DUI Maximum Penalties And How An Attorney Can Help You

Having a DUI (driving under influence) conviction can be frustrating, and if it happens in California, one of the harshest penalty states in the country, the conviction can be even more daunting and stressful. Sometimes this paralyzes people from taking action and dealing with a DUI problem head-on and immediately. This article will explore DUI worst case scenarios, so you realize that your life will not end and an experienced attorney can help you through it. In California, jail time, heavy fines, and a driver’s license suspension are some of the maximum penalties that a convicted DUI offender can expect.

Despite the general severity of the punishment of DUI convictions in California, the penalties vary based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. For instance, the DUI maximum penalties for a 1st conviction will be significantly different from those for a 3rd conviction within 10 years.

If you are extremely worried about jail time, skip to our article Will I Go to Jail or Prison for a DUI?

In this regard, here are the maximum penalties for DUI convictions depending on circumstances. Look here for quick chart on DUI Penalties in California.

Maximum penalties for a 1st DUI conviction in California

If you are convicted for DUI in California for the 1st time, it will be regarded as a misdemeanor and the maximum penalties will be more lenient when compared to multiple convictions. Apart from the fines of about $390 to $1,000 (plus penalties and assessments, which approximately quintuple the fine amount) that a 1st DUI usually carries, the maximum penalties are:

  • Jail time: The severest penalty for 1st DUI in California is a jail time of as much as 6 months. It should, however, be noted that only a few defendants convicted with DUI for the 1st time will receive a mandatory jail time. Most of them are placed on probation.

  • Probation of 3 years or more: There is usually a 3 year term of informal probation for every 1st DUI conviction in California. However, if the circumstances are more unfavorable, the probation may be for as much as 5 years. If the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than .15%, she or he will be required to attend a 3 month DUI school as a condition of probation. This 3 month DUI school has classes of 30 hours that the offender must attend. Nevertheless, for those with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .20% or higher, the DUI class lasts for 9 months with a compulsory class period of 60 hours.

  • Suspension of license: A 1st DUI conviction will result in a driver’s license suspension, which is usually for a period of 6 months. In case the offender had BAC of 0.08% or more, the Department of Motor Vehicles will also order an administrative suspension of license for 4 months which can overlap the 6 month suspension. Notably, the convicted driver can obtain a restricted license after the completion of a hard suspension period of 30 days, filing an SR-22 (proof of insurance), enrolling in a DUI class (the same one discussed above), and installing an ignition interlock device.

Maximum penalties for a 2nd DUI conviction in California

Though a 2nd conviction for DUI in California is also considered to be a misdemeanor, the penalties are usually more severe than the 1st DUI conviction. The maximum penalties include:

  • Jail time: A 2nd DUI offender risks a sentence of 96 hours to 12 months in jail depending on the BAC and severity of damage caused. Nevertheless, the convicted motorist may not have to serve the jail time as jail-alternative work programs and house arrest can be used as alternatives.

  • Probation of 3 years or more: The judge may order a 2nd DUI defendant to serve as probation of 3 to 5 years depending on the circumstances surrounding the DUI case. In addition, it is essential for the 2nd DUI offender to complete DUI school for about 18 to 30 months with several hours of classes.

  • Suspension of license: A 2 year compulsory suspension is one of the penalties for 2nd DUI convictions with a possibility of an extra 12 month administrative suspension if the offender had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. However, since these suspensions overlap, the offender will not be suspended for more than 2 years. Additionally, upon completion of a 90-day hard suspension period, the defendant may be able to obtain a restricted license.

  • There is also a fine of $390 to $1,000 for a 2nd DUI conviction, plus penalties and assessments.

Maximum penalties for a 3rd DUI conviction in California

A 3rd DUI conviction, which is also regarded as a misdemeanor in California, carries several penalties that vary based on the circumstances of the case. Although the 3rd DUI conviction can also carry a fine of $390 to $1,000, the maximum penalties usually include:

  • Jail time: A 3rd DUI in California carries 120-day to 12-month jail time. However, the jail sentence may be reduced to 30 days if the judge orders probation and a 30-month DUI school for the offender.

  • Probation of 3 years or more: Probation of 3 to 5 years is one of the most common penalties for a 3rd DUI conviction in California with a possible 30-month DUI school.

  • Suspension of license: A 3 year license suspension is often ordered for 3rd DUI convictions with an overlapping 12 month administrative suspension if the motorist had a BAC of at least .08%. After the completion of a 6 month hard suspension or a 1 year hard suspension if drugs are involved, the offender can get a restricted license.

