Increased Penalties for a High BAC

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 20th, 2016

When a person pleads guilty to a first-time California DUI, the statutory minimum of a sentence that they’re facing is three years of summary probation, $390 plus penalties and assessments, and a three month DUI program called AB 541. However, when the person’s blood alcohol content at the time they were driving was particularly high, typically higher than a 0.14, the prosecutor and/or court might seek additional penalties.

The first of the additional penalties is a DUI program longer than the AB 541 three month program.  AB 762 is a six month program and AB 1353 is a nine month program and both can be offered as part of plea deal for an elevated blood alcohol content. There is an 18 month program called SB 38, but it is reserved for people who have been convicted of a California DUI within 10 years after having been convicted of a previous DUI.  

Another additional penalty that a person faces after a California DUI conviction is the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel. According to Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD), one of their main goals is to prevent recidivism of DUI offenses. In an attempt to accomplish this, MADD provides one-day presentations where convicted DUI offenders listen to the stories of people whose lives have been negatively affected by drunk driving. The speakers are usually victims of DUI-related collisions or relatives of those who were killed as the result of DUI-related collisions.

While panels are conducted different in each county, they are generally offered at different times and locations throughout any given month. Registration is usually required at least a month in advance and generally costs about $25 to $35. Cash or money order is usually required at the time of attendance. The silver lining, if there was one to having to do the Victim Impact Panel, is that unlike other increased penalties, it is only a few hours on only one day.

The prosecutor might also offer a Hospital and Morgue program. The name is exactly what the program entails. The person convicted of the California DUI must visit with doctors at a hospital who address the dangers of driving drunk and experience the health consequences of driving drunk. Following the hospital visit, the person must visit a morgue where they view the bodies that are stored there and are confronted with the ultimate consequence of driving drunk and other risky behavior. After both the hospital and morgue components are completed, the person must write an essay reflecting on their experience, the lessons learned, and behavior moving forward.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings might also be offered as an additional penalty when a BAC is particularly high. According to its own website,, “AA is an international fellowship of men and women who have a drinking problem…Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.” AA meetings are relatively easy to locate and are offered throughout the week at varying times. Since the meetings only typically last one hour to 90 minutes, the court usually requires at least 10 meetings. For extremely high BAC readings, a person may have to a significant amount of AA meetings.

Lastly, a person may have to serve jail time. Whether a court and/or a prosecutor will want jail for an elevated BAC depends other aggravating factors surrounding the DUI, the county in which the DUI took place, and the courthouse itself. Although it is the most severe of the increased penalties and unlikely to be offered, it is possible.

A person with an elevated BAC may face one, all, or a combination of any of the abovementioned increased penalties. Since these penalties are not mandatory, it is important to hire a California DUI attorney to possibly eliminate them as part of a DUI sentence.


  • Bill the eighth

    IIRC, wasn’t 0.15 the original level determined by the AMA and NTSB for a driver to be too drunk to drive?

  • Douglas Self

    No one said that current laws for driving under the influence are based on medicine and physiology. They’ve gone from, “Yeah, that boy’s is DRUNK”, to, “oooh…he MIGHT not be 100 percent, so he’s DANGEROUS”, never mind all the other potential things that can diminish driving abilities (fatigue, emotional state, distractions, indigestion, combinations thereof…). But hell, once there’s actually SUCCESS, and DUI convictions, and all those hefty fines and vehicle confiscations go DOWN, law makers and the ever-reaching “prison-industrial complex” will find new ‘bogeymen behind the wheel’…some kid who smoked a joint last week and has traces of THC in his hair is ‘impaired’…or a man, driving his family home and tired at the end of a long trip, is the new ‘drunk driver’, and so on.
    As long as human beings operate motor vehicles, they will be doing so with various fallacies and frailties. The current fascist trend to criminalize EVERY failing, found and/or potential, is a cynical form of heavy taxation, levied at the latest person(s) demonized by the media and politicians. Today it’s dumb-assed kids texting while driving. Tomorrow it’ll be yours truly, presumed to be equivalent to the ‘drunk’, for cheering his beloved Giants as they win (which hasn’t been often this year) while behind the wheel.
    And never mind of the ‘driverless’ car…if that ever becomes a reality, you’ll still be subject to DUI if ‘drunk’. So, can we look forward to 2084, when the fictional Douglas Quaid (at least that’s the current name of the implant memories he has) gets into a “Johnny Cab”, and he’s plastered, is he still a ‘drunk driver’? Fasten your seat belts….

  • Bill the eighth

    Nice summation Douglas, spot on!