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About San Diego Criminal Law Center

San Diego Criminal Law Center was created to provide useful information for anyone charged with a crime in San Diego and throughout the state of California. Author and attorney Vikas Bajaj has over 16 years of criminal defense experience. If you have been charged with a crime or under investigation, read our articles for useful info that may help you during this difficult time.

Drunk Driving Arrests on the Rise in San Diego

Arrests for drunk driving in San Diego tend to increase around the holidays. The much celebrated Labor Day weekend is no different. Between 6 PM Friday and 6 AM Saturday, police in San Diego made more than 60 DUI-related arrests. That’s nearly a 30 percent increase in San Diego Labor Day DUI arrests from the year before.

There are two reasons the number of DUI arrests spike on and around holidays. First, there are simply more drunk and drugged drivers on the road. Holidays give people a reason to celebrate, and drugs and alcohol are often used heavily. Second, law enforcement agencies tend to use more resources to combat drunk driving around the holidays. Not only are there more DUI checkpoints, but also an increased number of officers patrolling the roads. More drunk drivers and more police is the perfect recipe for an increase in arrests.

Two Types of DUI in San Diego

It’s against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are two ways you can be arrested and charged with DUI in California: per se and probable cause.

Per Se DUI

In California, you will be considered to be “under the influence” of alcohol if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 percent when you were driving. If chemical tests show that your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you will be charged for DUI under Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). This is known as Per Se Intoxication DUI.

Probable Cause DUI

Contrary to popular belief, you can be arrested for DUI even if you don’t fail a breath test. Under Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), police have the authority to arrest you for DUI if they have reason to believe that you are unable to drive safely because you have consumed drugs or alcohol. However, police must have probable cause to believe that you’ve violated the law. Indicators that may establish probable cause for your arrest include:

  • Failed field sobriety tests
  • Chemical testing showing some level of alcohol in your system
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • The odor of alcohol or drugs in the car, or
  • Drugs and/or paraphernalia visible in the car.

The state will present any evidence that shows you were intoxicated in violation of the law to support its case.

Penalties for DUI in San Diego

While there are two ways you can be arrested for DUI in San Diego, the penalties for each crime is the same. In California, DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense. The seriousness of your charge, as well as the potential penalties, will depend on a variety of factors. These include:

  • Prior DUI convictions
  • BAC
  • Injury or death of a victim, and
  • Willingness to cooperate with police during chemical testing.

First DUI: First-time DUI offenses, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by a maximum of:

  • Fines: $1,000


  • Jail: 6 months
  • Probation: 3 years


  • License Suspension: 6 months.

Second DUI:  Second DUI convictions, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by:

  • Fines: $390 to $1,000


  • Jail: 96 hours to 6 months
  • Probation: 3 to 5 years


  • License Suspension: 2 years criminal, 1 year administrative (concurrently)

First DUI: Subsequent DUI offenses, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by:

  • Fines: $390 to $1,000


  • Jail: 120 days to 12 months
  • Probation: 5 years


  • License Suspension: 3 years criminal, 1 year administrative (concurrently).

In addition to these criminal penalties, you can also face administrative sanctions and be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Most individuals convicted of DUI end up spending thousands as a result of their arrest.

Fighting DUI Charges in San Diego

Don’t give up hope when you are arrested for DUI. You have the right to defend yourself throughout the criminal proceedings. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will help you secure the best possible result. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime and determine the best way to defend you. Defenses should be constructed to (a) undermine the state’s case against you and (b) explain or justify your behavior.

DUI defenses can include:

  • Illegal traffic stop
  • Illegal arrest
  • Chemical test results are invalid and unreliable
  • Police did not administer field sobriety tests properly, or
  • You have been falsely accused.

If you have been arrested for DUI in San Diego you need to speak with an attorney. Call the San Diego Criminal Law Center to schedule a free case evaluation. Our attorneys are here to help you protect your future.

Two Men Arrested for Robbing Marijuana Dispensary

Two San Diego men suspected of robbing a marijuana dispensary in Banning have been arrested. According to reports, the men robbed the facility shortly before closing. During the robbery, they allegedly shot and stabbed at least three people. Both men will face criminal charges for robbery.

Understanding Robbery in San Diego

Robbery is the crime of taking property directly from another person through the use of force or fear. It is similar to other crimes of theft, but unique because it requires that property is taken:

  1. From the “immediate presence” of a victim; and
  2. Using force or fear.

Immediate Presence

What does it mean to take something from a person’s immediate presence? In the most basic sense, immediate presence means taking something that a person is holding, occupying, or wearing. This could include a watch, wallet, or purse on a person’s body.

Immediate presence can also mean taking something that is within another person’s reach. Let’s go back to the men who robbed the marijuana dispensary. They may have stolen property directly from customers and employees. However, most of the things they stole, including money, drugs, and paraphernalia, were likely within the reach of employees. If the employees were close enough to the property and could have kept “possession of it if not prevented by force or fear,” it would be considered to be in their immediate presence.

Force or Fear

Robbery also requires that a theft involve the use of force or fear. It is important to understand that you must enter the situation and intend to use force or fear to steal property. If you decide to steal property and then resort to force or fear, you will face charges for a different crime.

Example 1: John drives to a liquor store with the intent to steal money from the register. He enters with a gun and points it at the clerk as he demands money. Since John entered the situation with the intent to use force to steal the money, he can be charged with robbery.

