All-Inclusive Guide to California DUI Penalties


California’s DUI penalties are harsh. If you face DUI charges in California, this overview will inform you of what you could be up against.

What You Need to Know About California DUI Penalties


Although drinking and driving is not unusual, people who operate a motor vehicle under the assumption that they’re safe to drive are still subject to California DUI penalties.

If you are pulled over or detained at a routine traffic stop, and the police officer believes you to be impaired, you will likely be given a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Your blood alcohol content will determine whether you will be charged. If you are over the legal limit, you will be the object of a DUI arrest.

According to California law, even a single DUI arrest can have serious repercussions. The consequences are more severe for a subsequent DUI or one with additional aggravating factors. If you are charged with a DUI offense, you should educate yourself about the complex California vehicle code and criminal penalties.

To improve your chances of getting your DUI charges dropped, you should contact a reputable law firm to retain the services of an experienced Van Nuys DUI attorney. Whether it is for your first DUI offense or you have prior convictions, having a reliable attorney by your side can ease your mind as you face your DUI case.


The Most Common DUI Penalties in California

Knowledgable DUI attorneys will explain that avoiding DUI penalties in California can be particularly difficult. The DUI process in CA is complex because both the courts and the DMV are involved. The typical penalties are:

  • DUI probation
  • DUI school attendance
  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • License suspension
  • Restricted license with an ignition interlock device

To avoid losing your license automatically, you have ten days from the arrest to request a DMV hearing. You will be able to retain your license in the interim, and if your criminal case is dropped, your DMV case may also be dismissed. A California DUI attorney can handle both cases for you.


How Much Are Typical California DUI Fines?

Since it is considered a misdemeanor offense, California DUI fines generally run from $390 to $1000 for a first offense, as well as a second DUI and a third DUI. If your drunk driving causes an injury, it can result in $390 to $5000 in fines. When charged with a felony, DUI offenders will receive severe penalties that include over $1,000 in fines.

DUI offenses also receive other penalties based on whether they are an initial or second offense DUI, were committed by commercial drivers, or the driver will plead guilty.

Understanding the California DUI Penalties Chart


When conferring with an experienced attorney, they will likely consult a California DUI penalties chart designed to conduct penalty assessments. The chart divides penalties based on how many prior DUIs a person has and whether anyone has been injured.

DUI laws for adult drivers in CA are divided into Vehicle Code 23152(a) and Vehicle Code 23152(b). The first makes driving under the influence of alcohol illegal, and the second makes it illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of over .08 percent. The code that pertains to DUIs with a commercial driver’s license is Vehicle Code 23152(d), and a person driving under the influence of drugs is charged based on Vehicle Code 23152(f).

A reliable law firm may be able to help you avoid being convicted of a DUI in California.


How to Reduce DUI Charges and Penalties in California


The proper legal counsel can explain how to reduce DUI charges and penalties in California before entering your plea with the judge. Your lawyer will investigate the case looking for discrepancies.

Your counselor may file motions to suppress specific evidence like inaccurate or improperly performed breath tests depending on the case. If you were illegally pulled over or searched, your attorney will likely file motions and negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to reduce DUI penalties or dismiss the charges.

Felony DUI California Penalties


Although your case will likely be a misdemeanor DUI, felony DUI California penalties are more severe. Felony DUI convictions are usually for multiple DUIs within ten years. You can also receive felony DUI charges if you have a prior felony DUI or your impaired actions caused an accident and one or more people were injured or killed.

Some California DUI convictions also carry jail time for California DUIs of 16 months or two to three years in state prison. They may be required to attend 18 or 30 months in a DUI school. Although they might receive a driver’s license suspension of up to 5 years, in many cases, they can continue to drive if they install and use an ignition interlock device.


California DUI Penalties First Offense


Driving while intoxicated is a serious crime, and California DUI penalties for a first offense can have long-term effects. The direct costs include:

  • County jail sentence of up to 6 months
  • DUI school for 3 or 9 months
  • Fines of $390 to $1000
  • Six months with an ignition interlock device or suspended driver’s license for 4 to 10 months 

If you are arrested for DUI, you should immediately contact a law firm with experience defending drunk driving charges. The accumulated expenses can climb to around $15,000 when you factor in court fees, DMV costs, and other expenses. 

A first offense DUI conviction carries a minimum of three days in jail and a sentence of up to six months. With the proper legal counsel, you may be able to persuade the judge to give informal probation rather than jail time.


Choosing a DUI Defense Attorney 

Whether you are arrested for your first DUI or have a prior DUI, you should retain the services of an attorney familiar with California DUI laws. Developing a good attorney-client relationship with a criminal defense attorney in Sherman Oaks can be an integral part of waging a successful fight against a possible conviction and penalties.

A first-time DUI charge is no laughing matter. Even if you thought you were driving safely or were under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medication rather than alcohol while driving, you would still face repercussions. A skilled and compassionate lawyer will work with you to develop a strong defense strategy for your DUI cases.

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