California DUI Penalties



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DUI in California

In California, DUI offenses are taken very seriously, and a DUI conviction can have long-lasting and severe consequences that can affect various aspects of your life.

A California DUI offense occurs when a driver operates a vehicle while impaired by a substance to the extent that it affects their ability to drive safely. In most cases, driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor in California, but there are situations where it can be classified as a felony.

It’s crucial to note that prior DUI convictions will be considered when you are charged with a new DUI offense. Having prior convictions can result in you having stricter penalties than a first DUI offense. A DUI conviction will also remain on your criminal record for ten years.

If you are charged with DUI, it is essential that you contact experienced DUI attorneys who can help you contest a DUI charge and represent you at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearings, if requested. You can depend on our DUI attorneys

California DUI Law

Driving under the influence is defined and penalized by section 23152(a) of the Vehicle Code. An offense of DUI occurs when you operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol to the extent that you cannot drive safely. The law stipulates a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers, which varies depending on whether you are an adult, under 21, or a commercial driver.

You will be charged for DUI if your adult BAC level is 0.08% and above. However, for individuals under the age of 21, California maintains a zero-tolerance policy, meaning even a BAC as low as 0.01% can result in a DUI charge.

Commercial drivers face stricter standards, with a BAC limit of 0.04% and above, given their proximity to the public, the size of their vehicles, and the professional nature of their work. Depending on the circumstances, a DUI charge could result in your commercial driver’s license being permanently revoked.

Law enforcement officers can pull you over if they reasonably suspect you are driving under the influence. They may instruct you to blow into a breathalyzer or submit to a field sobriety test to check your BAC.

What Is the Punishment for a DUI?

If you’re arrested for DUI without any prior convictions, you’re facing a first-offense DUI. A first DUI offense as a commercial driver will result in a one-year suspension of your commercial driver’s license. If you have another DUI arrest within ten years, it will cause a permanent revocation of your motor vehicle license.

The penalties for DUI offenses generally include the following:

  • Imposition of fines
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Lengthy educational programs like DUI school
  • DMV License suspension
  • Additional license suspension by the trial judge
  • Higher insurance costs
  • Installation of ignition interlock device order.

While your driver’s license is suspended, you can secure a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from your workplace, school, or DUI school.

Note that alternative sentencing options may replace jail time and can be imposed alongside other DUI penalties. The following are some of the alternative sentencing options:

  • Community service
  • Cal-Trans roadside work
  • House arrest

Your attorneys can help you effectively convince the prosecutor or judge to agree to alternative sentencing options. It would be best to hire experienced DUI attorneys knowledgeable in DUI laws and DMV hearings when facing a DUI charge.

First Offense DUI

If you are arrested for DUI without prior DUI convictions, you will be charged with a first-offense DUI. The penalties for a first DUI offense generally include the following:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for six months by the court

  • A four-month administrative suspension of your license by the DMV

  • A one-year administrative suspension of your license by the DMV if you refuse a chemical test

  • $390 to $1,000 in fines with several penalty assessments that can increase the fine to up to $3,600

  • Up to 6 months of county jail time

  • 3 or 9 months court-ordered alcohol or drug education program

  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for six months for you to be able to drive without restrictions

  • DUI probation for three to five years

Second Offense DUI

For a second DUI conviction, the penalties include:

  • 3 to 5 years of summary probation

  • A maximum of 1 year jail time

  • 18-month to 30-month court-approved DUI school as a condition for probation

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for two years by the criminal court

  • Administrative suspension of your license for one year by DMV

  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for one year

  • $390 to $1,000 in fines with several penalty assessments that can increase the fine to up to $4,000

  • Additional fines and fees of up to $4,000


Third DUI Offense

If you are convicted of a third DUI offense within ten years, you may have the following penalties:

  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation

  • 30-month court-approved DUI school

  • $390 to $1,000 in fines with several penalty assessments that can increase the fine to up to $18,000

  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for two years

  • Driver’s license suspension for three years

Felony DUI Charges in California

Though DUI offenses are generally considered misdemeanors, you may be charged with a felony DUI if you acquire four or more DUI convictions within ten years. The California felony DUI penalties are as follows:

  • Up to 3 years jail time in state prison
  • $390 to $5,000 in fines
  • License suspension for up to 4 years
  • 30-month DUI school
  • A court order mandating the installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for at least one year
  • 3 to 5 years of probation

Some aggravating factors will increase your DUI penalties California irrespective of the DUI offense you are convicted for. The most common aggravating factors are:

  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test
  • Having a BAC of 0.15% or above
  • Driving at an excessive speed
  • Getting a DUI charge when you are with a child under 14 in the vehicle
  • Causing accidents while driving under the influence.

Diverging Paths: Consequences of DUI Offenses

California’s DUI penalties are tiered, reflecting the gravity and recurrence of offenses. First-time offenders face milder consequences, which might include fines, brief jail time, and mandatory DUI programs. However, the severity escalates with subsequent offenses. Multiple DUIs can result in longer incarcerations, heftier fines, and extended license suspensions.

Particularly severe are DUIs involving injuries or fatalities, which can lead to felony charges, substantial prison terms, and long-term license revocations. Such charges underscore the critical need for adept legal representation to navigate the complexities of DUI defense.

Get the Best Possible Outcome in your DUI Trial

A DUI conviction can be costly and have long-lasting effects on your criminal record. When you are charged with any DUI offense, contact experienced DUI attorneys to secure legal advice and represent you effectively. At the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson, we can help you get the best possible outcome in your DUI case.

You should seek to protect your rights and minimize your consequences. Contact us today and schedule a consultation with a   DUI lawyer in Oakland, CA.