California's DUI Laws and Penalties

Penalties In California, there are various ways to violate the DUI laws depending on the type of substance consumed, or even the classification of the driver. While California laws are consistently changing as it relates to DUI, here is a list of the various laws created to criminalize driving under the influence:

  • (a) Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • (b) Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more
  • (c) Driving while being addicted to the use of any drug
  • (d) Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .04% or more
  • (e) (Commencing July 1, 2018) Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or more when a passenger for hire is a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense (e.g., Uber, Lyft)
  • (f) Driving under the influence of any drug
  • (g) Driving under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drug

If a person is charged with a first offense of DUI within the last ten years, then any of these violations can carry a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine (plus penalty assessments and fees). However, if an individual has prior conviction(s) for a DUI related offense within the last ten years, then the maximum and minimum punishments drastically increase. For example:

  1. With one prior DUI related conviction within the last 10 years = max. punishment is 1 year in custody; min. punishment is 96 hours in custody
  2. With two prior DUI related convictions within the last 10 years = max punishment is 2 years in custody; min. punishment is 120 days in custody
  3. With three prior DUI related convictions within the last 10 years = potential felony where max. punishment is 3 years in custody; minimum punishment is 180 days in custody

NOTE: The potential punishment in terms of jail/custody time is in addition to other probationary conditions, such as fines/fees and alcohol programs.

It is also important to realize that having a prior conviction for a DUI related offense is not the only way that a person can receive jail/custody as a punishment. In some circumstances, the law requires that an individual be sentenced to jail/custody even if convicted of a first offense! In these situations, it is often the circumstances surrounding the DUI that causes additional “special allegations” or enhancements to be added to the DUI in order to make it more serious. Here are just a few examples and the potential additional punishments:

  • If you willfully refuse to submit to or complete a blood-alcohol concentration evidentiary test after arrest under California’s Implied Consent Law, then the law requires that a person receive an additional 2 days of jail in a first offense; 4 days in jail in a second offense; 10 days in jail for a third offense; and 18 days in jail in a fourth offense. This is in addition to any other sentence. (CVC 23577)
  • If you drive a vehicle 30 miles or more over the speed limit on a freeway in a reckless manner OR drive 20 miles or more over the speed limit in a reckless manner on a street or highway, then you must receive a minimum of 60 days in jail in addition to any other sentence. This is even on a first offense! (CVC 23582)
  • If one or more of the passengers in your vehicle was/were a minor under the age of 14 years old when the driver was DUI, then the law requires that the driver receive 48 continuous hours in jail in a first offense; 10 days in jail for a second offense; 30 days in jail for a third offense; and 90 days in jail for a fourth offense. This is in addition to any other sentence.

These are only a few of the circumstances in which the law requires a person receive custody/jail for even a first offense, and it drastically increases the minimum jail time required in multiple offense DUIs.

In addition to the potential jail/custody sentence that a person can receive for a DUI offense, the law also requires in most instances (unless the maximum punishment is given) that the person be granted probation. In most instances when a misdemeanor is charged, the probation is informal (i.e., summary) wherein they are not supervised by the Probation Department of the county, but they must abide by the probation conditions ordered by the Court or else they will receive additional punishment, including the possible maximum jail/custody time in the case. There are many different probationary conditions that can be imposed by the Court, but here are a few of the standard terms and conditions of DUI probation:

  • Fines and fees ($390+penalty assessment plus any court fees) = this often is calculated in the neighborhood of +/- $2000
  • Alcohol program = 3/6/9 month program for a 1st offense; 18 month program on a 2nd offense; 18 month or 30 month program on a 3rd offense
  • Cannot drive with ANY alcohol in your system
  • Cannot drive without a valid license and insurance
  • In some circumstances, the person can also be ordered to complete Volunteer Community Service, CALTRANS, work release, or home confinement/secured electronic confinement. This can be instead (“in lieu”) of jail/custody time, or in addition to jail/custody time.

All of these court penalties are in addition to the license suspensions that can occur as a result of the Administrative Per Se DMV suspension, and a separate license suspension that occurs after a person is convicted of ANY of the above listed offenses in the criminal court. The length of the license suspensions, and the potential ability to obtain a restricted license during part/all of the suspension period depends on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. the driver’s history of DMV suspensions and/or DUI related convictions;
  2. the exact charges and allegations a person was convicted of in the criminal court;
  3. the timing of the different suspension periods (i.e., Administrative Per Se suspension versus the suspension following any court conviction); and
  4. whether a “refusal” pursuant to California’s Implied Consent law is alleged.

These are just a few of the different factors, history and circumstances that could drastically change the length and nature of any license suspension issued by the DMV either because of the Administrative Suspension following the arrest, or after any criminal court conviction. Due to the complexity of DUI license suspensions, it is highly advisable to consult with a knowledge DUI lawyer in order to best understand the potential suspensions that the DMV may attempt to impose in your case.”

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