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||3rd Offense||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)
To learn more about the penalties for DUI in California, see California DUI: What are the penalties?
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?
21 or older
*Blood alcohol content. See the chart, below.
You may want to try our BAC Calculator, however I wouldn't let any results encourage you to drink and drive.
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. Learn more about California’s implied consent law.
|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.
Using the Blood Alcohol Concentration Chart:
What do the three shadings mean?
WHITE: .01% to .04% This definitely is a DUI for drivers under 21 and may be a DUI for drivers over 21.
GRAY: .05% to .07% This definitely is a DUI for drivers under 21 and is likely to be a DUI for drivers over 21.
BLACK: .08% and up This definitely is a DUI for all drivers.
Find your weight, Then, look for the total number of drinks you have had and compare that to the time interval shown. If your blood alcohol concentration level is in the gray zone, your chances of having an accident are five times higher than if you had no drinks, and 25 times higher if your blood alcohol concentration level is in the black zone.
The State of California has provided the table shown above to give guidelines for drinking and driving. This table isn't a legal reference for how much alcohol can be consumed before you are considered a drunk driver or over the legal limit, however it does offer a resource to reference if you are looking for some basic guidelines.
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.
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.
New California DUI Laws
2011 - More and Longer License Suspension
Effective 2011, California’s laws has expanded the number of categories that allows the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to immediately suspend a driver’s privileges when the driver is suspected of a DUI.
2010 - IID Madatory
In July, 2010, California implemented changes to its DUI laws which included the mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). Additionally, California shortened the length of time during which driving penalties are restricted even for repeat offenders. However, to have the penalty phase shortened defendants must pay any requisite fees and file a SR-22 insurance form.
California - Assembly Bill 91
Requires ignition interlock device manufacturers to provide certain information to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Requires the department to establish a pilot program in the Counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare that requires, as a condition of being issued a restricted driver's license, a driver's license, or having the privilege to operate a motor vehicle reinstated, a person to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles they own or operate and to participate in an alcohol and drug assessment program and pay a fee.
California - Assembly Bill 1165 - DUI Zero Tolerance Law For Repeat Offenders
Makes it unlawful for a person who is on probation for a violation of either of certain driving under-the-influence offenses to operate a motor vehicle at any time with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test. Imposes additional sanctions on person found to violate this prohibition. Removes obsolete references in existing law related to license revocation for refusing or failing to complete a preliminary screening test.
California - Senate Bill 1190 - DUI Ignition Interlock Devices
Lowers the minimum blood alcohol percentage at the time of a DUI arrest that allows a court to require the person to install a certified ignition interlock device on any vehicle that the persons owns or operates and prohibits that person from operating a vehicle without such a device. Authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to undertake a study regarding the overall effectiveness of the use of such devices to reduce recidivism of first time DUI violators.
California - Senate Bill 1388 - DUI Ignition Interlock Devices (Effective July, 2009)
Requires a person to immediately install a certified ignition interlock device on all vehicles they own or operate for a certain period when they have been convicted of violating DUI provisions and driving a motor vehicle when their license has been suspended or revoked as a result of a DUI-related conviction. Provides the number of violations will determine the period of time the device will be required. Sets a scheme with which a person will be informed of the installment requirements and related fees.
California - Assembly Bill 2802 - DUI Reckless Driving
Requires a court to order a person convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving to participate in a licensed program that consists of specified activities, including education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions, if that person has a prior conviction of a violation of the alcohol-related reckless driving law or another specified DUI law and the prior convicted offense occurred within 10 years. Requires probation revocation for failure to enroll, participate in, or complete the program.
Dealing With a DUI?
If you're facing a DUI charge in California, see the following links for more information on what to expect:
- CA DUI Basics: FAQ's
- What are the Penalties/Consequences of a Conviction?
- Should You Go For a Plea Bargain?
- Blood & Breath Tests: How they Affect Your Case
- What Happens if You Don't Take the Breathalyzer or Blood Test?
- Five Things To Know About a DUI Case in California
- What Happens Before the Trial?