Types of DUI Charges

Types of DUI Charges

In Los Angeles and throughout California, there are various types of DUI charges an individual may face depending on the circumstances.  Many people think of driving under the influence as simply getting stopped for operating a vehicle after having a drink or two, but it is actually much more than that.  Below we have outlined various types of DUI charges you may find helpful.

Open Container Law. In California, it is illegal for any person in a vehicle to consume alcohol while a car is in motion, whether the driver or any passenger.  A container of alcohol may be considered open if any of the contents of the can/bottle are missing, the container is open, the seal is broken, or alcohol is in a cup or thermos.  While the penalties for violating open container laws are light, any alcoholic beverages should be thoroughly sealed or placed in the trunk for transport.

Misdemeanor DUI. The majority of DUI offenses in Los Angeles are considered misdemeanor offenses, however the penalties can still be severe and may include driver's license suspension, jail time, and fines of up to $1,500 even for first-time offenders.  Criminal history, accident involvement, speeding, and other factors may determine whether a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Felony DUI. "Aggravating factors" may result in felony DUI charges; these factors may include whether you have had three or more DUI or "wet reckless" convictions in the past within a ten-year period of time, whether injury or death to someone else was a result of your driving under the influence, or if you have one or more previous convictions for felony DUI.

Zero Tolerance - Underage. Individuals under the age of 21 may be charged with underage drinking and driving under California's "zero tolerance" policy, regardless of how much or little alcohol is in your system.  Any detectable alcohol in an underage person's system may result in a one-year driver's license suspension.  If an underage person is found to be legally intoxicated, it may result in jail time, mandatory DUI school, fines of $100 or more, and 3-5 years of DUI probation.

Manslaughter DUI. Vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated (California Penal Code 191.5 PC) may be charged when a person drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and in doing so commits and unlawful act, misdemeanor, or infraction the could result in someone's death; when someone is killed as a result of ordinary or gross negligence, it may result in vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated or even gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges.  Depending on whether an individual acted with ordinary or gross negligence, the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony which may result in a maximum of one year in jail (misdemeanor offense) or 16 months, two years, or four years in prison for a felony conviction.  Driver's license suspension is another result of a conviction.

High BAC. When an individual BAC (blood alcohol content) measures .15 percent or higher, it is considered a high BAC offense.  This leaves those accused facing enhanced, or increased penalties if convicted.  Tougher DUI sentences are often sought by prosecutors in a high BAC offense, although the only mandatory consequence is a 9-month alcohol program, whereas a regular DUI conviction requires completion of a 3-month alcohol program.

Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and DUI. While .08 percent is the legal BAC limit in California for drivers of non-commercial vehicles, those who hold a commercial driver's license may be charged with DUI if their BAC is half that, or .04 percent or above.  Those convicted will have their commercial driver's license suspended for a minimum of one year.  This is the case even if you were not actually driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense, for instance if you were driving your own personal vehicle.

Driving on Suspended or Revoked License. When an individual's driver's license has been suspended or revoked for a DUI conviction, that person may be found guilty of knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked license.  In this case, the minimum jail sentence is 10 days in county jail; a repeat offense of knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked license will result in 30 days in jail.  Additionally, the offender will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed.

Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC, it is considered a misdemeanor for an individual younger than 21 to possess alcohol in a vehicle, whether as a driver or passenger.  Due to the fact that those under the age of 21 cannot purchase or possess alcohol legally, the penalties if charged and convicted are more serious than those 21 or older, when this offense is considered an infraction rather than a criminal offense.

For questions regarding various DUI-related charges or legal guidance regarding your case, contact The Justice Firm at  (310)914-2444.