Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is always a serious matter. However, if you have a clean record or you have at least not been charged with a felony in the past, you may be eligible for California’s First Offender Program. If you are accepted as a first offender, you will still be convicted of a DUI, but you will not have to face the full sentencing and effects of criminal prosecution.

The Benefits of the First Offender Program

First of all, it’s important to note that your first offense driving under the influence does not automatically make you eligible for first offender status. The First Offender Act basically states that once you’ve completed your sentence, your record will be sealed and you will effectively not have a record of a DUI included in the official report of your criminal history.

What does that mean for you? Essentially, while your record will be available to law enforcement agencies and will not be sealed if it’s needed for criminal justice purposes, for all other intents and purposes, you won’t have a record. This can be incredibly beneficial when you apply for a new job and in other situations, as well.

Basically, if you’re a first-time offender and you do not show signs that you’ll continue to break the law in the future, this program allows you to learn from your mistake without having it branded upon your criminal record for the rest of your life.

Who Qualifies as a First Offender

As we mentioned earlier, merely having no previous DUIs on your record will not automatically make you eligible for first offender status. However, having a few (non-DUI) traffic tickets won’t necessarily disqualify you, either. In the state of California, if this is your first Santa Clara DUI defense conviction, and you meet a few requirements, you will likely be able to get first offender status.

For example, if your BAC (blood alcohol content) was less than .15%, you will be more likely to get a plea deal. However, if your BAC was higher, there is little chance that you’ll be considered for this program, though your lawyer may still intervene for you and argue the case to allow you more leniency.

In general, the First Offender Program is designed to prevent repeat convictions for drugs and alcohol. Because you’re shown some leniency, it’s understood that you will take this Santa Clara DUI defense case as a learning opportunity so that you can take the steps necessary to avoid another DUI in the future.

What to Expect From a First Offense

First offender status does not guarantee that the penalties for your DUI will be any lighter than they would without this privileged status. If you’ve been convicted of your first DUI, you can generally expect:

• Imprisonment in a county jail for between 48 and 96 hours.
• A fine between $390 and $1000.
• A four-month license suspension.
• Mandated completion of a drug and alcohol evaluation.
• Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device upon reinstatement of your license.

With quality Santa Clara DUI defense attorneys on your side, though, you will have a better chance of understanding your rights and the charges brought against you. You’ll also gain a better understanding of whether you should fight the charges or accept a plea deal, including such benefits as first offender status.

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, your first step should be to talk with a Santa Clara DUI defense lawyer. Contact Kapsack and Bair today at (408) 275-9610 to schedule your free consultation.