Google+ Twitter Linkedin

California DUI Laws & Penalties

California DUI

When arrested on a drunk driving charge in the state of California the DUI laws state that a person accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is in violation of California vehicle code 23152(a); which states that it is against the law for any person to operate or be in control of a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The person is also in violation of vehicle code 23152(b); which states that it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater. A person arrested for drunk driving will be charged on both counts, 23152(a) driving under the influence and 23152(b) California ‘per se’ law.

It is important to note that if a person’s BAC is less than .08%, they can still be charged with section 23152(a) of the California vehicle code because even though the person’s BAC level was below the legal limit, through either the officer’s observation of the suspect’s mannerisms or by failing the field sobriety tests administered by the officer, the officer felt that the suspect was intoxicated and should not be operating a vehicle.

Being in violation of California vehicle code section 23152(a) and/or 23152(b) are the criminal actions that are taken by the California court system against the accused. In addition to the criminal charges, the California DMV will impose sanctions against a person’s driver’s license for violating the California ‘per se’ law.

Here's an overview of how the California DMV is notified...

Upon arrest, the arresting officer is required to suspend or revoke the accused person’s driver’s license and take possession of the license and send a copy of the suspension or revocation form along with the driver’s license and a copy of the officer’s arrest report to the California DMV.

Get an Instant SR22 Insurance Quote & Filing Now!
Zip Code:

The DMV will then conduct its own internal administrative review of the officer’s arrest report, the suspension or revocation form, blood, breath or urine test results and any additional information that is pertinent to the case. After reviewing the information provided by the officer, the DMV will either uphold the suspension or revocation or reinstate the person’s driving privileges.

It should be noted that better than 90% of the time, the DMV will uphold the suspension or revocation if it is not contested.  That is why it is extremely important for a person accused of DUI to request aDMV administrative hearing within 10 days of being arrested. Failure to do so will result in the suspension or revocation being upheld.

If you wish to have any chance at retaining your driving privilege, it is strongly recommended that you request a hearing in person and not over the phone and that your California DUI lawyer attend the hearing with you in order to present your case.

After the DMV hearing officer has reviewed the information presented to him or her by both the arresting officer and your DUI defense attorney, they will make the final determination as to whether or not the suspension or revocation shall be upheld or dismissed.

You will receive a letter in the mail from the DMV within a few days with their final decision to suspend, revoke or reinstate your driver’s license. If the DMV officer upholds the suspension, you may apply for a restricted license at any DMV office.

California Drivers License Sanctions You Can Expect

If a person is at least 21 years of age or older and submitted to a breath, blood or urine test with a result of .08% or greater, a first offense DUI will result in a 4-month suspension of their driver’s license, if the DMV upholds the suspension. A second or subsequent DUI offense within a 10-year period with a result of .08% or greater will result in a 1-year license suspension.

Anyone who is 21 years of age or older who refuses to submit to a breath, blood or urine test will receive a mandatory 1-year license suspension for a first DUI offense. A second DUI offense within 10 years will result in a mandatory 2-year revocation for test refusal. A third or subsequent offense within 10 years will result in a mandatory 3-year license revocation.

A person under 21 years of age only needs to register a measurable amount of alcohol in their system in order to have their driving privileges suspended for 1-year. A measurable amount means anything at or above a BAC reading of .01%.

Remember, the DMV actions against you are administrative action(s) taken against your driving privileges, they are separate from the criminal proceedings that the California courts will pursue. 

The California DMV lists a more detailed description of vehicle code 23152(a) and (b) here: California DMV DUI Laws

California First Offense DUI Penalties

  • Jail Time - A person who is granted probation and accepts the courts probationary period can face anywhere from no jail time up to 6 months in jail. Any jail time that is assigned is at the judge’s discretion. A person who is not granted probation will face between 96 hours up to 6 months in jail.

  • Fines - The fines for a first offense DUI will be between $390 and $1,000

  • Alcohol Treatment Program - A person convicted of a first time DUI offense who had a BAC reading under .20% will be required to attend a state-licensed and approved 30-hour alcohol and drug program. If a person’s BAC was above .20% they must attend a state-licensed and approved 60-hour alcohol and drug program.

  • Driver’s License Info - The DMV will suspend a person’s driving privileges for 4 months if the person submitted to a breath, blood or urine test. This can be reduced to a 1-month suspension followed by 5 months of restricted driving privileges if the individual provides the DMV with proof of enrollment in DUI School. If the person refused to submit to testing, their license will be suspended for 1-year with no chance of gaining a restricted license. A person will be required to show proof of CA SR22 insurance in order to have their license reinstated.

California Second Offense DUI Penalties

  • Jail Time - A person facing a second California DUI offense within the past 10 years who is granted and accepts probation will receive one of the following jail sentences: 96 consecutive hours in jail, 10 days jail time or up to 1-year in jail. If the accused is not granted probation, the judge can sentence the defendant to 90 days or up to 1-year in jail. A number of counties will insist upon a minimum 10-day jail sentence.

  • Fines - The fines for a second offense DUI are $390 to $1,000

  • Alcohol Treatment Program - A person convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense within a 10-year period must attend a state-licensed and approved 18-month multiple offender alcohol and drug program.

  • Driver’s License Info – The DMV will suspend a person’s driver’s license for 1-year if the person submitted to a breath, blood or urine test and the second offense occurred within the past 10 years. If the person refused to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, their license will be revoked for 2 years if the offense occurred within the past 10 years. If the DMV grants a restricted license, an ignition interlock device will be required along with SR22 insurance.

California Third Offense DUI Penalties

  • Jail Time - A person facing a third California DUI offense within the past 10 years can expect a jail sentence of 120 days to 1-year in jail. The length of the jail sentence is dependant upon the county. A large number of California counties will require at least 210 days in jail.

  •  Fines – The fines for a third offense DUI are $390 to $1,000

  • Alcohol Treatment Program – A person convicted of a third or subsequent DUI offense within a 10-year period must attend a state-licensed and approved 18-month multiple offender program. Some counties including Los Angeles and Stanislaus may require the 30-month ADP program.

  • Driver’s License Info - The DMV will suspend a person’s driver’s license for 1-year if the person submitted to a breath, blood or urine test and the second offense occurred within the past 10 years. If the person refused to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, their license will be revoked for 3 years if the offense occurred within the past 10 years. If the DMV grants a restricted license, an ignition interlock device will be required along with an SR22 filing.

California Fourth or Subsequent Offense DUI Penalties

  • A fourth or subsequent DUI offense within a 10-year period may be considered a felony DUI offense. The penalties for such an offense will be severe including up to 3 years in a state prison, permanent loss of your driving privileges, steep fines and much more.

California SR22 Insurance

California SR22 insurance is required for a period of 3-years following a drunk driving conviction and can be very expensive if you go with the wrong provider.  We have partnered with the largest and most trusted SR22 insurance provider here in the state of California and have worked out a special discount only available here for our website visitors.

You won't be able to find a cheaper SR22 insurance policy in California for any less.  Type in your zip code below so we can provide the cheapest rates in your area.

Get an Instant SR22 Insurance Quote & Filing Now!
Zip Code:

Other California DUI Resources