Penalties for DUI Offenses in California

California DUI law

Each State within the United States is given the authority to write their own laws on Driving Under the Influence of alcohol, or better known as DUI. Within this article, we will explore the different DUI laws specific to the State of California, including penalties. To begin with, there is what is known as a "Lookback Period", where for a period of ten years prior to the current DUI you are facing, any of the DUI's you may have are included in the relevancy of the sentencing you are now facing. This is also known as "washout" period. 

What constitutes as a high BAC for a DUI in California?

  • Under 21: .01%
  • 21 or Older: .08%

There is never an acceptable time to drink and drive, as your vision, responses, along with your mental capacity to make quick and important decisions and judgments, are severely hindered and not capable of bouncing back to what you are able to perform without alcohol in your system. Each person is different and their tolerance level for alcohol is severely unpredictable making it impossible to say how many drinks are "normal" or not. This is what requires law enforcement to perform chemical testing on suspected DUI offenders. If you are pulled over and are requested to take a chemical test in order to determine your BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, California has an implied consent law. This means, that if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you will be subject to a fine and automatic license suspension. For refusal to take the chemical test, the penalties are as follows:

  • First Offense: 1 year license suspension
  • Second Offense: 2 year license suspension
  • Third Offense: 3 year license suspension

What are the penalties within the DUI laws of California?

There are several penalties within the California DUI laws, and we will explore them in this section. Should you be pulled over and found guilty of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol within the boarders of the State of California, the following will be the consequences you will be facing:

Penalty of Jail:

  • First Offense: 4 days to 6 months
  • Second Offense: 10 days to 1 year
  • Third Offense: 120 days to 1 year
  • Fourth Offense (within 10 months of third DUI): 16 months

Penalties and Fines:

  • First Offense: up to $1,000
  • Second Offense: up to $1,800
  • Third Offense: up to $1,800
  • Fourth Offense (within 10 months of third DUI): up to $1,800

Penalty of License Suspension:

  • First Offense: 30 days to 10 months
  • Second Offense: 2 years (which can be reduced to 1)
  • Third Offense: 3 years
  • Fourth Offense (within 10 months of third DUI): 4 years

Penalty of Interlock Ignition Device:

For the first offense (in some counties), and in each and every other offense, an Ignition Interlock Device is required to accompany you in each and every day on your vehicle and without exception. 

Specific Californai DUI laws

While driving in the State of California, the following is illegal:

  • Drivers under 21 may not carry unsealed beer, wine, or liquor in their vehicle while they are driving alone. (There are work related driving exceptions)
  • Drivers under 21 may not drive with a BAC of .01% or higher
  • Drivers under 21 my not consume alcohol in any form, including cough syrup and prescription drugs
  • Any driver may not drive with a BAC of .08% or higher 
  • The driver of any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license may ot drive with a BAC of .04% or higher
  • A driver under 18 may not drive with ANY measurable BAC (Zero tolerance)
  • Repeat offenders may not drive with a BAC of .01% or greater


It is important to note that laws often change, as well as their interpretation and application of them. Due to the fact that there are multiple jurisdictions within a State, and each may choose to enforce those laws differently, it will be very important to prepare for the unexpected. For this reason, it would be in your best interest to retain the services of an experienced and professional lawyer who is well versed in California DUI laws and capable of giving you the direction you need for your specific case, along with being fully aware of the current laws pertaining to DUI. 


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Category: DUI and DWI