California law is pretty clear when it comes to the penalties associated with a conviction for driving under the influence. It may differ slightly from county to county but, overall, it is pretty straightforward.
The standard California DUI penalties are listed here for your reference:
First Conviction for DUI:
1. The Court will order that you enroll in, attend and complete an alcohol program. Typically this would be a 6-month program but if you have a high blood alcohol level, in some counties you will be required to complete a 9-month program.
2. You will be ordered to pay fines ranging from $390.00 to $1,000.00. But keep in mind, the court may, and usually does, add on miscellaneous fines and fees.
3. The Court can impose jail time of 48 hours to 6 months. Typically however, on a first offense the Court does not impose jail time.
4. Your sentence will most likely include a three-year informal probation. The Court can however impose a five-year probation but typically does not.
5. In some counties, the Court will restrict your driving privilege for 90 days. But, because the DMV automatically suspends your driving privilege, on a first time offense, the Court usually does not.
6. Some counties will order 96 hours to 6 months jail time in lieu of probation, along with fines and a 6-month license suspension. But the 3 years informal probation is most typical.
Second Conviction for DUI:
1. The fine is usually the same as a first offense, $390.00 to $1,000.00, plus any additional fees the Court imposes.
2. Jail time ranges from 10 days to 1 year but, there are alternatives to jail time and ways to serve your time without actually being incarcerated. To read more about this, see my page on sentencing alternatives.
3. Three to five years of informal probation.
4. Enroll in and complete an 18 month alcohol program. Some counties will require a 30-month program, along with a restricted license for the duration of the program.
5. An 18-month suspension of your driving privilege.
Third Conviction for DUI:
1. The fines are the same as with a first and second offense, along with any miscellaneous fees.
2. The Court may impose jail time of 120 days to 1 year.
3. Your driving privilege will be revoked for a period of three years.
4. The Court will require you to attend and complete an 18-30 month alcohol program.
Fourth Conviction for DUI:
If you are convicted of a fourth DUI within 10 years, you will be charged with a felony. The fines are similar to the first three convictions but the penalties otherwise are much more harsh.
1. Jail time can range from 180 days to two or three years in prison.
2. Your driving privilege will be revoked for 4 years.
3. You will be required to attend and complete an 18-month alcohol program.
4. The court may impose three to five years of probation.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend or revoke your driving privilege as follows:
1st Offense: 4-month suspension. However, if you refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test, (which is referred to as simply a “refusal”), it is an automatic 1 year suspension.
2nd Offense: 1-year suspension. For a refusal, your license will be revoked for two years.
3rd Offense: Your license will be revoked for three years. For a refusal, the penalty is the same, a three-year revocation.
4th Offense: A four-year revocation for a conviction as well as a refusal.
Although the penalties are standard in California, when someone is arrested for DUI, it shouldn’t be assumed that they would automatically be convicted and given the standard sentence. Many things come into play when someone is being pulled over and ultimately arrested. Law enforcement officers must adhere to strict guidelines, starting with probable cause to pull a person over. For example, if a police officer see’s someone leaving an establishment where alcohol is served at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night, they cannot follow and pull that person over just to see whether or not they have had too much to drink.
The type of tests used to arrest someone, whether it be a roadside breathalyzer, police station intoxilyzer or a blood draw, all must be looked at carefully to be sure that the instruments were functioning properly and the blood draw handled according to the guidelines required.