California DUI Law: What are the Penalties and Fines? (With Chart)

Related Articles

There are multiple penalties for every level of driving under the influence (DUI) infraction in California. Defendants faced with DUI penalties should review Vehicle Code (VC) Section 23152, the details of their case and their criminal record. That section helps a defendant determine whether the penalties stated are standard or not. A defendant should expect additional penalties if they have committed a separate offense in addition to a DUI, such as property damage incurred in a hit and run accident, per VC Section 20002.

The penalties noted here are the standard penalties for an adult 21 or over who has committed only a DUI offense. The penalties for a defendant who has committed an additional offense or who is under 21 differ. According to VC Section 23136, California has zero tolerance laws for drivers under 21 who drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or more. According to VC Section 23152, there are also different penalties for a motorist with a commercial driver’s license.

All standard penalties for a DUI include fines, jail time, driver’s license suspension and probation.

California DUI Penalties

Jail Time Fine  License Suspension Ignition Interlock Device Installed Probation

1st DUI

Typically between 48 hours and 6 months

$390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments

6 months

6 months

3 to 5 years informal probation

2nd DUI

96 hours to 1 year

$390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments  

2 years

1 year

3 to 5 years informal probation

3rd DUI 

120 days to 1 year

$390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments  

3 years

2 years

3 to 5 years informal probation

4th + DUI, when charged as a felony

2 to 3 years in state prison

$390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments  

4 year driver's license revocation

3 years

3 to 5 years formal probation

California Vehicle Code and California Penal Code

Penalties for a First DUI

According to California penalties curated by the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, as well as VC Section 23152, VC 23153, VC 23573, California Penal Code Sections 17 and PC 19, for a first DUI charged as a misdemeanor, the fine ranges from $390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments. An offender may serve between 48 hours and six months in jail. In some cases, a judge may be lenient and not require the offender to spend time in jail. The offender can expect to serve from three to five years of informal probation.

The offender’s driver’s license will be suspended by the criminal court for six months. For the first offense, offenders may be required to install ignition interlock devices (IID) on their vehicles for six months. There is typically an initial charge to install an interlock program, as well as a daily monitoring charge for the device.

The offender is required to complete a three, six or nine-month DUI school. The cost of DUI school varies; a three-month program typically starts at about $500.

A judge is less likely to be lenient with a first-time DUI offender who has a juvenile record or one or more convictions on their adult criminal record. This is true even if the offender’s past convictions do not relate to substance abuse.

Penalties for a Second DUI

For a second DUI charged as a misdemeanor, the fine ranges from $390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments. An offender must serve between 96 hours to one year in jail. There is an exception to this rule if the first DUI was within 10 years of the second. (See the section on priorable DUIs.)

Depending on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s criminal history, an offender who commits a second DUI may be able to complete jail time through house arrest, in a residential rehabilitation facility or by attending a jail alternative work program, according to VC 2900.5. There is typically a charge to participate in a jail alternative work program, and there may be a charge to participate in a residential substance abuse treatment program, depending on the offender’s income.

For the second offense, the offender must complete from three to five years of informal probation. The offender’s driver’s license will be suspended by the criminal court for two years. The offender also may be required to install an IID on their vehicle for one year. The offender must complete an 18- or 30-month course at DUI school; the cost of DUI school varies.

Penalties for a Third DUI

For a third DUI charged as a misdemeanor, the fine ranges from $390 and $1,000, plus penalty assessments. An offender must serve between 120 days to one year in jail. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s criminal history, an offender who commits a third offense may be able to complete jail time through house arrest, in a residential rehabilitation facility or attend a jail alternative work program.

The offender must serve from three to five years of informal probation and their driver’s license will be suspended by the criminal court for three years. The offender may be required to install an IID on their vehicle for three years and complete an 18- or 30-month course at a DUI school.

Penalties for a Fourth DUI

A prosecutor has the option of charging a fourth DUI as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. This usually occurs when there are mitigating circumstances, such as a BAC just over the legal limit or the offender completes a voluntary substance abuse treatment program shortly after arrest.

A prosecutor can also charge a fourth or subsequent DUI as a felony. The fines that can be levied for a fourth or subsequent DUI charged as a felony are the same as for a third DUI charged as a misdemeanor, but the jail time is more severe. The fine for either a misdemeanor or felony DUI ranges from $390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments.

In the case of a felony DUI, an offender must serve between two to three years in state prison rather than county jail and may be required to serve a term of formal probation from three to five years. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked by the criminal court for four years. The offender may be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for three years and complete an 18-month or 30-month DUI school.

