Some states treat DUIs and DWIs differently as far as the type of crime they are and what penalties might be relevant if you’re convicted. California doesn’t treat them differently and, in fact, refers to any type of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol as a type of DUI.

When you face any criminal charge in the state of California, it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with and how it might impact your future. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney in the state can help you understand all the facets of your case and what options you might have a for a defense.

Find out more about DUIs in California below, including how a lawyer can help if you find yourself facing these charges.

What Are Some Phrases for Driving Under the Influence?

Various states and people refer to arrests for driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs in different ways.

Some common phrases for these types of charges include:

  • DUI, which stands for driving under the influence
  • DWI, which stands for driving while intoxicated
  • OWI, which stands for operating while intoxicated

The acronyms can get even more complex, with options such as OUI (operating under the influence) or DWAI (driving while ability impaired).

Some states use several of these phrases interchangeably while others use different phrases for different situations. In those cases, a DUI and DWI might carry different penalties or require different defenses.

What Term Does California Use?

California sticks with the term DUI and does not use terms such as DWI or OWI to reference driving under the influence.

Types of DUIs in California

DUI charges are governed by two California codes. These define what a prosecutor has to prove before you can be found guilty of a DUI in the state.

The first code requires proof that you were operating a motor vehicle and that you were under the influence at the time. While many people associate DUI charges with alcohol, this law also covers driving under the influence of drugs. Proving that you were driving under the influence calls for proving that you used alcohol or drugs within a sufficient period before operating the vehicle and that your operation of the vehicle was impaired or influenced by the substance.

The second code doesn’t require the prosecution to prove that you were driving under the influence. It simply requires that you were operating a motor vehicle and were found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. DUI charges brought under this code are known as per se DUI charges.

Per se is Latin and it means “by itself.” Under California law, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove anything else if it can prove an illegal BAC while driving.

What Penalties Can You Face if You’re Charged With DUI in California?

If you’re found guilty of a DUI in California, you face a suspension of your license. A first offense results in a four-month suspension. If you have a second offense within one year of the first, you face a one-year suspension of your license.

Refusing to take a BAC test administered by a law enforcement officer can result in even longer loss of a license. The first offense is a one-year suspension. A second offense is a two-year suspension, and a third offense is a three-year suspension.

Note that the suspension lengths are different for individuals under the age of 21. The Zero Tolerance Law results in a one-year suspension for drivers under the age of 21 with a 0.01% BAC level or higher.

On top of losing your license, you could face jail or prison time for DUI convictions. Sentencing can range from two days in jail to five years in prison depending on how many DUI convictions are on your record and the other facts of the case, such as if you injured or killed another person while driving under the influence.

You may also be required to pay fines and fees, including restitution and other costs, if you’re convicted of a DUI. Fines for DUI in the state range from under $400 to $5,000 depending on how many DUI convictions you have and how severe the charges are. You may also have to cover other costs, including those related to installing a mandated ignition interlock device in your car.

In some cases, especially first offenses that result in probation instead of jail time, judges may also order rehab or treatment. While this isn’t required in all DUI cases in California, if a court orders you to take these types of steps as part of your probation, you violate probation if you refuse to do so. That can result in a resentencing and potential jail time.

Face DUI Charges With Help From a Criminal Defense Lawyer

As you can see, while California may stick with the same three letters to describe DUI charges, the laws are still complex. Working with a DUI defense lawyer to understand what you’re up against and plan an appropriate strategy to protect your future can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.

If you’re facing DUI charges, contact the Socal Law Network today and schedule a call or consultation. We’ll take the time to listen to your story and help you understand what options you have for your defense.