California DUI laws can have far-reaching consequences that affect your future employment, finances, housing, and freedoms long after you’re stopped and charged.
Familiarizing yourself with California DUI laws can help you prepare for what’s ahead if you’re charged with DUI. Remember, everyone has the right to a defense and you are innocent until proven guilty.
California DUI laws are summarized in CA Vehicle Code § 23152, which states the following:
(a) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
(b) It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.
The vehicle code goes on to outline definitions and penalties associated with the crime of driving under the influence.
California DUI Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about DUI and DUI laws in California. For more details on California DUI laws, here’s everything you need to know if you or a loved one has been convicted of DUI in California.
What happens with your license when you get a DUI in California?
If you are arrested for a DUI in California, there are DMV penalties to face as well as criminal – even if you are not convicted of an offense.
You may receive a temporary driver’s license if your official driver’s license is confiscated. If you do not take action within 10 days of your arrest, the DMV will automatically suspend your driving privilege.
An experienced DUI attorney can help preserve your driving privileges by requesting a hearing with the DMV to make a final decision about your license suspension.
This will mean an automatic stay of your license suspension until the DMV hearing. The DMV does not wait for criminal proceedings to go through the courts.
Is jail time mandatory for DUI in California?
Both a misdemeanor and felony DUI may result in jail time but it is not always mandatory. An experienced DUI attorney will have methods to work out a deal so that jail time can be avoided in most cases.
The potential for jail time increases with each conviction – especially within the 10-year “look-back” period – and if there are aggravating factors present, such as:
- A blood alcohol content of 0.15 % or higher
- Refusing a chemical test
- Causing an accident
- Excessive speeding
- Underage children inside the vehicle
- Under 21-year-old driver
The likelihood of you spending time in jail for DUI also depends on the skills of your defense lawyer when negotiating with the prosecution.
What is considered a felony DUI in California?
DUI is generally treated as a misdemeanor offense in California unless one of the following applies:
- The DUI is a fourth offense within 10 years
- The driver has a prior felony charge for DUI
- The driver causes an accident in which another person is injured or killed
- In the above instances, a felony charge may apply.
Do you lose your license for a first DUI in California?
For a first DUI in California, you may receive a driver’s license suspension from four to 10 months. However, this is not a foregone conclusion.
With the help of your lawyer, you may be able to fight the license suspension and retain your driving privileges.
Your lawyer can first help arrange a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest and then fight against a DUI conviction in court (a conviction automatically triggers a six-month license suspension).
Can I get a restricted license after a first-time California DUI?
Since 2019, people charged with DUI in California have been able to continue driving if they successfully apply for a restricted license after 30 days of suspension.
You may also have the option to install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) and suffer minimal license suspension time.
While there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted, your attorney may be able to help you partially restore your driving privileges.