Additional Penalties that affect Sentencing for Driving under the Influence

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The California Vehicle Code lists a number of different penalties for offenses related to driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while addicted to drugs. These penalties include both offenses punishable as misdemeanors and offenses punishable as felonies. The existence of prior convictions for alcohol and drug related driving offenses are significant sentencing factors which increase sentences. Other factors also increase penalties. The following are some important factors regarding sentencing.

When a prior conviction of a driving under the influence offense is alleged in a criminal complaint the court has no power to remove it for sentencing purposes.1

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However a judge may determine whether a prior conviction meets certain necessary constitutional requirements, and if it is found not to the judge can declare it unconstitutional and remove it.2

A driving under the influence related conviction from another state with the same elements as that of a California offense can be used as a prior conviction in a California prosecution to enhance penalties.

Many driving under the influence related offenses have mandatory minimum jail sentences as well as mandatory minimum fines. A judge may not reduce a sentence by imposing a jail confinement period or a fine below that which is required by law.3

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If a person is convicted of either section 23152 (misdemeanor driving under the influence) or 23153 (felony/misdemeanor driving under the influence with an injury accident) and had a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher; or refused to take a chemical test when required to by law; and either of those facts has been found true by a judge or jury; the court can increase the sentence or use those facts to deny probation.4

If a person is convicted of either section 23152 (misdemeanor driving under the influence) or 23153 (felony/misdemeanor driving under the influence with an injury accident) and was driving at the time 30 or more miles above the speed limit on a freeway; or 20 or more miles per hour above the speed limit on any other road or highway; and while doing so violated section 23103 [reckless driving] of the California Vehicle Code; the judge must impose an additional 60 day consecutive jail sentence unless the judge states on the record the reasons for not imposing the additional sentence.5

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If a person suffered a conviction for a driving under the influence violation, and that violation was punished as a felony, any new violation for driving under the influence occurring within 10 years of that previous violation will also be punished as a felony.6

In some instances if a person is convicted as a first offender they will have to install an ignition interlock device.7

If a person’s driver’s license has been revoke as the result of a conviction for a driving under the influence related offense they must surrendered their license to the court; which then sends it to the Department of Motor Vehicles.8

If a person is convicted of a violation of 23152 (misdemeanor driving under the influence); and there was as a passenger in the car who was a minor not yet 14; there is a mandatory penalty enhancement depending on whether it is a first time DUI conviction or whether there were one or more prior convictions: 48 hours if no prior convictions;10 days if one prior conviction; 30 days if two prior convictions; 90 days if three prior convictions.9






1 Section 23622 of the California Vehicle Code
2 Sections 41403, 23624 of the California Vehicle Code
3 Section 23600 of the California Vehicle Code
4 Sections 23577(a)), 23578 of the California Vehicle Code
5 Section 23582 of the California Vehicle Code
6 Section 23550 of the California Vehicle Code
7 Section 23575 of the California Vehicle Code
8 Section 23660(a) of the California Vehicle Code
9 Section 23572(a) of the California Vehicle Code