Are the California DUI penalties greater for higher BAC levels?
California DUI laws provide for an enhancement (or increased penalty) when the person's BAC measures .15 or higher. Prior to changes to California DUI law in 2006, the enhancement had been triggered by a .20 BAC.
The only mandatory consequence of the .15 BAC enhancement is a 9-month alcohol program rather than a 3-month alcohol program. However, in practice many prosecutors will seek—and many judges will impose—tougher DUI sentences the higher the person's BAC level.
These increased DUI penalties range from jail time, CalTrans, work sentence and steeper fines to mandatory AA meetings. All of these consequences, including the .15 BAC enhancement itself, are negotiable between the prosecutor, judge and DUI defense attorney.
Among DUI judges, DUI prosecutors and legislators, there is a widely held belief that DUI defendants with high BAC levels have an alcohol addiction problem (as opposed to merely poor judgment about the choice of whether to drive while intoxicated). Therefore, it is believed that higher BAC defendants need a stronger intervention in order to address the alcohol problem and stop them from continuing to pose a danger to the community. This is particularly true if the person has prior DUI convictions.