When most people consider the dangers of consuming mind-altering substances, they tend to think of the notorious “hard drugs” that feature prominently in national anti-drug campaigns, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. However, decades of comprehensive, long-term, scientific research studies clearly demonstrate that alcohol is truly the deadliest drug of them all. Due to ease of access, social acceptability, and widespread prevalence of alcohol in our culture, many people have been lulled into a false sense of security regarding alcohol use. Ask the average person if they consider alcohol to be dangerous and they are likely to claim that it is a relatively safe substance. After all, millions of people drink every day to relax, cope with the stressors of everyday life, enhance sociability, or just enjoy a good time.
Unfortunately, the serious impact of alcohol abuse has been drastically underestimated, and thousands of Americans suffer every year as a result. Even seemingly harmless binge drinking on the weekends can develop into a crippling addiction or cause unnecessarily risky behavior, such as aggressive driving. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently ranked alcohol as the leading cause of preventable death throughout the US. Although media coverage has focused primarily on the current opioid epidemic, alcohol kills more people every year than prescription and illegal opioids combined. Over 95,000 people die every year from excessive alcohol use, compared to approximately 70,000 fatalities from opioid overdoses.
The Most Prevalent Risk of Alcohol Use
Alcohol use significantly reduces concentration, coordination, decision-making abilities, and reaction time, meaning one of the most dangerous places for an intoxicated person to be is behind the wheel. Driving while impaired from alcohol can lead to devastating consequences, yet DUIs are consistently the most common criminal offense in the nation. In California alone, more than a quarter million DUI arrests occur annually, or 322 arrests for every 100,000 residents.
While it may be tempting to simply blame drunk drivers for their individual actions, this does not truly address the problem. Many Americans regularly consume alcohol, and it is incredibly easy to misjudge how intoxicated you are after a few drinks. Unfortunately, one mistake made by a typically conscientious driver can result in serious, lasting consequences.
Get Help from a Riverside DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with a DUI or convicted of a DUI offense, you should be aware of how the charges may affect your life—but do not lose hope! By immediately retaining the services of an experienced Riverside DUI attorney, you have the best chance of fighting this charge and preserving your future. At the Law Offices of Catherine Schwartz, we have over 30 years of experience successfully representing clients just like you. We can protect your rights, create a formidable defense strategy, and aggressively advocate on your behalf to ensure you receive the most lenient sentence possible. A DUI is a serious charge, but you can confront it with confidence with dedicated legal representation from one of the area’s most respected law firms.
Learn more about DUI charges by reviewing the answers to the most frequent questions asked by our clients, then contact the Law Offices of Catherine Schwartz today to discuss your case. With our knowledge, resources, and litigation skills, we can help you effectively navigate the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Is Getting a DUI a Big Deal?
Even though DUIs are common charges, getting a DUI is a big deal. Receiving a DUI conviction can significantly impact nearly every aspect of your life, beginning with the immediate criminal and administrative penalties and extending for decades into the future. California courts typically charge a first-time DUI as a misdemeanor offense, which carries the following penalties:
- Jail time for 48 hours to 6 months, maximized when the offense involves serious property destruction, injuries, or fatalities
- Fines from $390 to $1,000
- Probation for a maximum of three years, while the driver cannot register a BAC over 0.01%
- Driver’s license suspension for six months
- Administrative license suspension for four months from the DMV, typically overlapping the driver’s license suspension period
- Mandatory education programs covering alcohol abuse prevention
- Three months of DUI school, consisting of at least 30 hours in the classroom (this increases to nine months and 60 hours for a BAC of 0.20% of more)
A driver’s license suspension can prevent you from easily traveling to work or even cause you to lose your job if your responsibilities involve driving. Meeting with lawyers and appearing in court can further impact your availability, forcing your employer to change your schedule, cut your hours, reduce your workload, or even fire you outright. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for a restricted license during your restriction to allow you to travel on a select route between your home and work. The courts will require you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle, an instrument that forces you to supply a breath sample to determine your BAC before allowing the engine to start.
