What are the penalties for a DUI in California?

The penalties for a DUI in California will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, but generally, the sentencing guidelines for a DUI conviction are as follows.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rdOffense

4th Offense (within 10 months of third DUI)

Jail

4 days to 6 months

10 days to 1 year

120 days to 1 year

16 months

Fines and Penalties

Up to $1,000

Up to $1,800

Up to $1,800

Up to $18,000

License Suspension

30 days to 10 months

2 years (which can be reduced to 1)

3 years

4 years

IID** Required

Yes, in some counties

Yes

Yes

Yes

Lookback Period: 10 years (Period of time that prior DUIs are relevant for sentencing)

** Interlock ignition device

California Drunk Driving Laws

While Driving in the State of California, the following is illegal:

  • Drivers under 21 may not carry unsealed beer, wine or liquor in their vehicle while they are driving alone. (There are exceptions for work related driving)

  • Drivers under 21 may not drive with a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of .01 or higher.

  • Drivers Under 21 may not consume alcohol in any form, including cough syrup, and prescription drugs.

  • Any driver may not drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.

  • The drive of any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license may not drive with with a BAC of .04 percent or higher

  • A driver under 18, may not drive with ANY measurable blood alcohol concentration.

  • Repeat offenders may not drive with a BAC of .01 or Greater

The State of California has strict drunk driving laws for drivers under the age of 21 and repeat offenders (.01%) and a "no tolerance" law for drivers under the age of 18. In addition a driver of a commercial vehicle is only prohibited from driving with a .04% BAC or higher.

Drunk driving laws in The State of California are similar to many other DUI laws across the United States. California’s DUI law prohibits a person from driving when they have a concentration of .08 percent or more alcohol in their blood system. This is the standard measurement use by all states for the "impaired" driver.

How much do you have to drink (BAC*) for a California DUI?

Under 21

.01%

21 or older

.08%

*Blood alcohol content.

What if you refuse to take chemical test in California

California has an implied consent law which means that if you refuse to submit to a chemical test you will be subject to a fine and automatic license suspension.

1st Offense

2nd offense

3rd Offense

Refusal to take test

1 year suspension of license

2 year suspension of license

3 year suspension of license

Disclaimer: We try to keep the information provided here up to date. However, laws often change, as do their interpretation and application. Different jurisdictions within a state may enforce the laws in different ways. For that reason, we recommended that you seek the advice of a local attorney familiar with DUI cases in your area.

Can you plead to a lesser offense than DUI in California?

In some circumstances, a plea bargain of "wet reckless" might be accepted by the prosecution in California. A "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, is usually made as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving is reduced to a case of reckless driving. A plea bargain of wet reckless might occur when the amount of alcohol is borderline, there was no accident, and the defendant has no prior record. But if there is a subsequent drunk driving conviction, the "wet reckless" is usually considered a prior drunk driving conviction; the resulting sentence can be what’s required for a second DUI/DWI conviction. If you are interested in trying to make a plea for a wet reckless, you’ll need the help of a lawyer.

California SR-22 Requirements

In California, you may be required to obtain a California SR-22 insurance policy if you have been convicted of a DUI. If your insurance is cancelled because of a Drunk Driving conviction, your vehicle registration will be suspended if a new insurance policy is not issued within 45 days. One reason for an insurance cancellation in California is if your current policy falls under a "Good Driver Discount". Once you have been convicted of a Drunk Driving offense in California. you may no longer qualify for this reduced rate policy.

DUI Conviction

On your first DUI conviction in California you will receive jail for no less than 96 hours and no more than 6 months. The fine will be no less than $390 and no more than $1,000 (plus penalties). Your drivers license will be suspended for six months, however, if allowed, the court may grant the convicted a temporary restricted license. Your drivers license will not be reinstated until proof of financial responsibility and proof that you have completed a "driving under the influence" program approved by the state. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a first time DUI offender may be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device at their own expense.

For a second DUI conviction in California, you will get get jail for no less than 90 days and no more than 1 year. The fine will be no less than $390 and no more than $1,000 (plus penalties). Your drivers license will be suspended for 1 year. Your drivers license will not be reinstated until proof of financial responsibility and proof that you have completed a "driving under the influence" program approved by the state. Depending on the terms of the license suspension, the DUI offender may be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device at their own expense.

For a third DUI conviction in California, you will get jail for no less than 120 days and no more than 1 year. The fine will be no less than $390 and no more than $1,000 (plus penalties). You will be considered by the state a "habitual traffic offender" for 3 years following your conviction and have your license suspended for 2 years. Your drivers license will not be reinstated until proof of financial responsibility and proof that you have completed a "driving under the influence" program approved by the state. The person may apply for a restricted driver’s license under certain circumstances by the court, however an Ignition Interlock Device may be required.

For a fourth DUI conviction in California you will receive jail, prison or both, for no less than 180 days and no more than 1 year. The fine will be no less than $390 and no more than $1,000 (plus penalties). You will be considered by the state a "habitual traffic offender" for 3 years following your conviction and have your license revoked for 3 years. Your drivers license will not be reinstated until proof of financial responsibility and proof that you have completed a "driving under the influence" program approved by the state. The person may apply for a restricted driver’s license under certain circumstances by the court. The person may apply for a restricted driver’s license under certain circumstances by the court.

If arrested and convicted for a DUI in California, judges typically apply a set of minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines. When determining the sentence, judges and prosecutors commonly weigh mitigating and aggravating factors. To learn more, see California Aggravated DUI.