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Basic California Drunk Driving
(DUI) Law - The California Vehicle Code:
California has two basic drunk driving
laws, found in Vehicle Code sections 23152(a) and 23152(b):
- 23152(a) It is a misdemeanor to
drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- 23152(b) It is a misdemeanor to
drive with .08% or more of alcohol in your blood.
Note: In most cases, both the 23152(a) and (b) offenses will
be charged. Even though there is only one act, the law says
that a defendant charged with drinking and driving can be convicted
of BOTH offenses — but can only be punished for one (the
punishments are identical). Vehicle Code section 23153 sets
forth the "felony DUI" provisions where an injury
results from the drunk driving, while Penal Code sections 191.5
and 192 describe the crime of "vehicular manslaughter"
where there is a death.
For further information, visit the following
Verbatum presentation of the basic misdemeanor DUI law, California
Vehicle Code sections 23152.
A broader range of California laws applying to drunk driving
cases — misdemeanor, felony, prior convictions, etc.
Guide to California's DUI Laws [cached
A good overview of the state's criminal and license supension
laws, from the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Answers to the 20 questions most frequently asked by those arrested
for DUI, from the attorney who wrote the legal textbook "Drunk
Driving Defense, 5th edition".
The main Vehicle Code sections which apply to misdemeanor drunk
driving cases, along with explanations of their legal terms.
DUI Vehicle Impound Laws
How to get your car back if it is impounded as the result of
a DUI arrest — either of yourself or of another.
Verbatum collection of sections of the Code which apply to drunk
driving criminal and license suspension cases.
A chart of statutory sentencing ranges for misdemeanor drunk
driving, from the Automobile Club of Southern Californias.
Discussion of post-conviction procedures for setting aside a
plea or verdict of guilty and obtaining a dismissal.
California Department Of Motor
In most cases, the person arrested for
drunk driving will have his driver's license confiscated by
the officer if he (1) takes a breath test showing .08% blood-alcohol
or higher, (2) gives a blood or urine sample which will be analyzed
later, or (3) refuses to be tested. He will also be given a
pink sheet of paper which serves as both a notice of suspension
and a 30-day temporary license. (For out-of-state drivers, the
license will not be seized and the suspension will only be of
the privilege to drive within California.) It is critically
important to CALL THE CALIFORNIA DMV WITHIN 10 DAYS
OF THE ARREST to request a hearing to contest the suspension;
failure to do so will result in the suspension taking effect
30 days after the arrest. Requesting a hearing will also result
in an extension of the 30-day temporary license, usually for
another month or two depending upon when the hearing is held.
Nothing is lost by requesting a hearing and a good DUI attorney
has a fair chance of getting the suspension thrown out.
The division of the DMV responsible for
the "APS" suspension of licenses is the Drivers Safety
Office (DSO), with branch offices located around the state.
It is at these offices that the hearings will take place, presided
over by a "hearing officer" — a DMV employee
without legal training who will serve as both prosecutor and
The following resources will provide
information about the California Department of Motor Vehicles
and the laws that largely govern their reponsibilities: the
California Vehicle Code.
Home page of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
General information about about driver's licenses.
to the DMV
Unofficial website providing plain-English information about
the DMV and its services.
Suspensions over/under 21
DMV's overview of license suspensions for drunk driving for
adults and drivers under 21.
The DMV's summary of provisions for administrative ("APS")
suspensions and restrictions of licenses for drunk driving;
also included is information about "negligent operator"
The DMV's simplistic chart of impairment based only upon weight
The Southern California Auto Club's guide to the DMV.
Download Department of Motor Vehicle forms online, including
Driver Safety forms.
The DMV's online access to the entire Vehicle Code.
Download such DMV publications as the "California Driver
Information from the Department of Motor Vehicles about challenging
the officer's confiscation and suspension of your license.
The Department of Motor Vehicle's answers to frequently-asked
questions about DUI license suspensions.
a Copy of Your California DMV Record
The Department of Motor Vehicles (California DMV) keeps your
driving record for about ten years. You can obtain a copy
of your California driving record by following the instructions
on this site.
Procedural Overview For California
Drunk Driving Cases:
The DMV procedure (explained above) and
the court procedure are two separate and distinct procedures.
The court process consists basically of three hearings:
This is your first court hearing. You'll be given the opportunity
to plead "guilty" or "not guilty". It is
raraly advisable to plead guilty at this stage of the proceedings.
The second hearing - the "pretrial conference" is
the time for you to negotiate the disposition of your case if
a disposition is going to be possible.
The Pre-Trial Conference
This is a conference set usually 2 to 3 weeks after the arraignment
to allow you and/or your attorney to negotiate a settlement
of the case with the district attorney. If a negotiated disposition
can be reached at this stage of the proceedings, you'll enter
a plea or the matter will be dismissed. If there is no disposition,
you'll be given a trial date.
If no disposition of your case is reached at the Pre-Trial conference
stage, your case will be set for jury trial. DUI trials typically
take between 2 and 3 days.
- Gene Kinsey
$250 per hour against a $2,500 minimum
fee to be paid in advance