The penalties for a second offense DUI are much higher than those imposed for a first offense, and they continue to increase for every subsequent charge. The judge could enhance the penalties if the charge involved aggravating factors. Aggravated factors include a BAC of 0.15% or higher, driving without a valid license, driving 20-30 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, causing bodily injury to another person, being under the age of 21 years old, or having children under 14 years old in the car while drunk driving.
A misdemeanor second DUI is punishable by 96 hours to one year of jail time, up to $1,000 in fines with additional penalty assessments, a maximum of five years of probation, driver’s license suspension for two years, and mandatory attendance of a DUI program for 18 to 20 months. A misdemeanor third DUI conviction is punishable by 120 days to one year of jail time, up to $1,800 in fines with additional penalty assessments, driver’s license suspension for three years, and installation of an IID for two years. If the courts grant a defendant probation, they can have their jail term reduced to 30 days in exchange for attending a DUI program for 30 months.
The judge will evaluate the specific circumstances of the case to determine the severity of the penalties and can charge a DUI as a felony offense. A DUI can become a felony charge in any of the following cases:
- You seriously injured or killed someone while drunk driving.
- You have received three or more DUI convictions in the previous 10 years.
- You have already been convicted of a felony DUI.
If you caused injury or death, the penalties can include 16 months to 16 years in state prison, $5,000 in fines, driver’s license suspension for five years, and 30 months of attendance in a DUI program. If your criminal record features prior felony DUI convictions, the penalties can include three years in state prison, $1,000 in fines, driver’s license suspension for four years, and 30 months in a DUI program.
Does a DUI Ruin Your Career?
Even after you fulfill all the legal obligations imposed on you by the court, a DUI can prevent you from pursuing the career of your choice or cause severe negative effects on your current job. DUI can affect your:
- Educational opportunities. Many colleges and universities conduct background checks on applicants before offering them admission and may refuse to accept anyone with a DUI conviction. If you are already enrolled in classes, they can deny or revoke your scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid, making it extremely difficult to cover the cost of tuition. They can also take away your campus housing or expel you entirely from the institution. Without a degree, your career options can become limited, reducing your marketability and earning potential and compromising your economic stability. Being forced to abandon your education makes you more likely to work low-paying jobs with fewer benefits, reduced opportunity for advancement, and potentially lower levels of satisfaction.
- Professional licensing. Along with preventing you from finishing your degree, a DUI can prohibit you from pursuing a career path that requires state licensing, such as nursing, law, insurance, accounting, or real estate. Industries that require professional licenses have strict rules regarding the conduct of licensees and obligate you to immediately report any criminal conviction. If you are currently working in the healthcare field, you will likely experience professional penalties from your employer or medical board and may even lose your medical license. If you practice law, multiple DUI offenses or a felony DUI conviction can cause you to receive sanctions or result in permanent disbarment.
- Government career potential. A DUI does not disqualify you from working for a federal, state, or local governmental agency, but it does make it extremely difficult to obtain a position. You must share your criminal record and face automatic rejection if you give inaccurate information. Your potential employer will be interested in determining whether you have made positive changes to your life after the conviction, so they will inquire about the severity and circumstances of your offense, the amount of time that has passed since the conviction, and the efforts you have made to rehabilitate. Fulfilling legal obligations, seeking treatment or counseling for alcohol abuse, and avoiding additional criminal charges all increase your chances of securing a government job.
- Law enforcement career potential. Police departments take DUIs very seriously and are rarely willing to hire someone with recent or multiple DUI convictions. With a felony DUI on your record, you are often automatically ineligible for a career in law enforcement. Police departments expect applicants to demonstrate responsibility, moral character, and trustworthiness. Although most police departments do not consider DUI to be as severe an offense as a violent crime, it still reflects poorly on the department if officers do not uphold professional standards. If you are already a police officer when you receive DUI charges, you can expect to face an internal investigation into the incident. Depending on the outcome, you may need to attend substance abuse counseling or face administrative leave or dismissal.
