Drivers convicted of DUI / DWI face court penalties that include jail time, license restrictions, alcohol education classes, and fines. A California lawyer experienced in defending drunk driving cases can work to keep fines and other consequences to a minimum.
California has two factors that impact the fine amount paid by a defendant in a drunk driving case – “penalty enhancements”, and whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Both penalty enhancements and a felony designation can add substantially to the amount the driver must pay.
California’s penalty enhancement increases fines nearly threefold. The penalty assessment is now 171 percent of the fine, meaning that on a $100 fine, the total payment is $271. The enhancement is applied to other traffic infractions and crimes in California, but because fines levied in drinking and driving cases are already relatively high, the total amount a defendant is charged can seem exorbitant.
Whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony also has an impact on the amount of the fine. Most first- and second-time DUI / DWI’s in California are charged as misdemeanors, unless there is an accident or an injury involved. Fourth-time DUI’s, and those that involve injury to someone other than the driver are always charged as felonies.
For a misdemeanor drunk driving conviction, a driver will be ordered to pay a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000, plus penalty enhancements.
In a felony DUI case, the amount of the fine will depend on whether the driver is placed on probation. If probation is granted, fines range from $390 to $1,000. If probation is not granted, a judge can impose a fine of $390 to $5,000.
For drivers convicted of reckless driving who accept probation, a judge has the discretion to impose no fine, but can levy a payment of up to $1,000. If probation is not granted, fines range from $145 to $1,000.
Because fines levied in California DUI / DWI cases can be so punitive, it’s important to have experienced legal representation. An attorney who concentrates on drunk driving cases can minimize the consequences by launching an aggressive defense in each case.