What are the DUI laws in California?
What about the penalties for breaking these laws?
Is there any way to reduce a DUI charge in the state?
We’re going to answer all these questions and more here.
This way, you’ll know everything you should know about California DUI laws and take the steps to avoid them.
So let’s get into it!
DUI Laws in California
Here is a rundown of the illegal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels in California:
- For adult drivers – you will be charged with DUI if your BAC level is at least 0.08%
- For minors under 21 years old – a BAC of 0.01% already puts you in violation of California’s “zero-tolerance” laws for underage drivers.
- For people holding a commercial license – a BAC of 0.04% will be charged as DUI
What’s more, California implements an “implied consent” law. This means all drivers HAVE to agree to take a blood or breath test if they are arrested for DUI.
If drivers refuse to take the test, they may face further penalties, such as license suspension (this is on top of the DUI penalties).
And, the BAC levels that we mentioned above are just the minimum amount. If you’re caught with a higher BAC level, it calls for even harsher penalties.
Penalties for DUI in California
California is known to have one of the harshest penalties when it comes to DUI.
And for good reason.
DUI is a serious issue that must be punished.
Now, the penalties include:
- License suspension
- Jail time
Let’s look at these penalties one by one.
If you are convicted of a DUI in California, you will automatically face a license suspension. The duration of the suspension varies depending on the number of times you have violated the DUI law:
- 1st offense: 6 months
- 2nd offense: 2 years
- 3rd offense: 3 years
For first-time offenders, they can usually apply for a “restricted license”.
This will allow them to drive to and from work and school during a certain period of their license suspension. If you are allowed to drive with a restricted license, you will be required to install and use an ignition interlock device while driving.
Another penalty you will face is big fines.
You have to pay anywhere between $390 to $1,000. And that’s not even counting the cost of penalty assessment.
If you cause property damage, injury, or death, the fines go all the way up to $1015 to $5000, plus restitution to injured parties.
Here is a rundown of the jail time for DUI in California:
|1st offense:||48 hours to 6 months in county jail|
|2nd offense:||96 hours to 1 year in county jail|
|3rd offense:||120 days to 1 year in county jail|
|1st offense DUI with injury:||16 months to 16 years in state prison|
|Subsequent offenses DUI with injury:||16 months to 2 or 3 years in state prison|
If you are a first-time offender, the judge will usually order probation. This means that you don’t need to undergo mandatory jail time.
So what is probation?
DUI probation means you must attend a DUI school. This usually takes 3 months long and consists of 30 hours of classes.
If your BAC level reached a high of 0.20% or more, then DUI school is a lot longer. The program will last for 9 months, and the class hours go up to 60.
How Many Points is a DUI in California?
California’s point system is very straightforward.
You get 1 point for common violations such as speeding and minor accidents. For major violations, you automatically get 2 points.
So if you are charged with DUI, you get 2 points on your California driving record.
Now, you might be thinking, “Oh, 2 points is not bad.”
However, in California, your license can be revoked for 1 year if you receive as little as 4 points. So it is “bad”.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in California?
In California, a conviction for DUI stays on your driving record for 10 years. It cannot be removed from your driving record during that time.
Yes, you cannot even choose to attend traffic school to clear your record if it’s for a DUI offense. So you’re stuck with the conviction for the next 10 years.
Also, because of that, your auto insurance premiums will increase. Plus, it might be hard to find employment. These are just a few of the consequences that come with a DUI on your California driving record.
Is it Possible to Reduce a California DUI Charge?
Yes, it is possible to reduce a DUI charge in California.
To do that, you need to accept a “plea bargain” from the prosecution. This means that you’ll plead guilty, and in turn, your penalties will become lesser.
If you are successful, your DUI will be reduced to a reckless driving charge.
What this means is that you’ll only need to face up to 90 days in jail and/or pay a fine worth $145 to $1,000. You will also be required to complete an alcohol and drug awareness program.
Of course, it is still punishment. However, it isn’t as severe as if you’re charged with an actual DUI.
That said, it’s a good idea to think about it first before accepting a plea bargain.
So that was everything you should know about California DUI laws this 2023.
As you can see, the state does not take DUI lightly.
And neither should you.
So avoid driving under the influence at all times.
It will save you from all the penalties that come with DUI.
But most importantly, it could save your life and the life of others around you.
We hope that understanding the laws and penalties for DUI will scare you away from doing the act.
If you want to learn about California distracted driving laws, check out our article here.