California DUI Laws & Penalties

California DUI law states that per § 23152(b) of the California vehicle code (California 'per se' law), it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater.

If you are arrested on a drunk driving charge in California, you will also be charged with being in violation of California vehicle code § 23152(a) (California Driving Under the Influence).   California vehicle code § 23152(a) states that it is against the law for any person to operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

Even if you are not in violation of California vehicle code § 23152(b) (operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater); you could still be charged with violating California vehicle code § 23152(a) because even though your blood alcohol concentration level was below the legal limit of .08%; through the arresting officer's observation of your mannerisms or by your failing any part of the field sobriety test, the officer felt that you were intoxicated and should not be operating or in control of a motor vehicle.



Being in violation of California vehicle code § 23152(a) and/or § 23152(b) are the criminal charges you will be facing for driving under the influence, you will also face a separate sanction against your driving privileges by the California DMV for violating the California 'per se' law.

California DMV hearing

The arresting officer is required by law to immediately suspend or revoke your driver's license and send a copy of your suspension along with your driver's license and a copy of the police report to the California DMV.  The DMV will then conduct its own investigation into the evidence against you that was provided by the arresting officer to determine whether or not to uphold the suspension or revocation of your license.

Upon suspending or revoking your license the officer will issue you an Order of Suspension/Revocation, this will serve as your temporary license for the next 30 days, on the 31st day the suspension or revocation will go into effect.  If the arresting officer did not issue you an Order of Suspension/Revocation, the California DMV will mail you one.

You only have ten days from the date of your license suspension or revocation to request an administrative hearing with the California DMV.  If you do not request an administrative hearing within that ten day period, the DMV will uphold the suspension or revocation and you will not be able to drive.

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An administrative hearing is your chance to present evidence that contradicts the evidence provided to the DMV by the arresting officer in an effort to show that the suspension or revocation is not justified and that your driver's license should be reinstated.

If you hope to have any chance of winning your administrative hearing, you must have a skilled DUI attorney who has experience in representing clients at administrative hearings, schedule and represent you at the hearing.  You do not want to request a hearing and represent yourself at the hearing, this is a no win situation, you also want to make sure that the lawyer that you choose has experience when it comes to representing clients at administrative hearings.

By default the California DMV will schedule you for a telephone hearing unless you or your lawyer request an in-person hearing.  You and your lawyer want an in-person hearing, not a telephone hearing, it is impossible to effectively present evidence in your favor and contest the evidence against you over the phone.

When you or your attorney schedule your administrative hearing, you need to request copies of the DMV's evidence so that you and your lawyer can establish an effective defense against the DMV's evidence before your hearing date.

Obtaining A California Restricted License

Your DMV hearing is not the time or place to request a restricted license.  If the hearing officer upholds the suspension of your license, you may apply for a restricted license at any California DMV office.  To qualify for a restricted license, this must be your first DUI offense within the past ten years and you completed a chemical test, you registered at least .08% on the test and you were at least 21 years of age or older at the time of the test.  A restricted license may only be used to drive to and from work and your first offender DUI program.

In order to obtain a noncommercial restricted license, you must:

  • Enroll in a state approved first offender program.  (You must inform the program administrator that you intend to apply for a restricted license.)
  • Ask the program administrator to file a an electronic Proof of Enrollment Certificate (DL 107) with the DMV.
  • File proof of financial responsibility with the DMV by obtaining California SR22 insurance. (Your insurance provider will either file the SR22 form directly with the DMV or provide you with a copy of the form to file with the DMV.)
  • You will also be required to pay a $125 reinstatement fee to the DMV.
  • You will have to wait until the end of the 30-day suspension period before applying for your restricted license.

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California First Offense DUI

A first offense DUI charge in California means that you have had no prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years.  A first offense charge is considered a misdemeanor charge and carries the following penalties:

  • Jail time: The minimum jail sentence is 96 hours (48 hours must be served continuous) up to a maximum of 6 months.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the court may grant you a 3 to 5 year probationary period in lieu of jail time.  The probation will be court probation, meaning that you will not have to report to a probation officer.
  • Fines: The fines and assessments for a first offense charge will be between $1,400 - $1,600 total. The court will allow you to pay your fines over a period of time for an additional fee.  If you do not wish to incur an additional fee, all fines must be paid within 45 days.  Depending on the court, you may be able to perform community service to work off part of the fine.
  • Alcohol Treatment: A first time offender who's BAC level was below .20%; will be required to attend a state approved 30-hour first offender program.  If your BAC level was above .20%; you will be required to attend a 60-hour state approved first offender program.
  • Ignition interlock: If your blood alcohol concentration was .15% or greater at the time of arrest, the court may require you to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle.
  • License Suspension: If you are at least 21 years of age or older and you submitted to a chemical test and your BAC reading was .08% or greater, your license will be suspended for 4-months.  If you are under 21 years of age and your BAC reading was .01% or greater, your license will be suspended for 1-year.

    If you are at least 21 years of age or older and refused or failed to complete a chemical test, your license will be suspended for 1-year.  If you are under 21 years of age and refused or failed to complete a chemical test your license will be suspended for 1-year.

    If the California DMV grants you a restricted license, that license only allows you to drive to and from work and/or school.  You will also be required to show proof of financial responsibility in the form of an CA SR22 insurance policy with the California DMV before they will issue you a restricted license or reinstate your license at the end of your suspension period.

