a result of a DUI California court conviction; or
  2. By failing to request a DMV hearing within 10 days of the date of the arrest, or by losing the hearing. This is known as an Administrative Per Se (APS) Suspension.

In the case of a second DUI conviction, the court-triggered suspension is 2 years in length. However, the APS suspension is only 1 year in length if there is one prior DUI on record within 10 years. If you submitted to a chemical test and show proof of installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), a restricted license may be obtained. With a restricted license, a driver may operate any vehicle with an IID installed for 12 months.

Unfortunately, if you refused a chemical test upon arrest, there is no way around a license revocation. Your license will be revoked for two years with virtually no ability to receive a restricted license during this time. Because of this, our experienced Sonoma County DUI attorneys say it is critical to submit to chemical tests upon arrest in order to avoid the most severe penalties of a second DUI in California and have the best chance of expunging your second DUI from your record.

How Can You Get a Second DUI Expunged in California?

The penalties for a second DUI in California may be serious, but you can still get your life back on track after a second conviction. California law allows you to apply for an expungement of the charge, which will remove the conviction from your criminal record. However, you must meet the state’s requirements for expungement.

You will be eligible to apply for expungement after the completion of your probation term, as long as you have fulfilled all of the terms of your probation. If you meet these requirements, you may petition the court to expunge your record as soon as the probation term ends. Your petition will be reviewed by a judge, who will decide whether you qualify for expungement.

If the judge accepts your petition, you will be allowed to withdraw your guilty or no contest plea and enter a new not guilty plea, and the judge will dismiss the case. If you did not plead guilty but were convicted by a jury, the judge will set aside the verdict and also dismiss the case.

Felony charges that involved state prison time are not eligible for expungement. However, in some cases, an experienced California DUI attorney may be able to get the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor and apply for an expungement.

What Are the Possible Legal Defenses Against a DUI Charge?

Many people who are charged with DUI assume that they cannot beat the charges, but this is not always true. An experienced DUI attorney can evaluate all of the circumstances surrounding your case and determine if you may have grounds for a dismissal or acquittal of the charges. While some cases may be best handled with a plea bargain, others are beatable and should be challenged.

There are three main defenses to DUI in California:

  • You were not intoxicated – Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable, which leads to innocent people getting arrested for driving under the influence. The results of a field sobriety test can be challenged in court.
  • Your driving was not impaired – According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving patterns are only an indicator of DUI about 35% of the time. If you were charged with DUI based on poor driving alone (such as speeding or weaving through traffic), the charge may be beatable.
  • The arresting officer violated your rights – If the arresting officer did not follow official procedure during the arrest, the charge could be dismissed. This may include failure to read Miranda rights, insufficient probable cause, and other violations of your legal rights.

Determining the strongest defense to your charges will require legal guidance. A DUI defense attorney can investigate your entire case for key factors that could get your charges reduced or dismissed and present these findings to the prosecution. If your case does go to court, your attorney can argue on your behalf based on their findings and push for an acquittal.

Do DUI Penalties Vary by County in California?

DUI laws and penalties apply on a statewide basis in California, but your experience may vary slightly depending on the county where the charges were filed. Statewide penalties have a range of minimum and maximum sentences, so the severity of your sentence may depend on the tendencies of a local judge. Some judges are more prone to handing down harsher penalties.

Because of this variation from county to county, it is best to find an attorney with experience handling DUI cases in the county in which you were charged. A local attorney will have a deeper understanding of local courts and may have longstanding professional relationships with prosecutors and judges. This local knowledge and experience are often useful when fighting against DUI charges.

Is it a Second Offense if My First DUI Was in Another State?

You may be wondering – if I was convicted of my first DUI in another state, does a DUI in California count as a second offense? In most cases, the answer is yes.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles receives information about DUIs from other states when new California residents apply for driver’s licenses. A previous out-of-state DUI conviction will likely be considered your first offense if the conviction is less than ten years old and your previous state’s DUI laws are similar to California’s.

Contact an Experienced California DUI Attorney

Being arrested for a second DUI in California can be an incredibly traumatic experience for all parties involved. A second DUI conviction can quickly become a threat to your finances, freedom, and future if you are found guilty, and too often, individuals who are arrested for a second DUI are ultimately convicted.

In order to reduce your sentence and ultimately expunge your second DUI from your record, it is necessary to retain an experienced California DUI attorney to represent your best interests during your court hearings. This will give you the best chance to truly understand the process and reduce the hefty legal and administrative penalties levied against you.

If you or a loved one has an upcoming hearing and requires expert and personal attention to their case, contact The Law Office of Amy Chapman today to schedule a free consultation.

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Law Office of Amy Chapman

Santa Rosa Criminal Defense Lawyer

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