Contact Us for a Free Consultation (213) 542-0979

DUI Penalties in California

California DUI Penalties

DUI punishments can vary depending on the facts of the DUI, your prior criminal record, and your jurisdiction.  It's unbelievable.  Los Angeles County is pretty reasonable as DUIs go in California.

Whereas Orange County and Ventura County are very rough counties, there are all sorts of counties in California. So depending on where you are and what happened, that's probably going to dictate what you're facing.

Then depending on what you get, I think your lawyer will be the catalyst in resolving your case in the best possible fashion for you.

There are different ways you can get convicted of DUI. Most involve having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over the legal limit as defined under California Vehicle Code 23152 VC, such as:

  • .08% or higher for adults at least 21 years old;
  • .04% or higher for those with a commercial driver's license (CDL);
  • .04% or higher for those on DUI probation;
  • .01% or higher for anyone under the age of 21.

Driving under the influence does not just refer to alcohol. It includes any substance affecting your driving, such as drugs, prescription medication, painkillers, cold medicine, marijuana, etc.

If it can be proven that you were “under the influence” by any substance, then the exact blood alcohol content (BAC) does not matter. So you could still be convicted even if your BAC isn't above or below the legal limit.

Standard DUI Penalties in California

But, as far as the issue of punishment, the factual basis is if you get involved in an accident and hurt somebody and that injury is significant, you will be facing a felony DUI with a minimum of 90 days to three years in jail.

If the injury is to the level that it caused great bodily injury, and indeed that's something we can discuss when you come in to meet with me, then you'll be facing an additional three years and also a strike on your record, so that would be a total of six years. So you can see if it starts to get serious, real fast.

First Offense DUI

If we look in the other direction and this is your first offense, there was no accident, no crazy driving, nobody got hurt, your blood alcohol level wasn't that high, and you have a clean criminal record, then, of course, you wouldn't be facing any jail time.

You'll probably face probation, a fine, some community service, and an alcohol program.

There are other punishments, but I'm trying to give you a general idea of what you're facing so you can get a feel for it. The penalties for a first-offense DUI include the following:

  • Up to 6 months in jail;
  • Fines and fees of up to 3,600 dollars;
  • License suspension for four months or longer;
  • Three months of DUI school;
  • Possible installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • Three to five years of DUI probation.

Once you come in and meet with me, we go over your specific circumstances, talk about it, and when you leave the office, you're going to feel much more in control and better, and you'll have an idea of what you're looking at depending on a lot of different factors.

Second Offense DUI

If it's your second DUI, you're facing a minimum of 96 hours in jail for up to a year.  If you were still on probation for your first, they could add an extra six months on the back of your sentence.  So, again, as you get these DUI, it becomes more and more serious. Thus, the penalties for a second offense DUI include:

  • Up to one year in jail;
  • Fines and fees of up to $4,000;
  • License suspension for up to two years;
  • 18 months or 30 months of DUI school;
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • Three to five years DUI probation.

Third Offense DUI

On a third-time DUI, you're facing a minimum of 120 days in jail up to a year, and if you're still on probation, they can add a year on the second offense and six months on the first offense. Thus, the penalties for a third offense DUI include:

  • Up to one year in jail or 16 months in state prison;
  • Fines and fees of up to $18,000;
  • License suspension for up to three years;
  • 30 months of DUI school;
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • Three to five years of DUI probation.

Fourth Offense DUI

Finally, if you've got a fourth-time DUI, you will be facing a felony charge versus a misdemeanor; secondly, you'll now be facing up to three years in prison based on the felony filing. Thus, fourth offense penalties include:

  • Up to 16 months in state prison;
  • Fines and fees of up to $18,000;
  • License suspension for up to four years;
  • Potential permanent license suspension;
  • 30 months of DUI school;
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device;
  • Three to five years DUI probation;
  • Convicted felon status.

Other DUI-Related Penalties

Other things that can befall you as it relates to DUI across California, Los Angeles County, and all surrounding counties are:

  • alcohol programs – there's a 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, 18- month, and a 30-month;
  • You can also be facing a massive fine of up to $1,000.00 plus penalty assessment, which gets close to $3,000.00 once they hit you with everything. If it's a $1,000.00 fine with a 200% penalty assessment, you start to get an idea of what you're looking at;
  • Usually, you're looking at three years of probation; however, many jurisdictions try to up it to five years of probation if you've got prior DUIs on your record or something severe going on with your case;
  • They could give you Caltrans community service;
  • There are also additional penalties for causing an accident, death, very high BAC, and having a child in the vehicle.

When you come in for the initial arraignment, and you're a real danger because your blood alcohol level was high.

Perhaps you were doing something hazardous, or you have prior, they can make you wear a scram device on your ankle as a condition of an OR release.

That means that they can order you not to have any alcohol.  If you have alcohol, the scram device goes off, and you're taken into custody and can't get out.

So they could certainly put a high bail on you if the circumstances are ripe.

Under California law, you must submit to a chemical test if arrested for DUI. It can be either a blood test or a breath test. Refusing to test also carries penalties, such as a driver's license suspension.

How Can You Fight DUI Charges?

Whether you were arrested for your first or fourth DUI offense in California, you should never attempt to fight against your charges alone. A defense lawyer can help you fight for the best possible outcome, such as:

  • Perhaps we can prove there was an unlawful police stop;
  • Challenge the results of your breath or chemical tests;
  • Use defenses like split blood testing, mouth alcohol, or rising BAC;
  • Use experts and witnesses to support your defense.

So, the bottom line is that punishments for DUIs in California are severe; you want the best. You've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

Related Content: