The circumstances leading to your arrest and the attitude of the judge presiding over your case will have a major influence on the penalties possible when you face a California driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Many drivers recently arrested and accused of impaired driving immediately focus on the possibility of going to jail because of their mistakes.
They may consider pleading guilty specifically because they think that cooperation will minimize the possibility of a judge sentencing them to incarceration. In reality, first-time DUI charges in California with no aggravating factors would likely result in only two days in jail at most.
There are two other penalties for a DUI that can be much more serious.
You will lose your license
While this may have been your first DUI offense, California will not take the risk that you will get behind the wheel and cause a crash shortly after this arrest. The state will usually suspend your driver’s license for a year after your first drunk driving charge, although the suspension could be longer if you have a prior offense on your record or there are aggravating factors at the time of your arrest.
Losing your license could mean losing your job, especially if driving is part of your work responsibilities. You could also be at risk of becoming chronically tardy to work because you depend on rideshare services or public transportation. The cost of securing your own ride every time you need to get to work or a doctor’s appointment could also be very expensive.
You will have a criminal record
While it is true that a first drunk driving offense will be a misdemeanor in most cases, it will still result in a criminal record. Not being able to pass a background check will affect everything from your eligibility for certain scholarships to the jobs that you can obtain in the future.
Pleading guilty will not eliminate the risk of a criminal record or of losing your license. It won’t even guarantee that a judge will minimize your jail time. Defending against drunk driving charges instead of pleading guilty can help you avoid jail time, a license suspension and a criminal record that could haunt you for years.