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California DUI Laws – DUI Penalties in California

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If you are arrested for a DUI in California, get ready to call your lawyer and break out the checkbook. This state boasts some of the heaviest fines and penalties in the country for anyone convicted of a DUI.

Consequences for Refusing to Take Chemical Tests

California DUI Laws

In California, you can refuse to take the chemical tests, but this state does have in implied consent law, so you will be fined and face a license suspension as listed below:

  • First offense – one-year license suspension
  • Second offense – two-year license suspension
  • Third offense – three-year license suspension

Challenging BAC Levels in Court

While not a zero tolerance state for under-21, California does have a lower BAC than normal for underage drivers.

  • Drivers that are 21 years or older, .08 percent
  • Drivers under the age of 21, .01 percent (zero tolerance for under-18)
  • Commercial drivers, .04 percent

Is There Mandatory Jail Time Required for a DUI in California?

California does require mandatory jail sentences for all convictions. Minimum stays are slightly longer here than in most states.

  • First time offenders – minimum of four days and a maximum of six months in jail
  • Second time offenders – minimum of 10 days and a maximum of one year in jail
  • Third time offenders – minimum of 120 days and a maximum of one year in jail

Monetary Fines and Penalties for DUI in California

First and fourth time offenders face a significantly higher fine in California than most other states:

  • First offense – up to $1,000 fine
  • Second offense – up to $1,800
  • Third offense – up to $1,800
  • Fourth offense (within 10 months of last violation) – up to $18,000

License Suspension for DUI in California

Any DUI violation will result in a license suspension in the state of California:

  • First offense – minimum of 30 days with a maximum sentence of 10 months
  • Second offense – two-year suspension (this can be reduced to one year)
  • Third offense – mandatory three-year suspension
  • Fourth offense (within 10 months of last violation) – mandatory four-year suspension

IID installation is required for all repeat offenses. Some counties in California will also require an IID installation for first-time offenders

Finding a DUI Attorney in California

California does not look kindly on DUI arrests and, therefore, you should take every precaution when facing these charges in court. With heavy fines and penalties, especially for first time offenders, you want to give yourself the best chance of winning your case, which means you will need a skilled California DUI attorney. Please fill out the Free DUI Arrest Evaluation Form to have a professional review your specific arrest details.

14 thoughts on “California DUI Laws – DUI Penalties in California”

  1. I got a wet and reckless in 2012, then in Aug of 2018 I got arrested for driving under influence of drug. It took them over a year to charge me and several months after that to finish case. I don’t think the court caught the wet and reckless because court only required me to do a 3 month program and also gave me 120 days credit towards any license suspension. The DMV sent me my suspension notice (they never revoked if after arrest) effective immediately and they say I have to take an 18 month class. Which I am fine with but they also say I can’t even get a restricted license til nov 2020. I commute to work over an hr to and from and it’s from a rural area with no public trans and I have no one who can give me rides everyday. Is there any way I can still get a restricted or am I gonna be forced to quite my jobs thereby not being able to pay my fines and class fees or forced to risk driving with suspended license. Both choices I don’t wanna make. Will the dmv accept 120 day credit to suspension? I realize I screwed up and I am willing to pay consequences do whatever they need me to do. but losing my job is extreme.

  2. Hello, rec’d dui #2 way back in 2000 I believe. Did all the time paid all the fines was sent to prision on a possession of controlled sub. Not related case. The dui ( no injured parties no car accidents) but dmv tells I can’t get my license till I finish the 18 month program. Been sober for almost 20 years can’t do program cause I need to drive I can’t depend on anyone for that long.

  3. my name is lewis e valdez I have old DUI s 2of them the last one in 2004 or earlier not sure been a long time, I’ve been to prison and the state took care of the fines and jail time so my question is how can I find information about getting a license if at all, my name lewis eugene valdez, can I find help here?

  4. I was pulled over for throwing an unknown substance out the truck window as I was about to get on the freeway. There was no stopping for DUI but after I was speaking to the first officer they said they smelled alcohol on my breath so they did a breathalyzer test and it came out normal but when the second officer showed up he insisted I retake the test again and my that time I was getting agitated kept my cool did everything they were saying I was passing everything and the second one came out with a .09 I was not arrested I was asked if I could get someone to pick me up wish I had an individual pick me up my truck got impounded but I was able to take it out the next day now is this considered a DUI because of that even though I was not originally stopped for that

  5. Got a dui 7 years ago and lic was suspended never sought to get it back until I got a letter saying I could get it back after it has been 7 years

    They are saying I have too attend class for 3 months an also install a breath device in my car

    It’s go to to cost me over $1200 which I don’t have

    Out of work need to drive to get to wok but can’t get my lic because of not having the money

    Up shit creek

  6. i got charged with a dui by hwypatrol did bac it was .17 its been 6 months have not been charge by the court but dmv pulled my cdl for a year how can i get back sooner to be able to work

  7. Can the juge gave u a second chance if u have a second dui bt u already have 4 year that u got ur first dui

    • Ivan, unfortunately your chances are not good in California. A good DUI lawyer can possibly get the DUI dropped on a technicality. It all depends on what happened during the second arrest and what the outcome of your first DUI was.

  8. I got busted at the free way downtown LA , and i got a couple drinks and I wasn’t drank cause I know I will drive back , &I did all the officer was asking for walking on a line , stand on 1 feet for 30 sec , watching the object back and force without moving my head, then he asked me to breath test I failed to made it cause I was in panic situation so they took me there at the police station with a bigger machine and they did the test with .05% that’s within. An 1 hour , they add a court date and dmv letter but and as I know the dui at least to charge u it’s .08. So what the best thing to do for this kind of situation

    • Alex, get a good lawyer and fight it! The fact that you blew a .05 should show that you weren’t intoxicated. If one test showed .08 then you can argue that you recently finished your last drink and still had alcohol in your mouth. This always shows a higher BAC and is not accurate.

  9. I was stopped for doing a burn out and was given a breath analysis 1.5 but the officer did not read me my rights can I get off

    • Not just for the Miranda rights.. but you would have to look at probable cause and how they caught you doing a burn out. The breath test does show intoxication so that is evidence against you. Your attorney would have to go after the arresting procedure and if the police messed it up. That’s where the Miranda rights may help a little bit but cannot be used exclusively to get it thrown out.

  10. I was drunk, I got in the car, and then I got busted in Milpitas, CA. I failed the sobriety test (walking in a straight line), and I’m also sure I failed the breath test, too. I was taken to jail and every hour there felt like an eternity in hell. Every second I regret the choice I made that night. I got court in February (wish I had it tomorrow), but I’m guilty and hope that by admitting that I was wrong then the judge can consider in giving me a second chance. I was a law abiding citizen before my arrest with no wrong doing on my record. How can the judge give me another chance to show him I deeply regret the choice to drink and drive? I’ve heard of these pre-trial hearings where first-time offenders may get a second chance.

    • Christopher, we all make mistakes and you deserve a second chance. You have to understand the court system is designed to throw the book at you. You have to consult with a DUI attorney first. A lawyer will at least cut a good deal for you or in some cases get the DUI dropped. A judge will not give you a deal.


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