In California, the penalties for a third DUI conviction can be pretty serious. In most third-offense cases, the driver ends up spending a substantial amount of time in jail.
This article covers the basics of California's DUI laws and the possible consequences of a third DUI conviction.
You can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California if you drive:
In other words, you can be convicted of a DUI based on BAC or actual impairment.
For most purposes, a DUI is considered a "third offense" if you have two prior DUI convictions that occurred within the past ten years.
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 have had two DUI-related license suspensions in the past ten years, the third administrative suspension will be:
As discussed below, a DUI conviction will also lead to license suspension.
A third-offense DUI is typically a misdemeanor. The specific penalties you'll face for a third DUI conviction depend on the circumstances. However, here are the ranges of possible penalties.
Jail time. While you can expect to serve a minimum of 120 days in jail, the court can order up to one year of jail time. Your attorney may be able to negotiate alternative sentences like community service or house arrest.
Costs. Fines range from $390 to $1,000, but a variety of fees and "penalty assessments" will significantly increase the amount the offender actually pays.
License suspension. A third DUI conviction will result in a three-year license suspension. (The administrative and criminal suspension periods are allowed to overlap, so the total suspension time won't exceed three years.)
Probation. Third offenders generally must complete three to five years of probation.
DUI school. All third offenders must complete an 18-month DUI school.
Restricted licenses. A motorist can apply for a restricted license—which requires an ignition interlock device—for driving to and from places like work and school. However, there's a 12-month waiting period to get a restricted license for third DUIs involving only drugs.
IID requirements. All third offenders must have an IID for at least 24 months, whether as part of the restricted license or following license reinstatement.