Unlike most Driving under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases, which are prosecuted in State Superior Courts, arrests that take place on federally owned land such as national parks and military bases are prosecuted in Federal Court. A California DUI lawyer experienced in federal DUI laws and drunk driving cases can explain the difference between state and federal prosecutions, and the potential penalties of each.
The federal DUI laws applied in a federal DUI case depend on where the arrest took place. Arrests in National Parks fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and are governed by the Code of Federal Regulations.
Under the Code of Federal Regulations, drunk driving in a National Park is a Class B misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class B misdemeanor can include up to six months in a federal penitentiary and a fine of up to $5,000. As part of the federal DUI penalties, the driver also can be placed on probation for up to five years.
Drunk-driving arrests on any other federally owned land fall under the law of the individual state in which the arrest took place, through the Assimilative Crimes Act. DUI drivers arrested on federal land in California that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service face the same punishment as those prosecuted in State Superior Court.
Federal DUIs in Court
As in state court, the first step in a DUI misdemeanor prosecution is arraignment. The driver is advised of the pending charges and is required to make a plea of not guilty, no contest, or guilty. If the driver pleads not guilty, a pretrial conference is scheduled.
In some cases, defendants and prosecutors reach a plea agreement, in which the driver will plead guilty before the case goes to trial, in exchange for a reduced charge or sentence. If a plea bargain is made prior to the pretrial conference, the driver likely will plead guilty or no contest at the hearing. If no agreement was reached, the hearing is an opportunity to bring pretrial motions before the court. Common pretrial motions involve evidence suppression, discovery, and motions to dismiss.
Federal DUIs & Chemical Testing Refusal
Federal DUI cases that involve a refusal to submit to a chemical test carry the possibility of additional federal DUI penalties. Drivers on federally owned land are subject to a federal Implied Consent Law, meaning that anyone arrested on suspicion of drunk driving must submit to a blood, breath or urine test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC).
Refusal to submit to a chemical test is a misdemeanor under the Code of Federal Regulations and carries a penalty of up to six months in a federal prison, a fine, or both. The driver also will be denied driving privileges on federal lands for one year, beginning on the date of arrest. The Code of Federal Regulations does not provide for mandatory driver’s license suspensions in refusal cases, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) likely will be notified of a chemical test refusal conviction, and will suspend the driver’s license.
Federal drunk driving is a serious charge that can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. A California DUI lawyer experienced in handling federal DUI cases will develop a strategy to fight the charges and keep consequences to a minimum.