DUI Laws in California

A DUI in the state of California can lead to you losing your driver's license, court and DMV fines, jail time, community service and more, so it's important for you to know exactly how the charge is going to affect you and what will happen during each phase of your hearing. It is highly recommended that you hire a DUI attorney to help with your case. Often times, they will be able to reduce the fines, jail time, and in some cases, eliminate the charge all together.

The table below outlines the most common penalties and fines for a DUI in California.

California DUI Penalties

Court Fines Potential Jail Time License Suspension*
1st Conviction $1400-1800 96 hours - 6 months Minimum of 6 Months
2nd Conviction $1800-2800 90 days - 1 year Minimum of 1 Year
3rd Conviction $1800-2800 120 days - 1 year> Minimum of 2 Years
4th Conviction $1800-2800 180 days - 1 year Minimum of 3 Years

*Often times for a first offense, a restricted license can be obtained after 30 days, allowing you limited driving privileges.

In addition to the above, a DUI conviction will usually require 3 months or more of DUI school. This is sometimes mandated by the court, but often by the DMV.

DUI Charges

In California, you'll be charged with two different statutes: sections 23152(a) and 23152(b) under the California vehicle code section. Section 23152(a) looks at whether or not you were able to drive as cautiously as a sober person, which is the legal standard for driving under the influence.

The second statute looks at your blood alcohol content, specifically if it's .08 per cent or greater. One thing to note here is that it doesn't matter how well you were driving or if you passed the sobriety tests given by the officer. This charge is solely based on your blood alcohol content.

Possible DUI offenses include the following:

  • Driving under the influence of any combination of alcohol, or drugs
  • Driving with a BAC of .08 or greater
  • Driving by a drug addicted person, methadone excepted
  • If a minor, driving with a BAC of .05 or greater


Once charged with a DUI in California, you'll have ten days from that date to contact the DMV and set up a hearing. If you don't, your driver's license will be suspended 30 days from your arrest. This is true even if you don't live in California because the state shares DUI information with other states.

DMV Repercussions

If the DMV board votes against you at your requested hearing, your driver's license will be suspended for a minimum of four months if this is your first offense. For your second offense, it's one year. The third DUI in California results in a two-year suspension. Note that if you refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test, the punishments increase to a one-year, two-year, and three-year suspension respectively.

Court Repercussions

The punishment handed down from your court case will vary based on several factors, including how many DUIs you have and if you injured anyone or damaged any property. You could face jail time, a large fine, or a court-ordered license suspension.

If this is your second DUI within ten years, it's going to be listed as a second offense. For multiple DUI offences, you will spend some time in jail, attend an alcohol education class, and be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car.

Elevation to a Felony Charge

If you have three DUI charges within ten years, your fourth DUI will be listed as a felony. Every subsequent DUI charge will be listed as a felony for the next 10 years. Likewise, if you injure someone while driving drunk, you may be charged with a felony depending on the circumstances.

If you are in need of legal assistance, consult with an attorney in your area to receive a free case review.
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