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Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the most harrowing experiences a California motorist can face. In addition to facing an automatic license suspension, a drunk driving arrest can lead to a number of severe criminal penalties—including hefty fines and a possible jail sentence. And, if you are one of the thousands of individuals who have a prior drunk driving conviction on your record, the stakes are even higher. Under the state’s mandatory sentencing guidelines, a California DUI second offense can carry much harsher punishment than a first offense.

State law classifies any person who has been convicted of driving under the influence within a ten-year period as a repeat DUI offender. As a result, lawmakers grant little leniency to those who are found guilty of a subsequent charge—and many of the penalties you receive will be based on the nature of your prior arrest.

Like most states, California law prohibits anyone from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, if you are under 21, you can be charged with DUI if your BAC is 0.01% or higher. Commercial vehicle operators are also subjected to an even lower BAC limit of just 0.04%. Any driver who is found to be in violation of these guidelines can therefore be arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Along with enforcing the above BAC limits, California’s “Implied Consent Law” requires drivers to submit to chemical testing if they are ever suspected of driving while impaired. Designed to calculate BAC, chemical tests (breathalyzers, blood, and urine tests) are one of the most common tools law enforcement officers use to identify drunk drivers. In the event that you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you are legally obligated to allow the officer to administer a test to determine your BAC. In fact, refusing to comply can lead to even more severe penalties than failing the test.

If you are charged with driving with an illegal BAC and have been convicted of a similar offense in the past, the punishment for a second conviction can include up to a one-year license suspension, possible jail sentence, and mandatory alcohol treatment. In addition, you will be forced to obtain SR22 insurance—a type of auto insurance policy reserved for high-risk drivers—for up to three years after your driving privileges are restored. In light of SR22 insurance costing two to three times more than your current policy, this penalty can easily become one of the most damaging.

If you are convicted of refusing a breathalyzer or other chemical test for a second time, you will face the same penalties listed above; however, whereas drivers who fail a chemical test are eligible for a restricted license after a specified period of time—allowing them to drive to and from work, school, and other court-approved activities—individuals who are convicted of violating the state’s implied consent law do not qualify for these limited privileges.

Fortunately, there are many ways to challenge a California DUI second offense charge, and a skilled defense attorney can help you determine the right strategy for your case.