Penalties for a DUI Conviction in California

I've been handling DUI cases in California, mainly in Los Angeles, but throughout different counties surrounding LA, and I can tell you right now, the punishment varies. It depends on whether or not it's a conservative jurisdiction or a more liberal jurisdiction, but some of the various punishments, of course, include jail time.

Penalties for a DUI Conviction in California

There are numerous ways you can get convicted of DUI. The most common is blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over the legal limit. The limits are listed within California Vehicle Code 23152 VC:

  • .08% or higher if you are an adult 21 years of age or older;
  • .04% or higher If you have a commercial driver's license (CDL);
  • .04% or higher If you are currently on DUI probation;
  • .01% or higher If you are under 21 years old.

Driving under the influence does not only mean alcohol; rather, it can also be any substance that impacts your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.  This includes illegal drugs, controlled substances, marijuana, and prescription medications.

Standard DUI Penalties in California

DUIs will result in various penalties depending on the details of the case and whether you decided to refuse a chemical test. The basic penalties include:

  • Driver's license suspension,
  • Fines and court fees,
  • Jail time,
  • Probation,
  • DUI school,
  • Possible ignition interlock device

The penalties will be more severe if you have prior DUI convictions within the past ten years. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will explain this topic in more detail below.

Penalties for a First or Second DUI in California

If you are convicted of a first offense DUI, the penalties include the following:  

  • Driver's license suspension of about four months,
  • Up to 6 months in county jail,
  • Fines up to $3,600,
  • DUI probation of three to five years,
  • DUI school for up to three months,
  • Possible installation of an ignition interlock device,

If you are convicted of a second offense DUI, the penalties include the following:  

  • Driver's license suspension of up to two years
  • Up to one year in county jail,
  • Fines up to $4,000,
  • DUI probation of three to five years,
  • DUI school up to 30 months,
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

Under California law, if you are arrested for DUI, you must submit to a chemical test, such as a blood test, breath test, or urine test. Refusal to test carries penalties, such as a longer driver's license suspension of up to three years, depending on whether it's your first, second, or third offense.

Penalties for Multiple DUIs or Injuries

You're usually going to get jail on a second or third DUI offense if nobody is seriously injured.  On the fourth offense, if somebody is injured badly, you will be looking at prison time.

Penalties for Multiple DUIs or Injuries

If somebody dies, you'll be charged with a Watson murder charge or a vehicular manslaughter charge, depending on the circumstances of the case; depending on the jurisdiction where the death occurs, and of course, depending on your defense attorney and how proficient they are at defending you. On your third driving under the influence offense, the penalties include:

  • Driver's license suspension of up to three years,
  • one year in jail or up to 16 months in state prison,
  • Fines up to $18,000,
  • DUI probation up to five years,
  • DUI school for up to 30 months,
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device,

On your fourth driving under the influence offense, the penalties include:

  • Driver's license suspension of up to four years,
  • Possible license revocation,
  • Up to 16 months in state prison,
  • DUI probation up to five years,
  • Fines up to $18,000 and 30 months of DUI school,
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle

Under 21 and Commercial Driver Penalties

California has a Zero Tolerance Policy toward underage drinking and driving. If you are convicted of an “underage” DUI, meaning any amount of alcohol or other substances like marijuana, you can be convicted. You could face the penalties listed above and a one-year license suspension.

If you are arrested for DUI and carry a commercial driver's license (CDL), you are facing severe driver's license suspension penalties. For example, there is a one-year suspension for a first offense. A second DUI offense within ten years will result in a permanent revocation of your CDL.

Driver's License Suspension and Other Penalties

Another punishment besides prison and jail that goes along with DUIs is the loss of your driver's license.  For the first offense, you usually lose it for 30 days, and then it goes on a restricted basis for five or six months where you can only drive to/from work and to/from school if you're a student, and there might be some other restrictions that the DMV permits you to utilize with your license.

Driver’s License Suspension for DUI in California

Other punishments besides loss of your license would include Cal Trans, community service, and community labor.  Often, they'll make you do AA meetings if they think you have a terrible alcohol problem. Further, I've seen people ordered to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving one-day seminar and the hospital and morgue or different things, especially for young drivers. 

Of course, you could be ordered by a judge not to be able to drink during your probationary period.  You can even be instructed not to drink while on bail or out on your own recognizance.

So, there are all sorts of different angles that can be taken t punish somebody for a DUI, but you can bet your bottom dollar; all these punishments are centered around protecting the public. They're not concerned about helping the person or being nice.  They're trying to prevent the person from killing somebody on the road.

Now, I have seen in the right set of circumstances, instead of sending somebody to jail or prison for a long time, prosecutors and judges have agreed to give that person a residential drug or alcohol treatment program because they figure this will keep them off the streets just like jail or prison would and it will help them with their root problem.

How Can the Hedding Law Firm Help with a DUI Case?

If you or a loved one has a DUI, you have to get a great criminal defense attorney.  I've worked for the DA's office.  I've worked for a superior court judge and worked for people like you who have got DUIs and have been worried about punishment since the early 1990s, with unbelievable results.

So, if you or a loved one has a DUI and you need help, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or even get the case dropped. Further, through prefiling negotiations, we might be able to persuade the prosecutor not to file formal charges in the first place. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case review by phone, or you can fill out the contact form.