- Military career potential. If you are in the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, you must contact a Riverside DUI attorney immediately to mitigate the effects of a DUI on your career. The military holds its personnel to a higher moral standard than traditional civilian employers, and any kind of criminal charge can jeopardize your current position and your future. Receiving a DUI conviction when you are a member of the armed forces sends a message to your command team that you are unable to appropriately handle your situation or responsibilities. It can also prevent you from entering several countries, limiting your options for work-related travel. As a result of a DUI, your superiors can reduce your rank, penalize your pay, or recommend dishonorable discharge.
- Transportation career potential. A DUI is a liability for any position involving driving. In the transportation industry, employers meticulously track irresponsible behavior, and their insurance companies are reluctant to provide coverage to drivers with DUI convictions. You cannot enter Canada with a felony DUI conviction, so you would be unable to secure a position that involves traveling across the border. Receiving a DUI conviction in California means you must wait 55 years to obtain a CDL license, effectively ending your career. Additionally, jobs for catering companies, delivery services, and other transportation-related businesses that check your driving record are likely closed to you.
- Education career potential. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requires all individuals in an educational profession to report a DUI conviction when they apply for a teaching credential or renew an existing one. The CTC reviews the circumstances of the event to determine whether the specific offense relates to the teacher’s job functions. A first-time offender can generally avoid penalties, but punitive action may be taken if they recorded a BAC of 0.15% or higher, were caught drunk driving in a school vehicle, or committed the offense during school hours or at a school-related function. Multiple DUI convictions can lead to revocation of teaching credentials and termination.
Even positions that do not require degrees, licensing, or other specific qualifications can be difficult to acquire with a DUI conviction on your criminal record. Most employers prefer not to hire applicants with criminal records, regardless of whether the offense is related to the position. When compared with other applicants without criminal records, you are nearly always at a disadvantage, and it is completely legal for a company to deny you employment based on your DUI record. If you already have a job, a DUI can negatively impact your professional reputation, lead to reduced hours or responsibilities, or cause immediate termination, depending on company policy regarding criminal convictions.
What Are the Other Long-Term Effects of a DUI?
In addition to the widespread professional consequences of a DUI, receiving a conviction for this crime can also impact your life in other serious ways. The most influential long-term effects of a DUI are increased insurance rates and limit opportunities for purchasing a home.
A DUI will cause your car insurance provider to either increase your rates to extremely high levels or cancel your policy altogether. On average, most insurance companies increase rates from $800 to $3,000 for a driver with a DUI conviction, depending on the provider, your driving record, and the details of the charge. If you lose your current insurance, you must buy insurance specifically designed for high-risk drivers. Premiums for these plans can be nearly twice the amount of a typical car insurance plan, costing upwards of $10,000 per year.
Similarly, mortgage lenders are not required to conduct background checks on loan applicants, but they do research your employment history, credit, and financial situation before deciding whether to offer you a loan. As mentioned earlier, a DUI can have an enormous impact on your career, and this impact is further intensified by the strained finances resulting from fines, court fees, increased insurance rates, and other expenses you face in the aftermath of a conviction. You might lose your job altogether or become obligated to accept a lower-paying position, reducing your ability to pay your bills and harming your credit. If you had to serve time in jail due to your offense, the gap in your employment history will be obvious. A mortgage lender will expect an explanation and can deny your application based on missed work.
What Will a DUI Cost Me?
The cost of a DUI extends far beyond the initial fines imposed by the court. In fact, the financial consequences are severe enough that they can continue affecting you for years. According to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the average estimated cost of a first-time DUI conviction amounts to a whopping $45,435. This estimate includes:
- Fines, court costs, and attorney fees – $4,000
- Cost of having your car towed and impounded after your arrest – $685
- Drug education and treatment programs required by the court – $650
- Reinstatement of your driver’s license by the DMV – $100
- Increased car insurance premiums – $40,000 over 13 years
While this figure is useful for anticipating the monetary cost of a DUI on your life, it does not include all potential variables in your case, such as property damage and injuries to yourself and others. If your drunk driving resulted in another person sustaining serious injuries, you may be liable for covering compensation for medical costs or other damages suffered from the injuries. Victims with permanently disabling, disfiguring, or otherwise life-altering injuries can pursue claims worth millions of dollars, which is enough to financially cripple the average person.
