Drunk driving is a serious criminal offense, and it can lead to serious consequences. Even a misdemeanor can DUI result in jail time. If you have been charged with drunk driving or drugged driving, contact RJT Criminal Defense today. Ryan J. Tegnelia is an experienced DUI attorney who understands how to develop a sound defense strategy, and in the process provide you with the best chance of a dismissal or a reduced charge.


DUI is defined in a number of different ways.  It includes (a) driving a vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol and/or drugs, which means that your physical or mental abilities are impaired so that you can no longer exercise the caution of a sober person; (b) driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (0.04 in the case of a commercial vehicle); or (c) driving if you are addicted to any drug (subject to some limited exceptions).


As harsh as the penalties for a simple DUI are, there are many additional factors which, if present, can significantly increase the consequences of a DUI conviction.  Here are some of the variations that you could face in connection with your DUI case:

First Time Misdemeanor DUI

Let’s assume you’ve had one too many at an office party and get stopped for DUI.  Let’s also assume you have a perfect driving record, no prior convictions, and your blood alcohol content was just slightly above the legal limit of 0.08.  Nevertheless, the consequences of a conviction are very serious.  They include possible jail time (up to six months); a minimum driver’s license suspension of six months (hardship relief may be available); summary (informal) probation for three to five years; DUI school; fines; and insurance surcharges.  Depending upon the county, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle.  While some of these penalties may be lessened with the help of the right attorney, this is generally what you can expect for a first time DUI conviction.

Prior Convictions

A second misdemeanor DUI (or “wet reckless”) conviction within ten years from the prior offense will increase the penalties significantly.  Fines will be higher, DUI school will be for an extended period, and possible jail time will increase to up to a year.  A third conviction within ten years will lead to a three-year loss of your driver’s license, increased fines, and ordinarily a minimum jail sentence of 120 days.  A fourth conviction may lead to a felony charge (see below).

Child Passenger

DUI with a child passenger under the age of 14 in your vehicle will lead to enhanced penalties if you are convicted.  Those enhancements include additional minimum jail time, which increases with each subsequent conviction.  It is also possible to be charged with child endangerment.

Felony DUI

Where driving under the influence leads to an injury, the offense is a wobbler, and may result in a felony charge.  A fourth DUI within a ten year period, as well as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, may also be charged as a felony.

These are just a few of the variations in charges that will affect the penalty in a DUI case. Additional issues include driving under the influence while on probation for DUI, underage DUI (if you are under the age of 21, a DUI can be based upon the presence of any alcohol (0.01) in your system), and having a BAC in excess of 0.15.


Understanding the variation in the charges and penalties in DUI cases requires the knowledge of a skilled DUI lawyer.  In addition, defending DUI’s typically involves questions such as search and seizure violations (traffic stops, etc.), technical issues (BAC measurement, for example), and police compliance with various standards (field sobriety tests, among others).  Because of the complexity of this area of the law, it is particularly important to find an attorney who has experience defending clients charged with DUI.

If you have been arrested for DUI, whether for drugs or alcohol, talk to a San Diego DUI attorney.  Contact Ryan J. Tegnelia at RJT Criminal Defense today.