Example 2: John is shopping in a liquor store when he notices an expensive and rare bottle behind the counter. The clerk walks away to help a customer, so John slips behind the counter and tries to steal the bottle. The clerk notices and confronts him. John reaches into his pocket and pulls out a knife to threaten the clerk. Since John did not enter the situation intending to use force or fear, he will likely not be charged with robbery. He can, however, be charged with other crimes.

Causing Injury During a Robbery

The men who robbed the San Diego marijuana dispensary may be facing additional penalties for their crime since at least three people were injured. Why? California’s great bodily injury enhancement can apply when you commit or attempt to commit a felony and cause another person to suffer a serious physical injury.

Second-degree robbery in San Diego is typically punishable by 2, 3, or 5 years in a California state prison. If the great bodily injury enhancement is imposed, the men could face an additional 3 to 6 years behind bars.

The men may also face criminal charges for attempted murder in addition to those for robbery. A thorough investigation into the crime will help the state determine which charges are most appropriate.


Are you or someone you love facing criminal charges in San Diego? Members of our criminal defense team are always standing by to help you understand your rights. Call us today to learn more.

A 26-year-old San Diego man has been arrested on suspicion of arson. According to police, at least 12 fires were set on various streets and alleys in Ocean Beach. While no one was physically injured in the fires, they did cause approximately $23,000 in property damage. Several cars, trash cans, and a fence were among the items destroyed in the late-night fires. While specifics have not been released, the 26-year-old will likely face charges for arson and/or reckless burning.

Arson and Reckless Burning in San Diego

It can be a crime to set fire to or burn property that doesn’t belong to you. Both arson and reckless burning deal with setting illegal fires. The criminal charges will depend on your intent when you started the fires.

Malicious Arson

Malicious arson, as defined in Penal Code 451 PC, is the crime of willfully and maliciously setting fire to a structure, forest land, or property.

Willfully: Willfully means that you commit an act on purpose. You don’t don’t have to intend to break the law. For the purposes of arson, you just have to intend to burn or set something on fire.

Maliciously: Maliciously means that you set a fire to injure, annoy, or defraud someone else. This means that you have to intend to harm someone else by setting the fire.

You can be charged with malicious arson if you should have been aware that your actions were very likely to start a dangerous fire. You can also be charged with malicious arson even if you don’t start a raging fire. The fact that you burn or damage property with willful and malicious intent is enough to warrant charges.


  • You throw a red-hot cigarette into someone’s trash can at their home with the intent to start a fire.
  • You douse your neighbor’s car in lighter fluid and throw a match into the passenger compartment.
  • You attempt to burn down your ex’s house after a fight, but only succeed in singing the yard.

Reckless Burning

Reckless burning, which is also known as reckless arson, is defined in Penal Code 452 PC. This occurs when you recklessly set fire to or burn a structure, forest land, or property.

Recklessly: Reckless means that you are aware of and ignore a substantial risk. Ignoring that risk is not what a reasonable person would do. Recklessness involves much more than negligence.

Examples of reckless burning:

  • Throwing a firecracker into a dry field.
  • Igniting a lighter next to flammable materials.
  • Throwing a cigarette butt into a trash can filled with paper or flammable materials.

Starting a fire by mistake or accident does not mean that you will face criminal charges for reckless burning. The state will have to prove that you knew about a risk and ignored the potential consequences.

What are the Penalties for Arson in San Diego?

Arson can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The charges will depend on:

  • Your intent
  • The number of fires
  • The type of property you burned or destroyed
  • The extent of the property damage
  • Whether anyone was personally injured, and
  • Your history of criminal behavior.

Malicious Arson

Malicious arson is a felony in San Diego and will count as a strike on your record. Penalties will depend on the factors outlined above.

  • Malicious arson of personal property: 16 months – 3 years in prison.
  • Malicious arson of a structure or forest land: 2 – 6 years in prison.
  • Malicious arson causing great bodily injury: 5 – 9 years in prison.

Setting a fire for financial gain can also subject you to additional financial penalties. This can include a fine of (a) $50,000 or (b) twice the amount of your expected gain from the fire.

Reckless Arson

Reckless arson can be a misdemeanor or a felony in San Diego. Penalties will depend on the factors outlined above.

  • Misdemeanor reckless arson of personal property: 6 months in a San Diego County jail
  • Felony reckless arson of personal property: 16 months – 2 years in prison.
  • Misdemeanor reckless arson of a structure or forest land: 1 year in a San Diego County jail
  • Felony reckless arson of a structure or forest land: 2 – 4 years in prison
  • Misdemeanor reckless arson causing great bodily injury: 1 year in a San Diego County jail
  • Felony reckless arson causing great bodily injury: 2 – 6 years in prison.

Aggravated Arson

The penalties for malicious and/or reckless arson can be aggravated in certain situations. This means that you will be subject to harsher penalties for your crime. Aggravated penalties will apply if:

  • Multiple structures are burned
  • More than one person is hurt
  • You have a prior conviction for arson
  • You accelerate the fire
  • You use a device to time or delay the fire
  • A peace officer is injured because of your fire
  • You knowingly set fire to a place of worship, or
  • You set fire to an inhabited structure.

The most serious arson crimes are punishable by 10 years to life in a California state prison.

San Diego Arson Defense Attorney

Setting fires can have serious criminal consequences. The penalties for arson will have immediate and devastating consequences. The stakes will be even higher if your actions cause someone to get hurt. Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center if you or someone you know has been arrested for arson. Our criminal defense attorneys will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime and come up with a strategy for your case. We will help you minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.