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Dangerous drunk driving states: How does California stack up?

Drunk driving takes lives. All around the nation, drunk driving laws are becoming more stringent in an effort to deter the reckless behavior. Particularly in California, there are hefty laws in place to fine and suspend drivers from the road based on DUI penalties. There is also a no-tolerance law for drivers that are intoxicated and under the legal drinking age of 21.

It is laws such as these that may contribute to California's better-than-average score of being the 35th most dangerous, or conversely, the 15th safest. Keep reading for a breakdown of California's DUI laws.

Admin per se

This law allows law enforcement officials to confiscate the license of a driver that is suspected to be intoxicated behind the wheel. They send the license to the Department of Motor Vehicles to be held until the suspension is over, or any charges that were brought were dropped or dismissed at a hearing.

Note that if a driver is convicted of DUI, it will remain on his or her driving record for ten years in California.

Blood alcohol levels

Having a blood alcohol concentration level of any of these percentages constitutes as DUI under California State law. This includes impairment from any sort of medication, including cough syrup, prescription drugs and illegal drugs:

  • 0.08 percent or higher: 21 years of age or older operating a passenger vehicle
  • 0.04 percent or higher: operating a commercial vehicle of any kind
  • 0.01 percent or higher: younger than 21 years of age

Fines and penalties for first offenders 21 or older with no injuries involved

A first-offense DUI could results in a $1,000 fine, plus additional fees and costs. Next, drivers could have their license suspended immediately for a minimum of four months. It could also result in a jail sentence of up to six months. Drivers may be required to install an ignition interlock device -- the state doesn't foot the bill either for installment and maintenance.

Drivers may also be required to attend a DUI program. The higher their blood alcohol content, the longer the class. Treatment and completion of the program is mandatory in order to drive again in California.

Subsequent offenders and those who cause accidents face more stringent penalties

Getting caught for the first time is serious enough. Those drivers who get caught a second time, face even stricter penalties. These quickly jump to higher fines and longer jail sentences and a felony record.

Sentences can be enhanced for many reasons other than prior convictions as well. These include a high blood alcohol concentration, speeding or reckless driving, having a child in the vehicle or causing an accident or injury to another individual.

Refusal of chemical test

If you refuse the chemical test when you are pulled over, under the Admin Per Se law, your license is immediately suspended for one year for the first offense, revoked for two years for the second offense and revoked for three years after the third offense. This remains the same for drivers that are under and over the age of 21.

These laws change frequently and the penalties truly are case-dependent. The point is, they are serious. Drivers who fail to stay sober should consider the cost from another perspective: the other drivers and passengers whose safety depends on their decisions.

When drivers are reckless enough to cause injury, victims can seek compensation for the damages they suffer. This includes medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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