Cleary Law LLC

California Misdemeanor Dui Charges

If you are arrested in Southern California for driving under the influence (DUI) and in the past have never been convicted on a DUI charge before, you will be charged with a misdemeanor DUI most likely.  A second and third DUI arrest, in most cases, will be charged also as a misdemeanor.  However, if you are in an accident that caused either a death or injury while you were DUI, then you will be highly likely to be charged with a felony.

In California, almost 97% of all DUI charges are misdemeanors.  However, it is unfortunate that many individuals believe that “misdemeanor” means it is “not serious.”  Any criminal conviction is always serious.  Having a criminal record affects your ability to obtain security clearances, professional licenses, credit and employment.  A criminal conviction jeopardizes a noncitizen’s immigration status and opportunities for traveling to other countries.  Higher auto insurance premiums are almost always the result of a conviction.

Expunging a misdemeanor DUI might be possible after a certain period of time, however when a conviction is expunged it is not the exact same thing has having it erased.  Typically the California DMV doesn’t remove an expunged DUI conviction from its driving records.  After a conviction is expunged the internet databases where the conviction is recorded may not remove it.  What that means is that potential employers as well as other individual can find out about a conviction through accessing DMV records or internet databases.


Vehicle Code section 23152 is the primary law forming the basis for misdemeanor DUI charges in California.  Subsection (a) of this statute makes driving under the influence of any drug or alcohol a crime.  A driver is considered to be under the influence of a certain substance when consuming this substance impairs the ability of a driver to drive with the same level of caution that a sober driver is capable of.

California’s “per se” law is covered by Section 23152(b) VC.  This section makes it illegal to drive when a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.08%.

Under subsection (a) it is possible to be convicted even when a driver has a BAC under 0.08%. These charges should be challenged every time, since juries are familiar with “0.08%” and have a tendency to be skeptical of any DUI charges that are brought against drivers who were under the legal limit.

Being convicted under both of the subsections is also possible.  However, when that occurs, only one set of the penalties may be imposed.


A second or third DUI misdemeanor conviction most likely will lead to a jail sentence.  Any DUI misdemeanor conviction will result in driving privileges being suspended and costly fines.  Judges will often require convicted drivers to attend an alcohol abuse treatment or education program.  There are some charges that subject drivers to mandatory installing an ignition interlock device on their vehicle or to their car being impounded.

There are a number of different factors that influence potential penalties imposed for a misdemeanor DUI, including the following:

  • Whether or not you have any prior DUI convictions and, if yes, when they were.
  • Whether drugs or alcohol are involved in your DUI charge.
  • If alcohol was involved in your DUI, the chemical test results that determined what your BAC was.
  • Whether or not you refused a request for submitting to chemical testing of your blood or breath.
  • Whether or not you were involved in an accident.
  • Whether or not you endangered other vehicles or drivers or were driving recklessly.
  • Whether or not you were speeding.
  • Whether or not you were driving with a minor in your car.
  • Whether or not you were on DUI probation when your new DUI was received.
  • Whether you were under 21 years old or not.

These guidelines are followed by prosecutors and judges when they are imposing or recommending penalties.  The guidelines may vary, so that penalties that are imposed in Los Angeles might not be the same penalties that are imposed in San Diego.

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Cleary Law LLC is dedicated to providing legal services for cases including but not limited to DUI, Disorderly Conduct, and Drug Possession.

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