Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately for some Californians, these mistakes may involve the police. A previous DUI conviction, however, can make a second drunk driving charge seem less like a mistake and more like a concerning pattern to the state government.
Regardless of whether you agree with California's policy, drivers need to know that the penalties for a second, third or fourth conviction are more serious than a first-time offense. Most states believe that if a driver doesn't learn their lesson the first time around, harsher punishments might get their attention.
To have a prior DUI conviction in California, a driver would need to have received a drunk driving conviction within the past ten years. Charges that were defeated or dismissed in court do not count as a prior conviction.
Most cases of repeat drunk driving offenses lead to longer jail time, higher fines and further penalties. Offenders can also lose their driving privileges for an entire year. As with the first DUI, an offender must complete a special training program and register for SS-R2, which is a high-risk driver insurance policy. Those who hold a CDL (commercial driver's license) could lose their ability to operate commercial vehicles in the state forever.
Of course, the penalties would likely be more severe if significant damage or injury occurred due to a driver's intoxication. If police stop a driver for merely swerving, a resulting DUI conviction might lead to less harsh punishment in comparison. The consequences of a second DUI are still far from lenient, however.
With each subsequent DUI, the penalties become more serious, expensive and prohibitive. For this reason, California drivers need to meet these high stakes with even higher legal defense. A prior DUI may affect penalties for a second DUI, but it's important to remember that the two cases are separate. Losing a past case doesn't mean a driver will lose the next one.