CALIFORNIA NOT THE STRICTEST STATE ON DRIVERS UNDER THE INFLUENCE
WalletHub recently tallied up the states from the strictest to the most lenient on DUIs. You may be surprised to learn that according to WalletHub’s methodology, California was among the most lenient on DUIs. WalletHub identified 15 key metrics and assigned weighted points to each metric. The key metrics included minimum jail time for 1st and 2nd offenses, the point at which a DUI becomes an automatic felony, minimum fines, automatic license suspension duration, average insurance rate increase after a DUI, and other factors. California ranked among the more lenient states, coming in #34 out of 50 overall.
So where did California rank high? Well, as you might guess given that we have among the most expensive auto insurance rates in the nation, the only metric where California ranked #1 was the average insurance rate increase after a DUI. Indeed, the Auto Club of Southern California reports that a DUI will run a 1st time offender an average of $10,000 more in insurance costs over the ten year look-back period. Let’s just say that Uber or Lyft—even many rides over—will be cheaper than one DUI.
In terms of criminal penalties, California came in at the middle at #23. Our neighbor to the west, Arizona, has the strictest criminal penalties in the nation while Maryland has the most lenient criminal penalties. A conviction for DUI in Arizona carries a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail on a first offense while Maryland has no minimum jail time for a first offense DUI; California’s minimum sentence for a first offense is two days in jail.
But that doesn’t mean that California isn’t tough on DUIs. For 1st and 2nd offense DUIs, California came in 8th and 9th respectively on minimum jail time and 6th for the time the offending driver’s license is suspended after arrest. However, California is more lenient in the number of DUIs allowed within the look-back period before the DUI is an automatic felony. Most states are three strikes and you’re out with laws that make the 3rd DUI an automatic felony; a few states trigger the automatic felony at the second offense. California, in step with about 1/3 of the states, makes it an automatic felony on the fourth DUI within ten years.
Speaking of the look-back period, California is just about average, but some states give drivers a pass after 5 to 7 years while others are tougher. More than a few states have a look-back period of 15 years and a handful of states have a lifetime look-back period.
If you would like to know more about the laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William M. Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008.
 Number of years the DUI is factored into the penalties.