First-Time DUI Offenders in Los Angeles County: Legal Process and Penalties

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in California. Even if this is your first conviction and you have never had any type of criminal offense or traffic violation in the past, a first-time DUI is not something to be taken lightly, as it can still lead to harsh penalties and legal consequences that can have a long-lasting impact on your life. The DUI defense attorneys at the Hurwitz Law Group discuss how first-time DUIs are handled in Los Angeles County and explain why it is important to seek legal help as soon as possible.

Can a First-Time DUI Conviction Be a Felony?

In the state of California, a first-time DUI offense can be considered a "wobbler" offense, meaning that it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is a less serious criminal offense than a felony. Many DUI cases are charged as misdemeanors, meaning a defendant could be looking at a maximum jail sentence of up to six months.

However, if charged as a felony, the penalties for a DUI can be much more severe, including up to three years in a California State prison. Certain aggravating factors can automatically escalate a misdemeanor DUI to a felony, regardless of whether the driver has had any previous DUI convictions or not. These aggravating factors can include drunk driving with a minor passenger in the vehicle or causing an accident with injuries or death.

What Are Possible Alternatives to Jail Time for a First DUI Conviction in California?

Getting charged with a DUI for the first time can be a scary situation. Fortunately, in some cases, a judge may impose alternative sentences to a defendant that would allow that individual to avoid jail time or serve their jail sentence in an alternative arrangement in order to keep their jobs. Some of the most common alternative sentencing options include:

  • Weekend detention: the judge allows the defendant to serve their jail sentence only on the weekends so that they can remain employed.
  • Mandatory DUI classes: the defendant may be required to attend mandatory DUI recovery programs, usually for a minimum of three months.
  • Ignition Interlock Device program: the defendant may pay to install and maintain an IID device in their vehicle in exchange for a restricted license.
  • Community service: some defendants may be allowed to do community service instead of jail time.

Each DUI case is different, and not every person facing charges may be able to avoid jail time, especially if certain aggravating factors are present. However, by working with a DUI defense attorney, you may improve your chances of receiving a milder penalty for a first-time DUI.

Are There Other Consequences for a DUI Besides Jail and Fines?

In addition to jail time and fines, a first-time DUI offender may face additional consequences, such as a suspended license, increased car insurance rates, and difficulty in finding employment in certain professions. The length of the license suspension can vary depending on factors such as the BAC level, the existence of any prior DUI convictions, and whether any aggravating factors were involved.

A DUI conviction can also lead to financial difficulties, as it may affect a person's ability to commute to and from work and thus maintain employment. In addition, having a DUI on record can be the cause for a steep increase in auto insurance premiums, with rates going up to 165% or more after a DUI is added to a driver's record and even higher after multiple DUIs.

How Can a DUI Defense Attorney Help?

A first-time DUI is not a matter to be taken lightly. Even if you manage to secure a lighter sentence or no jail time, having a conviction on your record can affect many aspects of your life for years to come. The Hurwitz Law Group can help you defend against a DUI charge so you get a chance to avoid a conviction in the first place. If your case cannot be dismissed, our attorneys can help negotiate a more lenient sentence and help you secure a favorable outcome. Reach out to the Hurwitz Law Group at 323-310-9677 to learn more.

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