Maximum Penalties for DUI Involving Injuries or Fatalities

If a DUI involves injuries or fatalities, the penalties are more severe. For DUIs with injuries, the convictions can either be in form of a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of injuries caused. Based on the history of the offender, the person may be fined from $390 to $5,000. However, if the offense is a felony, a jail time ranging from 16 months to 4 years may be ordered by the judge.

If fatalities are involved, the case will be prosecuted as a second-degree murder or vehicular manslaughter depending on the situation surrounding the death. If the motorist is convicted of a second-degree murder, this person will spend at least 15 years in prison. In some cases, second-degree murder may carry life imprisonment. However, if it is vehicular manslaughter conviction, a maximum jail time of 1 year and a compulsory fine of $1,000 are the penalties.

Apart from the penalties that a DUI conviction carries, various collateral consequences also come with it. These collateral penalties may sometimes include vehicle impoundment fees, court costs, increased rates of auto insurance, civil damages, costs of alcohol education program, and extra marks on your criminal records. For more information on costs associated with a DUI, check out How Much Does a DUI Really Cost?

How An Attorney Can Help You

Hiring an experienced attorney can make a big difference in the severity of penalties that your convictions will carry. For information about potential defense arguments, check out Making It Though Your DUI Unscathed & Defense Arguments. An attorney can help you in innumerable ways including:

  • Completion and filing of paperwork: There is usually complex paperwork to be completed and filed when you are charged with DUI. The attorney can assist you in completing and filing the paperwork in the right way. Also, the attorney will offer you comprehensive procedures of the things you need to do before, during, or even after a DUI conviction so that the judges may be lenient with the handling of your case.

  • Comprehensive evaluation of evidence and other details of the DUI: A comprehensive evaluation of accident reports, blood alcohol testing, witness statements, field sobriety tests, police reports, and other important evidence can be carried out by independent accident experts and investigators working with the attorney. With the evaluation, the attorney will be able to create a compelling story that will be presented to a judge and or jury so that you can achieve a favorable legal outcome.

  • Court appearance: A seasoned DUI attorney in California can assist with appearing in court as well as hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on your behalf; thus, saving you time. This will also make the stressful, time-consuming, and confusing process involved in DUI cases easier for you. Having an attorney appear for you will also prevent you from missing work and wages

  • Negotiation of lessened or alternative penalties: Furthermore, attorneys can use their expertise to help you with negotiating the charges levied against you so that your specific circumstances can be duly considered to get the best possible legal outcome that is obtainable. This best possible legal outcome usually involves lessened or alternative penalties for DUI. For instance, there have been many cases in the past where the attorney negotiated the reduction of a felony to a standard DUI conviction; thereby, ensuring that the defendant did not spend any time in jail.

Without a doubt, the assistance you can get from an attorney in this regard cannot be quantified as you stand a better chance of facing minimum penalties if your case and the circumstances surrounding it are expertly presented by an attorney. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you get help from an attorney when arrested for DUI in California.

Getting a DUI charge is intimidating, especially if you don’t even know the 1st steps to take, but the situation is not hopeless. If you need assistance, please contact Don Hammond to help you lower or eliminate your sentence in court.

Even after the settlement of the case, there are numerous other process your attorney can help you do like enrolling in a CA DUI Program, applying for a restricted license, reinstating your CA driver’s license, and securing reliable transportation to your job if you’re unable to drive. This is where Don Hammond stands apart from most other DUI attorneys – once the case is settled and they received payment, it’s hard to get a hold of them. Don Hammond will not only help you navigate the legal process, but also the personal and professional process of getting your life back on track.

In conclusion, while this brief helps you avoid getting pulled over for a DUI, we always discourage drinking and driving. Ensure you are safe every time you are driving whether intoxicated or not. It’s not worth the risk to your life or the out-of-pocket expense. For more information about the cost of a DUI, see our article How Much Does a DUI Really Cost?

Sometimes we have slip-ups. At Don Hammond Law, we believe that even good people make bad mistakes, but it doesn’t need to ruin your life. If you need help getting through a DUI, contact us at Don Hammond Law. Getting a DUI charge is intimidating, especially if you don’t even know the 1st steps to take, but the situation is not hopeless. We are here to help.


The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


Get Attorney Don Hammond's published book DUI Arrest,
Now What? A Primer for the Accused today for free.