Getting a Felony Conviction

According to the Restoration of Rights Project, an offender convicted of a felony DUI loses a number of civil rights. The California Secretary of State clarifies these to include the right to vote while imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction. A felon also loses the right to own a firearm. They are not eligible to enlist in the Armed Forces and are disqualified from serving on a California jury.

Aggravating Factors and California DUI Penalties

When there are aggravating factors in a case, an offender can expect to see additional penalties. According to VC 23578, aggravating factors include having a BAC higher than 0.15 percent. Aggravating factors can also include causing injury or death in the course of the DUI; having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI; and driving at an excessive speed. Excessive speed includes speeds of more than 20 mph over the speed limit on city streets and more than 30 mph over the speed limit on freeways.

As an example of how an aggravating factor can affect penalties, a first-time DUI offender can be charged with felony DUI if the offense resulted in the injury or death of a passenger or pedestrian.

Administrative Penalties for DUI

The California Department of Motor Vehicles' regulations require administrative penalties regarding driver’s license suspension for DUI offenders. For example, a first-time offender with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater on a chemical test faces a DMV administrative suspension of four months. The administrative suspension lasts one year if the offender refuses a blood or breath test.

A second-time offender with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more faces an administrative suspension of one year. The offender’s driver’s license will suffer an administrative revocation for two years if the offender refuses a blood or breath test. A third-time offender with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more will face an administrative suspension of one year. The offender’s driver’s license will suffer an administrative revocation for three years if the offender refuses a blood or breath test.

A fourth-time or more offender with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more faces an administrative suspension of three years. The offender’s driver’s license will suffer an administrative revocation for three years if the offender refuses a blood or breath test. Administrative suspensions usually run concurrently with criminal court license suspensions.

Meaning of Priorable Offenses

The term priorable means a DUI charge incurred within a certain period can be considered to be a subsequent DUI. According to VC 23540 and VC 23622, the relevant period is 10 years. As an example, if an offender was convicted of a DUI five years earlier, the prosecutor may charge a DUI that the offender committed last week as a second DUI.

A prior DUI conviction also counts if it was incurred in a state other than California where a DUI is defined as an offense that involved intoxication and impaired driving. Even a prior DUI that has been expunged can count as a priorable offense. One exception to the rule regarding jail time is an offender who is convicted of a DUI within 10 years of another DUI must serve between 90 days and one year in jail, according to VC 23540.

Getting a Restricted License

According to regulations of the California Department of Motor Vehicles regarding DUIs, typically, a first offender is eligible to apply for a restricted license to drive to and from places deemed necessary, such as work and school. A restricted license requires that the offender install an ignition interlock device on the vehicle. With a restricted license, the offender can begin driving a vehicle after they are released from jail or a rehabilitation facility.

A second-time offender has to wait one year before applying for a restricted license, and a third-time offender is eligible to apply for a restricted license after 18 months.

Understanding a DUI Fine

In California, a DUI fine ranges from $390 to $1,000. According to the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, the fine can increase by thousands of dollars because of penalty assessments. There are 12 types of additional fees, which vary between $1 for every $10 of a fine to $100 for every misdemeanor conviction.

Penalty assessments are used for a wide variety of purposes, from local and state court improvements to DNA identification.

Types of Probation

The two types of probation in California are informal probation and formal probation. Informal probation, also known as summary probation, does not require supervision by a probation officer and typically does not have a cost.

Formal probation, also known as felony probation, requires that the defendant report to a county probation officer and usually costs upwards of $100 a month, depending on the county.

Requirement to Not Drink

A DUI offender is typically required not to consume alcohol while they are on probation. A criminal court may order a DUI offender to participate in a nonresidential substance abuse treatment program, as well as a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A DUI offender is usually required to not have any alcohol in their home while they are on probation.

Victim Impact Panels for DUI Charges

A judge may require an offender convicted of a DUI to attend a Victim Impact Panel (VIP). In this meeting, the offender listens to several DUI victims talk about how a drunk driving event affected them or their loved ones. Many VIPs are organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). There is a fee for attending a VIP, which is separate from attendance at a DUI school.

Victim’s Compensation Fund for DUI Charges

An offender convicted of a DUI that caused a victim to suffer an injury or other types of losses, such as property damage, will likely be required to pay a certain amount of money into the state's victim compensation fund. According to the California Victim's Compensation Board, this fund is called the California Victim’s Compensation Fund.

An offender who is convicted of a DUI that did not cause injury or damage may not have to pay into this fund.

References

About the Author

Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.