Locating A DUI In The State Of California

Candace Lightner and Senator Michael Barnes
Candace Lightner and Senator D- MD Michael Barnes. Candace Lightner worked with Michael Barnes and other legislators to change drunk driving laws countrywide. Lightner lost her daughter, Cari, to a drunk driver that had just been released from his 4th offense, and hit Cari as she was walking to a church event.

A DUI, or a conviction that finds a driver guilty of Driving Under the Influence, is a misdemeanor, and a serious offense in California. Court records that result in conviction of a person found to have been operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another inebriant are a matter of public record. Searching for, obtaining, and studying these records are a public right under California’s Public Records Law, and can be easily obtained through a number of record search websites.

DUIs in California cover multiple categories of infractions. A DUI can occur when a driver operates a vehicle while under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, and a test results in a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drivers with a Commercial Drivers License face more stringent laws, and can incur a DUI with a BAC of just .04. Minors can also be charged with impaired driving while their BAC is above .01. If charged with a DUI, a driver may face penalties that aim to prevent them from driving while intoxicated. The minimum penalties for being convicted of a DUI as a first time offense in California are: $1,800 in fines, 48 hours in prison, a 90-day restricted license that allows the driver to only travel between work, school, and home, three to five years probation, a potential for the installation of an ignition interlock device, an SR-22 tag on insurance papers for a minimum of three years, and mandatory attendance to a 3-month alcohol treatment program. These suspensions enter effect after 30 days from the arrest date. The average cost of a DUI defense attorney is $7,000 to $11,000.

Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson launch a drunk driving campaign in 1984.

Minimum punishments for a second offense are 10 days in jail, $1,800 in fines, an 18-30 month alcohol treatment plan, installation of an ignition interlock device, driving privileges revoked for a year, drastically increased auto insurance rates, and 10 years probation. After the third offense, minimum penalties go up to 120 days in jail, up to $18,000 in fines, driving privilege revocation for three years, a 30-month alcohol treatment program, forfeiture of the offenders' vehicle, and a felony charge.

The fourth category of DUIs in California is when the offender injures someone in addition to driving while under the influence. Punishment for these offenses tend to be more severe than a standard DUI, and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor based on the severity of damage, loss of life, or at the discretion of the court. If charged as a felony, a DUI offender can face up to four years in prison, and up to $5,000 in fines. Further, DUIs involving death are prosecuted as vehicular manslaughter, meaning an offender can be charged with one of three charges: negligent

vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or second-degree murder. If charged as a second-degree murder, a DUI offender can face between 15 years and a life sentence in a state prison.

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21
President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to change the national drinking age from 18 to 21.

The first drunk driving laws in California were enacted over a century ago in 1911, but early on, they were quite lenient. The phrase “one for the road” originated from the idea of having one last drink before driving home, and up until the 1980s, it was common to drink all day in certain professions. From 1981 to 1986, under pressure from such advocacy groups as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California's legislature passed over 50 pieces of legislation to make DUI laws much harsher than they had been for over 70 years. Besides raising the minimum drinking age to 21, the two biggest changes that were enacted were that now DUI offenders would be prosecuted with the intent to convict, and that blood alcohol content (BAC) tests would determine if a driver was intoxicated, rather than the loose definition that had existed up to the point. Even determining a driver’s BAC was difficult initially.


The first portal device to see field use was called the “drunkometer” and consisted of a rubber balloon filled with reactive chemicals that would change when coming into contact a drunk driver’s breath. This would finally be replaced by the more standard Breathalyzer in 1954.

Candace Lightner shares the story of the creation of MADD, arguably the most influential anti-drunk driving organization.