DUI Penalties in California

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California DUI penalties are among the strictest in the country. In California it is against the law to operate­­­ a motor vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Driving above this percentage is considered legally impaired. In addition, under age motorists (under 21 years of age) are prohibited from having any alcohol in their system at all, and commercial vehicle drivers are considered impaired if their blood alcohol content is 0.04% or higher.

Implied Consent Law

When you apply for a driver’s license you also give consent to field sobriety tests and chemical tests to determine impairment. If an officer pulls you over for suspicion of DUI you will likely be asked to submit to a breath, blood, or urine sample to determine your exact blood alcohol content percentage. You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test; however, it is important to understand that if you refuse you could face license suspension along with other possible penalties.

Jail, Fines, and License Suspension

California DUIs are known as “priorable” offenses, meaning that the punishment increases with each successive drunk driving conviction that takes place, within a 10 year period. DUI penalties in California can be severe depending on whether you are facing your first, second, third, or subsequent DUI conviction. Typically, a DUI case is prosecuted as misdemeanor offense; however, certain circumstances could cause it to be treated as a felony. Penalties for a DUI in California will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, in general penalties may include:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for three to five years
  • You may face up to six months in jail
  • Fines and penalties up to $1,000.00
  • License suspension up to ten months
  • Court approved alcohol and/or drug education program
  • An ignition interlock device may be required

2nd Offense

  • Informal probation for three to five years
  • You may face up to one year in jail with a minimum of a 96 hour sentence
  • Fines and penalties up to $1,800.00
  • License suspension up to two years
  • Completion of an 18-month or 30-month court approved California DUI school
  • An ignition interlock device is required to be installed

3rd Offense

  • Informal probation for three to five years
  • You may face up to one year in jail with a minimum of 120 days
  • Fines and penalties up to $1,800.00
  • License suspension up to three years
  • Completion of a 30-month court approved DUI education program
  • An interlock ignition device is required to be installed
  • Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender by the DMV

Misdemeanor DUI with injury

  • Informal probation for three to five years
  • You may face up to one year in jail with a minimum sentence of five days
  • Fines and penalties up to $5,000.00 or more
  • A 3-month, 18-month, or 30-month alcohol program
  • License suspension up to three years
  • Restitution to all injured parties

Felony DUI with injury

  • You may face up to ten years in California State Prison. Additional and consecutive prison sentences may apply depending on the circumstances of the case
  • A possible strike on your record
  • Fines and penalties up to $5,000.00 or more
  • An 18-month to 30-month alcohol and/or drug education program
  • Habitual Traffic Offender status with the DMV for three years
  • License suspension
  • Restitution to all injured parties

You should also be aware of the fact that certain conditions may increase the penalties you face, such as jail or prison time. Common amongst these conditions are:

  • Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15% or higher
  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test
  • Causing an accident while impaired
  • Speeding
  • Having children under the age of 14 in the vehicle (child endangerment)
  • Being under the age of 21

The circumstances of your case will determine how these aggravating factors may enhance your penalty.

As you can see, DUI penalties can be extremely expensive and more importantly can cost you your freedom. You can likely expect DUI penalties to get even tougher in the future, including more and longer license suspensions, increased fines, and jail time requirements.

DUI probation for first time offenders

In most instances, first time DUI offenders are placed on a three to five year probation period. If this probation is violated you could face additional penalties. Typically, the conditions of probation include:

  • You cannot drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system
  • You must submit to a blood or roadside breathalyzer test if requested by an officer, although rare in some instances a urine test may be requested
  • Refrain from further violations of the law (misdemeanor and felony offenses)

DUI probation allows you to avoid incarceration if you agree to certain conditions, examples of which are described above. In addition, you may have to fulfill certain conditions during probation such as:

Death or Injuries as a result of a DUI

Penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. If someone is killed or injured as the result of driving under the influence the driver responsible may face felony charges and if convicted could face serious prison time. Prison sentences can also be influenced by the number of offenses the driver has on their record, a multiple offender will typically face harsher sentencing. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the responsible driver could also have a strike added to their record (California’s Three Strikes Law).

DUI Sentencing Alternatives

Again, depending on the circumstances of your case you may have sentencing alternatives available to you. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney who thoroughly understands DUI law and sentencing alternatives is the best method of understanding what options you have available to you. Attorneys who do not specialize in DUI law may overlook this area completely. The important aspect to understand is that alternative sentencing options are alternatives to facing jail or prison time. These alternatives may include:

  • Roadside work with Cal-Trans
  • Community service
  • House arrest or electronic monitoring
  • Living in a sober-living home/environment

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance with DUI penalties it is recommended that you contact an experienced DUI attorney to confidentially discuss the details of your case. For further questions, or to schedule a free initial consultation, you can call our office at (559) 222-5800.

If you have any questions regarding the services provided at the Law Office of Gregory W. Fox,
or would like to schedule your free initial consultation, please contact us today at (559) 222-5800. Hablamos español.