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Understanding Federal DUI Charges in San Diego

By San Diego Attorney on April 8, 2021

After being arrested for driving under the influence in San Diego County, most defendants’ cases are handled by the California DMV and local courts. So, how do you get on the wrong side of the United States Government when it comes to a simple DUI? Federal DUI charges come with harsher penalties, including longer jail sentences and heftier fines.

But these only apply to specific scenarios in our county. Let’s take a look.

State vs. Federal DUIs

If you are arrested for a DUI in San Diego, you will likely be charged under California’s DUI laws. For first-time offenders, a conviction can result in at least 48 hours in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, DUI classes, a license suspension, and vehicle impoundment. With the right attorney and a strong defense, however, you may be able to have these charges reduced or dismissed through a diversion program.

But a federal charge means you have to appear in a federal district court, such as the California Southern District Court in San Diego. Federal district courts can impose significantly harsher penalties under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which include:

  • Up to six months in a federal prison;
  • A maximum $5,000 fine; and/or
  • Five years of federal probation.

What Actions Lead to a Federal DUI in San Diego County?

Federal DUIs are charged when a defendant is arrested on federal land, such as a military base, national park, post office, airport, Native American tribal land, or another federal government facility. For San Diego County residents, this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Camp Pendleton
  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
  • Naval Base San Diego
  • Naval Base Coronado
  • Naval Base Point Loma
  • US Coast Guard Station San Diego
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Mojave National Preserve

A day of fun at a national park can turn ugly very quickly. If you are arrested on federal land, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Trust Your Defense to a Criminal Law Specialist

Getting charged with a federal DUI can be a scary experience. You will not only face the full administrative punishment of the California DMV, but also steep federal penalties. To beat these charges, you need the experience of a skilled San Diego criminal defense lawyer. At jD LAW, our lead attorney is a board-certified criminal law specialist who has more than 30 years of experience representing San Diego clients in DUI cases. He has dealt with thousands of DUIs successfully. We can sit down with you in a free initial consultation and begin building your defense today. Call us at (760) 630-2000 to learn about your rights under the law, both state and federal.

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If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.


James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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COVID-19 Announcement

If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.

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