Does a DUI Stay on Your Record for Life?
One of the most pressing concerns faced by defendants with a DUI charge is the length of time this charge will remain on their record. Many people assume that a DUI conviction will eventually drop off their criminal record after a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In California, a DUI stays on your criminal record for the rest of your life unless you take specific steps to have it removed, or “expunged.” Your criminal record is not only accessible by law enforcement, but appears to every potential employer, state licensing agency, landlord, university, financial institution, or any other agency conducting a background check. Considering how influential your criminal record is when applying for a job, housing, or scholarship, you will want to remove the conviction as soon as possible.
How Do I Get a DUI Removed from My Record?
In some cases, you can petition the court for expungement by having your attorney file a motion to dismiss via California Penal Code 1203.4. Hiring a Riverside DUI attorney is the best method for approaching this process, as the court requires compelling evidence that the expungement of the offense serves the best interest of justice. Compared to other crimes, California courts hold DUI convictions to a higher standard for expungement, and prosecutors usually object to your application. An attorney can ensure you meet all the requirements and create a compelling argument on your behalf.
You are eligible to apply for a DUI expungement following the completion of all conditions of your sentence, including probation, or one year after the conviction date if the court did not order you to complete probation. For the court to consider your expungement, it requires that you did not serve any time in state prison and have not committed any additional offenses. If the court approves your request, it will then remove the conviction from your criminal record. Expungement typically takes three to four months to remove the DUI from your criminal record, though the period varies, as these cases are typically low priority and can be subject to lengthy delays.
After expungement, the DUI conviction is sealed and will not appear on most standard background checks, excluding those conducted by government agencies or required for obtaining government licenses. You may select “no criminal record” on job applications and potential employers cannot deny you a position because of your expunged conviction. However, the court can still take the conviction into consideration in the future if you receive a subsequent DUI conviction. In this case, the court can charge the later crime as a second offense and enhance the penalties.
Although you can expunge a DUI from your criminal record, you cannot remove a DUI conviction from your California state driving record. Unlike a criminal penalty, a license suspension is considered an administrative penalty and is therefore not eligible for expungement. However, DUI convictions do not remain on your driving record for life. In most cases, a DUI will stay on your driving record for ten years, during which time it is viewable by law enforcement and DMV personnel.
How Bad Does a DUI Ruin Your Life?
The impact of a DUI conviction on your life depends on the circumstances of your offense, your criminal record, and how you respond to the charge. Hiring a Riverside DUI attorney considerably increases your chances of successfully fighting this charge, reducing your penalties, or having the charges dropped completely. Each case is different and requires a unique approach based on the details of the offense, but every case can benefit significantly from experienced legal representation. An attorney understands how the court will view your offense and can conduct a comprehensive investigation to evaluate the specific factors to determine the best course of action for navigating this charge.
Do I Need a Riverside DUI Attorney for a DUI?
Regardless of the specific circumstances of your offense, an attorney can offer expert legal representation and counsel to protect your rights and preserve your future. Because of the extensive guidelines and procedures necessary in DUI law, navigating these cases can become complicated, confusing, and even overwhelming for the average person. A Riverside DUI attorney is a vital advocate throughout each step of the process, from helping you accurately file paperwork to advising you regarding when to remain silent so you do not divulge information that could hurt your case. An attorney also has the legal knowledge and litigation skills to negotiate with the prosecution for plea bargains that may reduce charges or seek alternate penalties.
