Legal Professional?
Build Your Business

California DUI DWI Penalties



In California, DUI penalties vary depending on a number of factors. These include whether you are a repeat offender, whether a child under the age of 14 was in the car at the time of the DUI, and whether you were drinking and driving with a suspended or restricted license.

As in the rest of the country, a DUI in California, also known as a DWI, is a serious crime. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you should contact a California DUI lawyer. Having an experienced attorney on your side could, at the very least, help reduce the severity of your punishment.

Factors that Affect California DUI Penalties

There are a number of factors that can increase the severity of your California DUI penalty. Even if you are a first-time offender, you could face serious felony charges if some of these factors are met.

Factors that could increase the severity of your DUI punishment include:

  • If your DUI causes serious injury to another person or serious property damage
  • If you are caught drinking and driving with a suspended or restricted license or if you are caught drinking and driving without a license
  • If a child under the age of 14 is present in the car at the time of your arrest
  • If you are speeding at the time of your DUI
  • If your blood-alcohol is .15 percent or higher

Penalties for First-Time Offenders in California

In California, drunk driving is considered a misdemeanor. If you are caught drinking and driving and no factors are involved that would warrant enhanced penalties, you could face:

  • Three to five years of court probation
  • Fines and fees ranging from $1,400 to $1,800
  • Six-month driver's license suspension
  • Attendance at a California DUI school
  • Mandatory 48 hours of jail time

As of July 2010, those convicted in Alameda County, Tulare County, Sacramento County, and Los Angeles Country are required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. This device does not allow the driver to start the vehicle unless his or her blood-alcohol content is well below the legal limit. This device must remain installed in the vehicle for five months.

Penalties for Second-Time Offenders

A second-time California drunk driving offense is still considered a misdemeanor. However, penalties do increase. The following are some of the penalties you could face:

  • Three to five years of court probation
  • Fines and fees ranging from $1,800 to $2,800
  • Suspension of your driver's license for two years
  • DUI school
  • Mandatory jail time of 96 hours with many counties requiring 10 to 30 days

Penalties for Third-Time Offenders in California

Under California DWI laws, a third-time DUI offender is still guilty of a misdemeanor-level crime. If this third offense occurs within 10 years of the other two offenses, the driver will face even more serious penalties than his past two convictions.

These penalties include:

  • Three to five years of court or formal probation; formal probation means you will have to report to a probation officer
  • Fines and fees ranging from $1,800 to $2,500
  • Suspension of your driver's license for up to three years
  • DUI school
  • Mandatory jail time of at least 120 days with some counties insisting on jail time of 210 days to one year

Felony California DUI

Although drunk driving offenses in California are usually misdemeanors, there are certain circumstances that could warrant a felony DUI conviction in California.

Specifically, a fourth or subsequent DUI offense is a felony crime in California. This crime can lead to up to three years in a state prison, as well as the permanent loss of your driver's license.

You can also be charged with felony DUI in California if your DUI caused severe injury or death to another individual. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be charged with either DUI causing injury, vehicular manslaughter, or even second-degree murder.

Finally, you can also get a felony DUI conviction if you have been convicted of felony DUI in the past. This means that if your first DUI offense caused injury and constituted a felony DUI, then any subsequent DUI could count as felony DUI.