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What Are the Penalties for a First DUI Offense in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

Getting a DUI is an unpleasant experience to say the least. As upsetting as it is, it is important to take prompt action and contact a California DUI lawyer for assistance. Most people think that if they have been cited for a DUI, they are basically doomed. This is not always the case. There are many factors that can affect a DUI charge. With the help of qualified legal counsel, it is possible to sometimes lessen the charges, strike a plea deal, or even have the charges dismissed altogether.

That said, if you are convicted of a DUI in California and it is your first offense, the penalties are:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • 3-5 years' probation
  • $390 to $1,000 fine
  • 3 or 9-month alcohol or drug class
  • 6-10 month license suspension, often changed to a restricted license (UPDATE 2019: Most drivers can continue driving without limitation if they get an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car for 6 months. California Senate Bill 1046 (2019))

If there are aggravating factors, these penalties will be more severe. Aggravating factors include:

  • Refusal to take a chemical test
  • Your involved in an accident
  • Speeding
  • Children (under 14 yrs. old) are in the vehicle
  • You are under 21 yrs. old

If someone was hurt as a result of your DUI incident, the fines become far more serious. This offense is set out in CA Vehicle Code 23153 VC. It is also called a “wobbler” which means that it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the particular circumstances of the case. The penalties for a misdemeanor include:

  • 3-5 years probation
  • 5 days to up to 1 year in jail
  • $390 to $5,000 in fines
  • Restitution

If it is classified as a felony, the penalties are:

  • 2, 3, or 4 years in prison
  • $1015 to $5,000 in fines
  • Additional 3-6 years in prison if there was great bodily injury
  • 18-30 months of DUI school (Read our article, "Does California DUI School work?")
  • 3 years of habitual traffic offender status
  • 5-year license revocation (UPDATE 2019: Some drivers can continue driving without limitation if they get an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car for 6 months. California Senate Bill 1046 (2019)) 

Also read our article about IID requirements in California DUI cases

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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