California DUI Penalties

DUI penalties in California vary widely. For example, individuals could potentially serve anywhere from no time in jail, up to 16 years in state prison. The severity of criminal penalties for a given offense is based on two primary factors: the defendant's prior history of DUI convictions (if any) and whether anyone was injured as a result of the DUI.

dui penalties california san pedro dui attorney don hammond
dui penalties california san pedro dui attorney don hammond

These factors determine whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony. First and second misdemeanor convictions carry moderate penalties, with heavier penalties reserved for 3rd and subsequent offenses. Felony DUI convictions receive the most severe sentences.

DUI penalties vary substantially based on two primary factors: any history of prior DUI convictions and whether anyone was injured due to the defendant driving under the influence.

As defined by California Vehicle Code 23152(a), most DUIs are misdemeanors. However, if a defendant has four or more prior DUI convictions within ten years and/or someone else is injured due to the defendant’s driving while intoxicated, then the defendant can be charged with a felony.

Additionally, California DUIs are priorable, which means that repeat DUI convictions within a ten-year period result in increasingly harsher penalties. The ten-year “lookback” or “washout” period also includes wet reckless convictions in California, as well as convictions in other states which, if committed in California, would be considered a DUI offense.

The following provides an overview of the types of California DUIs and their corresponding penalties.

1st offense (misdemeanor)

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • $390 - $1,000 Fine
  • Six to ten months Driver’s License suspension; eligible for restricted license
  • Three or nine months DUI School

2nd offense (misdemeanor)

  • 96 hours to one year in county jail
  • $390 - $1,000 Fine
  • Two years Driver’s License suspension; eligible for restricted license after 12 months
  • 18 or 30 months DUI School

3rd offense (misdemeanor)

  • 120 days to one year in county jail
  • $390 - $1,000 Fine
  • Three years Driver’s License suspension; eligible for restricted license after 18 months
  • 30 months DUI School

DUI with injury (misdemeanor)

  • Five days to one year in county jail
  • $390 - $1,000 Fine plus victim restitution
  • One to three years Driver’s License suspension
  • 3, 18, or 30 months DUI School

DUI with injury (felony)

  • 16 months to 16 years in prison
  • $1,015 - $5,000 Fine plus victim restitution
  • Five years Driver’s License suspension
  • 18 or 30 months DUI School

Felony DUI

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in prison
  • $390 - $1,000 Fine
  • Four years Driver’s License suspension
  • 18 or 30 months DUI School

Additional consequences of a DUI conviction may include probation, insurance rate increases or cancellation, and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in one’s vehicle.

Aggravating factors for sentencing

Certain facts and circumstances at the time of a driving under the influence arrest can lead to increased DUI penalties. Most of these factors apply regardless of whether the DUI charge is a misdemeanor or felony.

Among the most common aggravating factors are:

  • Refusing to submit to a chemical blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.
  • Causing an accident while DUI.
  • Speeding and/or reckless driving while DUI.
  • Having a BAC of .15 or higher.
  • DUI while transporting a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle.
  • Being under 21 years of age at the time of the DUI.