Sometimes, once isn’t enough for a person to learn the lesson to avoid driving under the influence. In California, repeat offenders of driving under the influence face substantially stiffer penalties and have substantially more to lose than those who have never been convicted of a DUI.
The Risks of a First Time Conviction
Depending on the circumstances of a case, a person who is found guilty of DUI faces up to several years behind bars and the risk of loss of driving privileges for a period of up to several years. However, if nobody is injured or killed, if the suspect remains calm and cooperates with police (cooperation does not equal answering questions, a person can cooperate while still refusing to answer questions and refusing to consent to searches), then there is a good chance that the person may not face any jail time. A fine is most likely, but this is a best case scenario. In many cases, a skilled and experienced California DUI defense attorney can negotiate a fairly positive outcome for the person charged with DUI for the first time.
The Risks of a Second Conviction
In California, the best case scenario for a second DUI conviction is a minimum of 90 days in jail, and a minimum fine of a few hundred dollars. If a person is convicted for DUI a second time in California, that person can expect these minimum penalties even if nobody is hurt or killed, even if no property is damaged, and even if the trip was short or coming to an end before the arrest was made.
As Soon as Arrested
It is generally in a DUI suspect’s best interests, whether it is the first offense, second offense, or another offense, to avoid making any statements to police, and to avoid answering any direct questions. Police don’t need suspects to say a single word in order for them to be effective at doing their jobs, and most people’s statements are thrown in their faces and in the face of their defense when a case goes to trial, so it is simply better to avoid saying anything at all.
This is true even if the suspect has yet to hear his or her Miranda rights, which are the rights that are read by an arresting officer to a criminal suspect that inform the suspect of the right to remain silent and the right to receive legal counsel. These rights do not begin when they are read, they always exist throughout any contact with police and other members of the law enforcement community, and therefore can be exercised at any time prior to an arrest.
Individuals should also refuse to accomplish any field sobriety tests – which are tests conducted in the field to gauge sobriety. The only type of test that can’t be refused, due to implied consent laws, is a chemical test of a suspect’s blood, breath, or urine. However, even these tests will never be performed in the field, and are usually performed in a police station office or hospital room. When they are faced with a test that can’t be refused due to implied consent laws, the suspect will know it because he or she will be presented with a form stating the consequences of such a refusal.