What To Do If You Get Pulled Over For DUI In California

What To Do If You Get Pulled Over For DUI In California

Not that you should need a reason to not drink and drive, but consider this: according to, California has some of the strictest driving under the influence (DUI) penalties in the nation. First time DUI offenders can be ordered to pay fines ranging from $390 to $1,000 along with having their license suspended for up to four months. Offenders can spend anywhere from four days to six months behind bars and they may also be ordered to complete community service or attend DUI school. Here are some things you must do if you get pulled over for drunk driving in California.

1. Be polite

No matter how scared and angry you might be about getting pulled over, it’s important to stay calm and be polite to the officer. Remember, if you are rude or hostile to law enforcement, your chance of having an incriminating police report written about the situation goes up substantially. Comply with the officer’s request to step out of your vehicle-not doing so, according to, could result in you being charged with resisting arrest.

2. Know the law(s)

Although you might be tempted to try and reason with the officer by telling him or her that you have only had one or two beers, you are better off keeping quiet. According to criminal defense attorney Joe Dane on, even if the officer does not remind you of your right to remain silent, you can still exercise your Miranda rights to avoid self-incrimination. You must still provide the officer with your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, but you can politely decline to answer any questions concerning drinking or where you were or who you were with. In fact, California law also states that, unless you are under 21 or on probation for a DUI conviction, you do not need to submit to roadside field sobriety tests. Dane advises that you politely decline to take a field sobriety test, and that you should explain to the officer that field sobriety tests are too subjective and not required by California law.

3. Submit to a chemical test

According to Joe Dane, California has an implied consent law-this means that having a driver’s license indicates you have given your consent to submit to a chemical test in the event that you are arrested for driving under the influence. You have the choice of taking either a breath or a blood test. So which should you choose? According to, the validity of a breath test is more easily attacked in court. However, a breath sample cannot be retested, whereas you have the right to have a blood sample looked at again by an independent laboratory to determine the accuracy of the government’s test results. It is important to remember that refusing to take any chemical test can result in blood being forcibly taken from you, with the results used against you in court with an added penalty tacked on for refusing to take the test in the first place.

4. Contact an attorney

If you end up getting arrested for a DUI, it is essential that you hire an attorney who has a lot of experience with DUI law. According to, questions you should ask when meeting with attorneys you might choose to represent you include how many years they have been in practice, how much experience they have representing people who have been charged with a DUI, and how many cases they have taken to jury trial (in case it is necessary for you to take your case to trial). You might also ask who in their office would actually handle your case and what their qualifications are, as most attorneys work with a team and the lawyer that you might speak with initially might not actually be the person who would do most of the work on your case.

Driving Under the Influence in California

Below are some of the important things you should keep in mind in case you are arrested for DUI for the first time.

Punishments and penalties for DUI in California

If you get arrested for DUI in California, the first offense will be counted as a misdemeanor and you may have to face the following punishments:

  • You’ll be under a three to five years probation period
  • You’ll be fined around $390 to $1000 (plus penalty assessments) – this depends on the county
  • You will be required to attend a DUI school, and that will take you around 3 to 9 months to complete
  • Your driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months
  • You will be required to install an ignition interlock device for six months

Note: Some counties also impose a short amount of jail time, work release, or attending a victim impact panel.

Aside from these, you may expect to encounter other indirect consequences such as an increase in your car insurance premiums.

A DUI arrest and legal proceedings

If you are arrested for driving under the influence, you will be subject to two sets of legal proceedings. 

The first one is a  jury trial or a bench trial in a California criminal court. The second one is a California DMV license suspension hearing.

You won’t get an invitation for the DMV hearing – you’ll have to submit a request within 10 days after you are arrested.

Please note that the California DMV cannot issue a fine to a defendant. They also can’t put you in jail. The only thing that they can do is to suspend your license. However, your license will remain suspended unless you win the case.

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