Every state in the U.S. has laws against driving under the influence (DUI) and imposes penalties on drivers who operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired. However, DUI laws and penalties vary from state to state, and if you have been arrested for DUI in California as an out-of-state driver, it is imperative that you contact a defense attorney who specializes in defending California drunk driving cases. You could lose your driving privileges in the state of California as a result of your DUI arrest, and you only have ten days from the date of your arrest to take the necessary action to retain these privileges. Furthermore, because California shares driving records and reports DUI offenses to other states, you could face additional penalties from your home state for a DUI that takes place in California. Anytime you are facing out-of-state drunk driving charges in California, you should hire a California DUI defense attorney to handle your case. At Sevens Legal, APC, our defense lawyers have a clear understanding of California DUI law and we can help you get the best possible outcome in your out-of-state DUI case.
In the state of California, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, and any person arrested for DUI in California faces serious consequences, including out-of-state drivers. California DUIs are governed by Vehicle Code § 23152 VC, which actually imposes two separate criminal charges for drunk driving offenses.
Driving Under the Influence
Vehicle Code § 23152 (a) states that “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.” This law is the “subjective” standard for drunk driving in California, and under this law, you can be arrested for DUI if the arresting officer reasonably believes that you are under the influence of alcohol, even if your BAC is below the legal limit. To be “under the influence” means your physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that you are no longer able to drive as well as a cautious sober person would under similar circumstances.
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or Higher
Vehicle Code § 23152 (b) states that “It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” This law sets forth the “per se” standard of DUI in California, and the law presumes that you are under the influence of alcohol if your BAC is 0.08% or higher, regardless of whether or not you appear to be intoxicated.
What Happens After an Out-of-State DUI Arrest?
Being arrested for drunk driving can be stressful and overwhelming no matter where the arrest occurs, but if your DUI arrest takes place out of state, the process can be considerably more complicated than it would be for a DUI arrest in your home state. There are two main components to fighting your out-of-state DUI charges: protecting your driving privileges from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and defending yourself against criminal charges
As a California Resident
If you are a resident of California and you are arrested for DUI in another state, the arrest could be reported to the California DMV, and if that happens, the DMV will take administrative action against your driver’s license the same way it would if your DUI took place in California, pursuant to California Vehicle Code § 15023 (a). That means, in addition to possibly having your driving privileges suspended in the state in which your DUI occurred, your driver’s license would also be suspended in California. You would also need to have an attorney in the state where your DUI arrest occurred handle the case for you. And if you are convicted of DUI in another state, the out-of-state DUI conviction will appear on your California driving record just as it would if you were convicted of drunk driving in California. It will also count as a prior DUI conviction under California DUI law, which means any DUI arrest that occurs within ten years will be considered a subsequent offense carrying increased penalties.
As a Resident of Another State
If you are arrested in California for DUI, and you live in another state, you face a process similar to that which a California resident would face. California residents arrested for DUI in their home state automatically get their driver’s license confiscated upon being arrested for DUI, but the police cannot take your out-of-state license. Instead, the arresting officer will give you notice that your driving privileges in California will be suspended in 30 days, and then report the arrest to the California DMV. You get to keep your license, but your home state will be notified of the DUI arrest and the DMV in your state may decide to suspend your license anyway.
Both California residents and out-of-state drivers can fight the DMV driver’s license suspension and the process is the same for both. From the date of your DUI arrest, you have ten days to contact the DMV and request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your driving privileges. Upon requesting a hearing with the DMV, the suspension of your driving privileges will be postponed pending the outcome of the hearing. If you fail to schedule your DMV hearing before the deadline, you forfeit the right to a DUI hearing and the suspension of your California driving privileges will take effect 30 days after your arrest.
What Happens at a DMV Hearing?
Even though a DMV hearing is less formal than a criminal court proceeding, you still have the right to hire a DUI defense attorney and fight the DMV’s suspension of your driving privileges. This is true regardless of where you live, because both out-of-state drivers and California residents who are arrested for drunk driving in California are processed in the same way. If you win the DMV hearing, you can avoid the DMV’s suspension and retain your driving privileges in California. If you lose the hearing, your driving privileges in California will be suspended for a term based on whether you have previous DUI convictions on your record. For a first-time DUI in California, the DMV may suspend your driving privileges for four months, and for a second-time DUI, your driving privileges could be suspended for one year. DMV hearings can be difficult to win, which is why hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney to represent you is critical. In fact, if you hire an attorney, you may not even have to appear at the DMV hearing. He or she can represent you at the hearing to challenge the DMV’s license suspension and can also defend you against the DUI charges in the California court system.