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California Second Offense DUI

A second offense DUI charge in California means that you have been convicted of one prior DUI conviction within the past 10 years.  A second offense charge is considered a misdemeanor charge and carries the following penalties:

  • Jail time: The amount of jail time for a second offense charge will be between 10 days up to1 year in jail.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the court may grant you a 3 to 5 year probationary period and reduce the length of the jail sentence.  The probation will be court probation, meaning that you will not have to report to a probation officer.
  • Fines: The fines and assessments for a second offense charge will be between $1,800 - $2,800.  The court will allow you to pay your fines over a period of time for an additional fee.  If you do not wish to incur an additional fee, all fines must be paid within 45 days.  Depending on the court, you may be able to perform community service to work off part of the fine.
  • Alcohol Treatment: A second time offender will be required to attend and complete a state approved 18-month multiple offender program.  The requirements of the program are: 52 hours of group counseling, 12 hours of alcohol and drug education, 6 hours of community reentry monitoring, and biweekly individual interviews during the first 12-months of the program.
  • Ignition interlock: Second time offenders may be eligible for a restricted license after serving 90 days of the suspension period. They must be enrolled in an alcohol treatment program to qualify for the IID restricted license.
  • License Suspension: If you are at least 21 years of age or older and you submitted to a chemical test and your BAC reading was .08% or greater, your license will be suspended for 1-year.  If you are under 21 years of age and your BAC reading was .01% or greater, your license will be suspended for 1-year.

    If you are at least 21 years of age or older and refused or failed to complete a chemical test, your license will be revoked for 2-years.  If you are under 21 years of age and refused or failed to complete a chemical test your license will be revoked for 2-years.

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California Third Offense DUI

A third offense DUI charge in California means that you have been convicted of two prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years.  A third offense charge is considered a misdemeanor charge and carries the following penalties:

  • Jail time: The amount of jail time for a third offense charge will be at least 120 days or up to 1-year in jail.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the court may grant you a 3 to 5 year probationary period and reduce the length of the jail sentence.  The probation can be either court probation or formal probation, meaning that you will have to report to a probation officer.
  • Fines: The fines and assessments for a third offense charge will be between $1,800 - $18,000. The court will allow you to pay your fines over a period of time for an additional fee.  If you do not wish to incur an additional fee, all fines must be paid within 45 days.  Depending on the court, you may be able to perform community service to work off part of the fine.
  • Alcohol Treatment:  A third time offender may be required to attend and complete a state approved 30-month multiple offender program.  The requirements of the program are: 76 hours of group counseling, 12 hours of alcohol and drug education, 120-300 hours of community service and regularly scheduled interviews.
  • Ignition interlock: Third time offenders may be eligible for to reinstate their license after serving 6 months of the suspension period. They must be enrolled in an alcohol treatment program to qualify for the IID restricted license.
  • License Suspension:  If you are at least 21 years of age or older and you submitted to a chemical test and your BAC reading was .08% or greater, your license will be suspended for 1-year.  If you are under 21 years of age and your BAC reading was .01% or greater, your license will be suspended for 1-year.

    If you are at least 21 years of age or older and refused or failed to complete a chemical test, your license will be revoked for 3-years.  If you are under 21 years of age and refused or failed to complete a chemical test your license will be revoked for 3-years.

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California Fourth Offense DUI

A fourth offense DUI charge in California means that you have been convicted of three prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years.  A fourth offense charge may be considered a felony charge and can result in up to 3-years in a state prison.



California SR22 Requirements

Before the California DMV will reinstate your license following your suspension or revocation period or before issuing you a restricted license, they will require you to file an SR22 form with them before issuing you a new license.  You will be required to carry your SR22 insurance for a period of three years.

At anytime during this three year period if there is a lapse in your SR22 coverage, your insurance provider is obligated by law to immediately inform the California DMV of the lapse.  If a lapse in coverage occurs, the California DMV will immediately suspended your license and you will be required to re file an SR22 form with the DMV before they will issue you another license.

Since you are going to have to have your SR22 insurance for a period of three years, it is important to find the cheapest policy you can before choosing one.  DUI Process has partnered with the largest and most trusted SR22 insurance provider in the state of California and has worked out a special discount only available here for our website visitors.

You won't be able to find a SR22 insurance policy in California for any less.  Type in your zip code below so we can provide you with the cheapest rates in your area.

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Other California DUI Resources

  • California First Offense - First offense information including penalties, fines, potential jail time, license suspension, DUI classes, and more.

  • California Second Offense - Second offense information including penalties, fines, potential jail time, license suspension, DUI classes, and more.

  • California Third Offense - Third offense information including penalties, fines, potential jail time, license suspension, DUI classes, and more.

  • California Fourth Offense - Fourth offense information including penalties, fines, potential jail time, license suspension, DUI classes, and more.

  • California SR22 Insurance Filing - We have compiled everything you need to know about California's SR22 insurance and filing requirements including important addresses, phone numbers, etc.

  • California DUI Programs - We offer a complete listing of state approved DUI programs and alcohol treatment.

  • California Bail Bondsmen - Comprehensive list of California bail bond agents including address, phone, website, etc.

  • State Statutes - Complete California DUI statute regarding DUI laws and penalties.