Representing yourself is an option but is rarely a good idea. Attempting to navigate a DUI charge without an attorney means you will be unable to accurately estimate the severity of the charges or respond with the right tactics to ensure the best outcome. Without an attorney, you put yourself at a serious disadvantage and risk lengthier, harsher penalties. The court may assign a public defender to represent you, but these attorneys often deal with high volumes of cases, meaning they can rarely dedicate adequate time and attention to your case. A DUI attorney offers the expertise and dedication you need for the best results.
How Can an Attorney Help Me with a DUI?
Depending on the evidence, an attorney can help you obtain a lesser charge, so you prevent the addition of a DUI to your criminal record and avoid the most serious penalties. Under certain circumstances, your attorney can reach a plea agreement with the court to drop your DUI charge in exchange for a “wet reckless” charge. A wet reckless charge is a form of reckless driving charge that results in a notation on your criminal record that the offense involved alcohol. Compared to a DUI, a wet reckless charge involves a number of advantages, including:
- No DUI conviction on your criminal record
- No mandatory suspension of your driver’s license
- No installation of an ignition interlock device
- Lower fines, typically $145 to $1,000
- Reduced potential jail sentence of 5 to 90 days
- Shorter probation period of one to two years
- Shorter term of DUI school (usually 6 weeks)
When you cannot plea your DUI down to a wet reckless charge, your Riverside DUI attorney will help you decide whether you should fight against the DUI or plead guilty to the charge. They will consider a variety of factors when making their recommendation, including the number of offenses charged, your blood alcohol content, and whether your actions caused injuries, fatalities, or serious property damage. In general, a defendant with a relatively low BAC that caused no injuries will receive a lighter punishment than a defendant with a BAC over 0.20% whose actions caused injuries or fatalities.
If the court has sufficient evidence to convict you of the charge, but it is your first offense, they may treat it as a misdemeanor with reduced charges. In this case, your best option may be to plead guilty and avoid a trial. If your criminal record includes multiple DUI arrests and your current charge involved injuries or property damage, the court will likely pursue a felony charge. The criminal consequences for a felony DUI are harsher, so your attorney may want to avoid a guilty plea in favor of creating a strong defense strategy to reduce your penalties.
Is a DUI Really That Bad?
As demonstrated in the information above, a DUI is a significant charge with numerous penalties that can irreparably alter your life in a variety of ways, from costing you employment to preventing you from buying a home. This offense can lead to fines, imprisonment, revoked driving privileges, and other severe consequences. If convicted, you can experience significant, long-lasting effects to your professional and personal life far beyond the criminal penalties imposed by the court. However, you can effectively fight against this charge with help from an experienced Riverside DUI attorney.
Protect Your Freedom and Your Future
If you are facing a DUI charge or conviction, contact The Law Offices of Catherine Schwartz immediately. For over three decades, Catherine Schwartz and her team have provided the highest quality legal representation to clients throughout Riverside and surrounding areas. We offer extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system and can explain exactly how it applies to your case, so you know your rights and what to expect throughout the entire process.
Many people confronted with a DUI offense want to handle this charge as quickly as possible and often plead guilty to avoid a courtroom appearance. This tactic is not recommended as it effectively surrenders any opportunity you have to fight against this charge and prevent it from negatively altering your life. You might be tempted to simply offer a guilty plea to move forward, but you should always contact a Riverside DUI attorney before making this decision. An attorney can help you understand the consequences of a drunk driving conviction and provide expert legal counsel on how to proceed after an arrest to secure an optimal outcome in your case.
Contact the Law Offices of Catherine Schwartz today to schedule a consultation by submitting the form on our website, and our team will be in touch to discuss your case. We have the experience, resources, and professional expertise needed to navigate this charge and create a formidable defense strategy based on the unique circumstances of your case. With our help, you have the best chance of reducing the penalties associated with a conviction. You may even have your charges dismissed altogether.
A DUI is a serious charge but securing a dedicated team of legal experts to advocate for you means it does not have to ruin your life. Contact us today to learn how we can help you to protect your freedom and your future.