California drivers face strict penalties if convicted of violating state DUI laws. DUI convictions are possible if a driver 21 or older exhibits a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or greater upon being administered a breath test. Commercial vehicle drivers may face charges for a BAC of .04 percent or greater. For both repeat DUI offenders and drivers under 21, the state’s “Zero Tolerance” rule applies: DUI conviction can occur due to a BAC of .01 percent or greater.
In California, it is also considered a DUI if one is found to be impaired by illegal drugs, legal drugs with alcoholic ingredients, prescription medications and over-the-counter medications.
California DUI penalties include jail time or community service, license suspension or revocation, fines, DUI programs, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) or an SR-22 filing.
Drivers Under 21
Drivers under the age of 21 cannot carry liquor, beer or wine in a vehicle unless accompanied by an adult. In addition, the container must be full and unopened. If caught with alcohol, a driver in California may have his or her vehicle impounded for 30 days, face a one-year license suspension and receive a fine of up to $1,000.
Drivers 21 and Over
A DUI remains on a driver’s record for 10 years. During that time, any prior DUI convictions are applicable to a new violation. Under California law, drivers are governed by an implied consent for a Breathalyzer, blood or urine test. A driver can be sentenced if he or she refuses to take a test.
In California, a “wet reckless” plea bargain can reduce a sentence from drunk driving to reckless driving. This plea bargain is only applicable if an accident did not occur, the BAC is borderline over the limit and the driver has no prior record of reckless driving. However, in the instance of a future DUI conviction, the original “wet reckless” is considered a DUI conviction, and the current conviction then becomes a second offense.
California has a “three strikes law” in which the third strike leads to life in jail with parole available only after 25 years. While this is mostly applicable to violent crimes, some serious DUI convictions may be subject to this law.
In order for a driver to have his or her license reinstated, the insurance company must file an SR-22 with the DMV. This form proves that the convicted driver has proper financial liability coverage. An SR-22 is required for 5 years following a DUI conviction.
Penalties for a 1st DUI offense
On a first offense, drivers face a one-year license suspension, mandatory enrollment in the educational portion of a DUI program and expensive fines, and jail time ranges from 4 days to 6 months. Fines of $390 to $1,000, plus applicable penalties, often total $1,400 to $2,600. California DUI penalties result in license suspension ranging from 30 days to 10 months, but a temporary restricted license may be granted in some situations. Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties have a mandatory ignition interlock device installation. However, if a driver has a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater, other prior violations on record and refuses a chemical test, he or she is required to install an ignition interlock device regardless of the county. An SR-22 filing, enrollment in a DUI program and treatment are also required.
Penalties for a 2nd DUI offense
Second offenses have jail sentences that range from 10 days to one year. Although fines remain stable at $390 to $1,000, the total after applicable penalties often reaches $1,800 to $2,800. Standard license suspension is for two years, but it is reducible to one year in some circumstances. An ignition interlock device is required regardless of the county. As with a first offense, an SR-22 filing, DUI program enrollment and treatment are mandatory.
Penalties for a 3rd DUI offense
For a 3rd offense, convicted drivers face jail time ranging from 120 days to one year. Total fines and penalties often reach $1,800 to $18,000. California DUI penalties lead to a three-year license suspension with mandatory ignition interlock device installation. In addition to an SR-22 filing, enrollment in a DUI program and treatment, convicted drivers may face vehicle confiscation.