Second-Offense DUI in California

Read about the administrative and criminal penalties for a second-offense DUI in California.

You can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California if you drive:

  • with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (a “per se” DUI), or
  • while “under the influence” of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.

For most purposes, a DUI is considered a “second offense” if you have one prior DUI conviction that occurred within the past ten years.

This article discusses some of the administrative and criminal penalties for a California second-offense DUI.

(Also read about the consequences of a first and third DUI conviction.)

Administrative Penalties

For most crimes, there aren’t any formal penalties unless you’re actually convicted of the offense (either by entering a plea or being found guilty at trial). With DUIs it’s different. If you’re lawfully arrested for drunk driving, there can be administrative consequences—such as license suspension and fees—regardless of whether you’re ultimately convicted of a DUI.

These administrative consequences come from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you’ve been convicted or had your license suspended for a DUI within the past ten years and you’re caught driving with a BAC of .08% or more, the DMV will administratively suspend your license for one year. The suspension is two years if you refuse chemical testing in violation of California’s implied consent laws.

Criminal Penalties

A second-offense DUI is typically a misdemeanor. A conviction carries mandatory jail time from 96 hours to one year. However, in some cases, jail time can be converted to house arrest or work service. Fines range from $390 to $1,000, but a variety of fees and “penalty assessments” will significantly increase the amount the offender actually pays. Penalties for a second DUI in California also include three to five years of probation, an 18-month DUI school, and a two-year license suspension. (The administrative and criminal suspension periods are allowed to overlap, so the total suspension time won’t exceed two years.)


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Getting Legal Help

California’s DUI laws are complicated, and the facts of each case are different. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with DUI, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area who can help you decide how best to proceed with your case.

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