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What to Expect After a DUI First Offense in Sacramento

Posted by John Campanella | Jun 08, 2024 | 0 Comments

Getting charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) for the first time can be stressful and confusing. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare and understand the legal process. Here's a detailed guide on what happens after a first DUI offense in Sacramento, including the steps involved and the penalties you might face.

What Happens On Your First DUI?

When you are stopped for a suspected DUI, here's what usually happens:

  1. Traffic Stop: An officer pulls you over for a traffic violation or because of your driving behavior.
  2. Field Sobriety Tests: The officer asks you to perform physical tests like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg.
  3. Breathalyzer Test: This test measures your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you will likely be arrested for DUI.
  4. Arrest: If the officer believes you are under the influence, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.
  5. Chemical Tests: At the station, you might undergo more tests, like a blood test, to determine your BAC accurately.

Felony Or Misdemeanor?

In Sacramento, a first-time DUI is usually a misdemeanor. However, it can be charged as a felony if there are serious circumstances, such as:

  • Injury or Death: If you cause an accident that injures or kills someone.
  • High BAC: If your BAC is very high, typically 0.15% or more.
  • Prior Convictions: If you have previous DUI convictions within the last ten years.

What Happens During a DUI Investigation?

A DUI investigation involves several steps:

  1. Initial Stop: The officer stops you for a traffic violation or erratic driving.
  2. Observation: The officer observes signs of intoxication, like slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.
  3. Field Sobriety Tests: You may be asked to perform tasks to assess your balance and coordination.
  4. Breathalyzer Test: A breath test measures your BAC.
  5. Arrest: If there is enough evidence, you are arrested and taken to the police station.
  6. Chemical Tests: Further testing, such as a blood test, may be done to confirm your BAC.

What Follows a DUI Arrest?

After your arrest, several things happen:

  1. Booking: You are photographed and fingerprinted at the police station.
  2. Release: You may be released on bail or your own recognizance, meaning you promise to appear in court later.
  3. Court Appearance: You will receive a date to appear in court for your arraignment, where you will be formally charged.
  4. License Suspension: The DMV will automatically suspend your driver's license, usually for four months for a first offense. You have ten days from your arrest to request a DMV hearing to contest this suspension.
  5. Pre-Trial and Trial: If you plead not guilty, your case goes to pre-trial motions and possibly a trial. Your attorney can negotiate plea deals or prepare your defense.

Minimum Penalties in Sacramento for a First-Time DUI Conviction

The penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in Sacramento depend on your BAC level at the time of the arrest.

BAC below 0.15

For a BAC below 0.15, the penalties typically include:

  • Fines and Fees: You will pay fines and fees totaling around $2,000.
  • License Suspension: Your license will be suspended for four months.
  • Probation: You might be placed on probation for three to five years.
  • DUI School: You will need to attend a DUI education program for three months.
  • Community Service: You may be required to perform community service.
  • Possible Jail Time: Up to six months in county jail, though this is often converted to probation or community service for first-time offenders.

BAC of 0.15 or Above

If your BAC is 0.15 or above, the penalties are more severe:

  • Increased Fines: Higher fines and fees, often exceeding $2,500.
  • Longer DUI School: Attendance at a DUI education program for six to nine months.
  • Extended License Suspension: A longer suspension period.
  • Mandatory Jail Time: There may be mandatory minimum jail time, though alternative sentencing like house arrest or community service is sometimes available.
  • Stricter Probation Terms: More stringent probation conditions, including more frequent check-ins and possibly an ignition interlock device requirement.

California DUI Laws

In California, DUI laws are strict. Here are some key points:

  • Legal BAC Limit: The legal BAC limit for drivers aged 21 and over is 0.08%. For commercial drivers, it is 0.04%, and for drivers under 21, it is 0.01%.
  • Implied Consent Law: By driving in California, you consent to BAC testing if suspected of DUI. Refusing to take a test can lead to harsher penalties.
  • Penalties for Refusal: If you refuse a BAC test, you face additional penalties, including a one-year license suspension for a first refusal.


Dealing with a DUI charge in Sacramento is challenging, but understanding the process can help you navigate it more effectively. Consulting with a DUI attorney is crucial to get personalized legal advice and representation. Being informed about the steps and potential penalties can help you make better decisions and minimize the impact of a DUI conviction on your life.

About the Author

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I am active member of the National College of DUI Defense, a member of California DUI Lawyers Association, I am certified by the National Highway and Traffic Association for the administration of Field Sobriety Tests. I regularly attend DUI continuing education of the Bar, have tried over 35 Jury Trials, hundreds of pretrial motions and over 1000 DMV hearings all relating to DUI cases.


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