You can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California if you drive:
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’ve been convicted or had your license suspended for a DUI twice 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 three years if you refuse chemical testing in violation of California’s implied consent laws.
A third-offense DUI is typically a misdemeanor. While you can expect to serve a minimum of 120 days in jail, the court can order up to one year imprisonment. Your attorney may be able to negotiate alternative sentences like community service or house arrest. 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 third DUI in California also include three to five years of probation, an 18-month DUI school, and 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.) A motorist can, however, apply for a restricted license—which requires an ignition interlock device—for driving to and from places like work and school. (There's a 12-month waiting period to get a restricted license for third DUIs involving only drugs.) All third offenders must have an IID for at least 24 months, whether as part of the restricted license or following license reinstatement.
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.