California DUI Laws: Penalties, How to Expunge From Record

California DUI Laws: Penalties, How to Expunge From Record
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The immediate thing most people are concerned about when they are charged with drunk driving in California is what penalties they may face. Once the conviction is on someone's record, they will often want to learn how to expunge the charge from their record and how long they have to wait before doing so.

Penalties for California DUIs

California DUI laws require increasingly severe penalties for each conviction within a 10-year period, up until the fourth and subsequent convictions. Those who are convicted for their first DUI face minimal punishments, which can result in no more than six months in jail although there is no minimum jail sentence for a first offense; a six-month license suspension; and DUI classes that will go on for three to nine months. Everyone convicted of any DUI also faces a fine of $390 to $1,000, which will be subject to an additional penalty assessment of up to 180 percent of the fine. DUI convictions can also result in a vehicle being impounded for 30 days for a first or second offense and 90 days for third or subsequent offenses.

Penalties under California DUI laws for a second offense include a mandatory jail sentence of between 96 hours and six months; a fine of $390 to $1,000; DUI classes lasting 18 to 30 months; and a one-year license suspension followed by the mandatory use of an ignition interlock device. For those convicted a third time, the jail sentence is at least 120 days and can last up to a full year. DUI classes last for a full 30 months, and the driver will be prohibited from driving for two years, after which time he must have an ignition interlock device installed in his car for a full year.

Fourth and subsequent DUIs in California can be felonies or misdemeanors, but are usually charged as felonies. These charges will result in between 180 days to a year in jail if charged as a misdemeanor, or up to three years in prison if charged as a felony. Drivers will also be subjected to a five-year license suspension and a 30-month-long DUI class.

Juvenile DUIs in California

California DUI laws for those under 21 are particularly unique as these drivers are subject to a zero tolerance policy. This means that if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of even 0.01 percent they can be charged with drunk driving in traffic court, lose their license for a year and be made to pay a fine. If the BAC is over 0.05 percent, they can face criminal charges and be forced to take a DUI class, pay a fine and lose their license for a year. Those who have a BAC over 0.08 percent – the same limit as for adult drivers – will face the same penalties as an adult charged with a DUI.

DUI Expungement Laws

When someone expunges a DUI from their record, they no longer need to disclose the conviction to potential employers and landlords, but the conviction will still be on criminal and DMV records and can be used against him if he is charged with a future DUI. In order to obtain a DUI expungement in California, a person must first successfully finish probation and have already paid off all court-ordered fines, restitution fees and reimbursement charges. Anyone convicted of a felony DUI who is currently facing charges or is still serving probation for another crime will be ineligible for expungement.

Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.4, to expunge a DUI from a record, a person must file a petition with the court. The petition to file is "Petition for Dismissal-Penal Code Sections 1203.4 or 1203.4a." A fee may have to be paid at the time of filing the petition for expungement.

If the court determines she is eligible, the judge will ask her to change a past guilty plea to not guilty, or set aside a guilty verdict if the person was found guilty at trial. The judge will then sign an order, Order (L-1279), granting the requested relief and dismiss the case.

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