Penalties for an Out-of-State DUI
Regardless of the outcome of your DMV hearing, or even if you failed to request a hearing, you may still face criminal penalties as a result of your DUI, which are separate from and in addition to the penalties imposed by the DMV. The state of California takes a tough stance on DUI offenses and if you are convicted of drunk driving in California, the penalties you could face include potential jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and fees, probation, a suspension of your driver’s license, and mandatory DUI school, even for a first-time DUI offense
. In California, DUIs are “priorable” offenses, which means the DUI penalties increase with each subsequent drunk driving conviction occurring within a ten-year period, even if the DUI takes place out of state. And in addition to the criminal penalties imposed by the state of California for a DUI conviction, you will likely face consequences in your home state as well.
If you are successful in avoiding a DUI conviction in California, your home state may not take any action against you. However, if you are found guilty of a California DUI, you will be sentenced in California and your penalties will likely include a suspension of your driving privileges in the state. And once you return home, your home state will likely impose the same restrictions on your driver’s license. If this is the case, you will not be able to have your driver’s license reinstated until you have completed the terms and conditions of your California DUI conviction, including paying any fines and completing DUI school. If you drive in California while your driving privileges are suspended, you could face additional criminal charges under Vehicle Code § 14601 VC for driving on a suspended license.
Interstate Driver License Compact
All but five U.S. states (Massachusetts, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Michigan are excluded) belong to the Driver License Compact (DLC), an agreement between the states to exchange information regarding traffic violations and license suspensions, including for DUI arrests. Under the DLC, if you suffer an out-of-state DUI, your home state will likely take its own action against your driver’s license, in addition to any penalties imposed by the state your DUI took place in.
San Diego Out-of-State DUI Defense
Fighting out-of-state DUI charges can be complex and confusing because you will have to defend the DUI charge in the state where you were arrested, not in your home state. If you were arrested for drunk driving while visiting California, your first course of action should be to contact a DUI defense attorney with experience defending DUI cases in California. Remember that your driving privileges will be suspended in California within 30 days of your arrest, and you only have 10 days from the date of your arrest to schedule your hearing with the California DMV to keep that from happening, which means you need to act quickly to retain legal counsel. If you hire a California DUI defense attorney, he or she will likely represent you in both your DMV hearing and your criminal case.
How Our Out-of-State DUI Lawyers Can Help
If you are charged with DUI in California as an out-of-state driver, you do not have to be present for the early stages of the criminal proceedings, though you will be required to attend the trial. Fortunately, many DUI cases in California are resolved without ever going to trial. If your case does go to trial, your attorney can handle many aspects of the case on his or her own, without you being present, including gathering evidence in support of your case, negotiating with the prosecution to reduce the charges or have them dismissed, and appearing on your behalf at preliminary court hearings so you don’t have to travel back to California from out of state. If you are charged with misdemeanor or felony DUI in California and you live out of state, you will need a lawyer who is licensed to practice law in the state of California. By hiring a skilled California DUI attorney to represent you, you can significantly improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome in your case, whether that means getting the DUI charges dismissed, negotiating a lighter sentence, or getting the charges reduced to a lesser offense.
Contact Our Out-of-State DUI Attorneys Today
Being arrested for DUI in any state can have an adverse effect on your driving privileges both in that state and in your home state. An out-of-state DUI arrest can be complicated, and you may be unsure as to the extent of the penalties you may face in California and in your home state. While the state of California has no direct control over your home state, it does have control over your driving privileges in California and will report to your home state that there was an administrative action in California as the result of a DUI arrest. Any time you are facing DUI charges in California as an out-of-state driver
, it is imperative that you hire a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney with experience representing out-of-state clients. Consult our reputable defense lawyers at Sevens Legal today to schedule a free initial out-of-state DUI consultation and case evaluation.