Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense in California. Even first-time offenders can face harsh penalties under the current laws. These laws apply to drivers who live in California as well as out-of-state motorists.
To avoid being charged with and convicted of a DUI in California, drivers must know how the state defines this crime. They also can benefit from knowing how DUIs are punished in California.
California Blood Alcohol Content Levels
Like most states, California establishes stringent blood alcohol content or BAC levels to define driving under the influence. The per se BAC limit for a DUI in California is 0.08 percent. This limit only applies to drivers who are 21 years old and older who drive passenger motor vehicles.
Commercial drivers are held to a more stringent blood alcohol content limit in the state. Because of the risk that their vehicles pose to the public, commercial drivers cannot have a BAC of more than 0.04 percent. If their BACs are over that limit, they can be charged with a commercial DUI.
California likewise has zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot have a blood alcohol content of higher than 0.02 percent. If they drive over this limit, they can be arrested for and charged with a DUI.
Finally, the definition of an aggravated or enhanced DUI in California is driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.16 percent. Drivers with a BAC at or above this percentage can be charged with aggravated DUI, which carries with it harsher penalties and longer jail terms.
California DUI Penalties
Judges in California punish driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with civil fines, jail time and other penalties. The type of punishment that a driver receives will depend on his or her prior DUI record, the damages inflicted in the DUI incidence and whether or not he or she injured or killed someone.
A first-time DUI conviction in California can result in a fine of up to $1800 and up to 48 hours in jail. The offender can also have his or her drivers’ license restricted for up to 90 days and only be able to drive to and from work.
The driver likewise may be required to complete a three-month alcohol treatment program and using an ignition interlock device on his or her car for up to six months. He or she also could be required to have an SR22 certificate for up to three boys.
A second-time DUI conviction in California warrants penalties like 10 days in jail and a fine of $1800. It can also result in taking part in an 18 to 30-month alcohol rehabilitation program and having an IID installed on all of an offender’s vehicles.
The person’s drivers’ license can be revoked for up to one year. Depending on the seriousness of the DUI, the driver also can be sentenced to up to 10 years of probation and be required to carry an SR22 certificate.
A third DUI in California is charged as a felony and can result in the offender being sentenced to 120 days in jail. He or she can also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1800 and have his or her license revoked for up to three years.
The defendant also could be ordered to complete a 30-month alcohol multi-offender program. He or she could also be required to forfeit his or her vehicle indefinitely.
California Implied Consent Law
California utilizes an implied consent law that requires all motorists in the state to submit to testing to determine their blood alcohol contents. It is important to note that this law does not compel drivers to submit to testing before they are arrested for DUI. They only are required to comply with testing after they have been arrested for and charged with this crime.
Motorists who refuse to submit to DUI testing can face civil and criminal penalties. In addition to facing punishments for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can also face a mandatory suspension of their drivers’ license regardless of the outcome of their DUI case.
Further, the state stipulates that drivers must submit to DUI testing under three conditions:
- If law enforcement has a warrant for the test
- If officers suspect a driver of committing a felony DUI
- If a driver commits a DUID or driving under the influence of drugs
Implied consent in California applies to both motorists who are licensed by the state and out-of-state drivers.
California Ignition Interlock Device Pilot Program
The California Department of Motor Vehicles implemented its IID pilot program in 2019. It requires the installation and use of IIDs in the vehicles of all repeat and injury-involved DUI offenders in the state. The device must remain installed in the vehicles for a period of one to four years depending on the circumstances of each offender’s DUI case.
Certain DUI defendants can apply for exemptions from this program, however. The requirements to be exempted from the pilot program are:
- Violations that did not involve drugs or cause injuries
- Repeat offenders whose violations involved drugs only
- Offenders who have been administratively suspended after their convictions
- Offenders approved for IID exemption
DUI defendants can also apply for an exemption if they have met all of the criteria of clearing their driving records of all outstanding suspensions and revocations. They also must pay all of their applicable reissue or restriction fees and carry an SR22 document.
California relies on stringent DUI laws to keep the public safe from intoxicated drivers. This crime carries with it civil penalties, jail time and other penalties. The state’s DUI laws apply to motorists who are licensed by the state as well as people from out-of-state who plan on driving on California’s roadways.