What Happens If You Get a DUI in California?

Sep 15, Law Office of Conor Bell

Being issued a DUI in the state of California is no light matter. This serious offense can result in license suspension, heavy fines, jail time, and even trouble finding work in the future. If you have been issued a DUI, you may feel that life will never be the same again. It can bring feelings of hopelessness, regret, and even shame. Understanding exactly what can occur if you are issued a DUI can give you a better chance of fighting some of these harsher punishments.

What happens if you get a DUI in California?

First DUI

Whether it is your first DUI or not, if convicted, you can still face numerous charges. A DUI charge in California asserts that you are violating two laws: The first is Vehicle Code 23152 (a), which makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The second is Vehicle Code 23152 (b), which declares it illegal to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or higher. When convicted, you can be charged with both or either one of these charges.

Your first DUI will be considered a misdemeanor and not a felony if no one was seriously injured or killed in a traffic accident. In the case that your actions have caused a serious injury or death, the DUI will be charged as a felony.

Factors that Affect Your DUI sentence

DUIs differ in degrees of seriousness, and although every DUI will come with penalties, a DUI may be more serious if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • Your BAC (Blood-alcohol concentration) level is 0.15% or above.
  • You were driving 20mph over the speed limit.
  • There was a person in your vehicle under the age of 14.
  • There was a death or injury caused by you driving under the influence.

Circumstances That May Reduce Your DUI Sentence

Having a Truckee DUI lawyer helping you during a DUI case may increase the chances of getting your charges reduced. An attorney can evaluate your unique case and work with you to find all the possible ways to create a strategy that demonstrates expertise and skill.

Some factors that could help get your sentence lowered are the following:

  • It is your first DUI. The prosecutor may be more lenient if it is your first DUI, especially if you have an otherwise clean criminal record.
  • Your BAC is between 0.08-0.1%
  • The prosecutor is unable to prove who the driver of the vehicle is. In some circumstances, such as in an accident where everyone has left their vehicles, or if an officer has traced you to your car through your license number, not enough evidence can be established to prove without a doubt that you were the one driving.
  • Evidence of police misconduct is presented to the court.

Multiple DUI Offenses

DUIs stay on your record for ten years, therefore if you are issued another one before that ten-year period runs out, you are subject to face even greater penalties including any of the following:

  • Minimum jail time of 96 hours and maximum jail time of one year.
  • Up to two-year license suspension, with no restricted driving allowed the first year.
  • Higher fines and less leniency in DMV hearings.


What Are Punishments for a First-time DUI in CA?

Punishments for first-time DUI offenders are issued on a case-by-case basis, but they can include:

  • Installation of an ignition interlock device. This device acts as a breathalyzer test. The driver must blow into it at random intervals while operating their vehicle. If the device detects alcohol in the breath, the vehicle will turn off and alert authorities. The installation costs around $500, and it is typically used for 6-10 months.
  • Fines. In the state of California, first-time DUI offenders can receive fines ranging from $390-$2,000.
  • Mandatory Informal Probation. Probation time can range from 3-5 years and could involve periodic check-ins with the court, proving that you are abiding by all rules/regulations and paying your fees, counseling, DUI classes, or community service.

How Long do You Stay in Jail for a DUI in California?

If the DUI is considered a misdemeanor, then most people will be released from jail within a couple of hours of their arrest. However, if testing was refused, then a mandatory 2-4 days of jail time could be issued. The maximum sentence for a DUI charged as a misdemeanor is 180 days.

Typically, only first-time DUI offenders receive a misdemeanor charge. If you have had multiple DUI convictions, or if you have injured or killed another person in a traffic accident, you are more likely to receive a felony charge which can result in years spent in jail.

Do You Lose Your License for a First DUI in CA?

A license suspension for a first-time DUI in California is not automatic. With the help of an experienced Truckee DUI attorney, you could challenge this charge and avoid license suspension. If you do not request a DMV hearing within 10 days of the charge, or if you lose your DMV hearing, then license suspension is likely.

Is Jail Time Mandatory for a First DUI in California?

Jail time is not mandatory for a first-time DUI in California, but it could be issued under certain circumstances or in certain counties. If your DUI charge is categorized as a felony rather than a misdemeanor, then jail time could extend up to 10 years. A felony charge is typically only issued if someone was injured or killed as a result of driving under the influence, if there was a minor in the vehicle, or if the driver was exceeding the speed limit by over 20 mph.

Seek Help for your DUI Charge

For many years, Conor Bell and his team have been working to help those with DUI charges, fiercely defending their rights. If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important to act right away. Contact an experienced attorney immediately to identify how your sentence might be reduced. The Law Office of Conor Bell is here to help you fight your DUI charge in Truckee, California. Contact our team today.