For drivers convicted of an alcohol or drug-related driving offense in California, potential penalties are not limited to possible jail time, a fine, and a license suspension.
You will also face months-long reminders of how serious DUI crimes are treated in California by mandatory attendance at DUI classes.
These classes are ordered by courts and/or the California DMV and last anywhere from six weeks to 30 months, depending on the nature and location of your conviction.
The purpose of DUI classes is to educate offenders about the perils of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and to provide counseling to tackle their problems.
Here’s what you need to know about DUI classes if you or a loved one has been convicted of DUI in California.
What is DUI school in California?
DUI classes are commonly conducted in-person and consist of a combination of counseling and education for DUI offenders.
The educational component helps offenders understand the DUI laws in California and how they affect them. It also educates attendees on drug abuse and “problem” drinking and may include lectures, videos, and group discussions.
The counseling component of the course is normally conducted in groups, in addition to one-on-one sessions which are usually required.
Participants must remain sober during classes and actively participate in any one-on-one sessions. Failure to do so may result in expulsion from the program.
Who is required to take these classes?
Everyone convicted of the following driving offenses in California must participate in DUI school:
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
Driving with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.08 percent or higher
Underage DUI with a BAC of 0.05 percent or higher
“Wet reckless” charge (often negotiated as a plea bargain from DUI charges)
Any other alcohol or drug-related driving offense in California
You will also need to attend if you pleaded guilty or “nolo contendere” (no contest) to any of the above charges as opposed to being convicted at trial by a jury.
How long are DUI programs?
DUI programs run anywhere from 12 hours to 30 months in California. The duration of your participation will depend upon the nature of your driving offense, your Blood Alcohol Content, and which county you are arrested and subsequently convicted in.
12-hour DUI classes
If you are convicted of a “wet reckless” offense (first time) as a result of a plea bargain by your DUI defense attorney, you will be ordered by the court to complete a 12-hour DUI program as a condition of this lesser charge.
The same program may sometimes apply to minors who are under 21 and are convicted of a California DUI for the first time.
For this program, you will need to attend weekly two-hour classes spread over a six-week period of time.
Three-month DUI classes
If your BAC level is below 0.15 percent AND it is your first DUI conviction in the last 10 years, you will need to attend mandatory DUI school for three months.
This is the most common DUI class duration for offenders in California. It will also be a term of probation for those convicted of drug DUIs as well as alcohol DUIs.
There are 30 hours of counseling and education spread over the three months, generally totaling 10-15 classes.
Six-month DUI classes
If your BAC level is between 0.15 and 0.19 percent and it is your first DUI conviction in the last 10 years, you will need to attend the mandatory DUI school for six months.
This is the second most common DUI class for first-time offenders in California. This class may also be a term of probation for those convicted of drug and alcohol DUIs in California.
Usually, there are 45 hours of combined alcohol and drug assessment, alcohol, and drug education along with group and individual counseling sessions.
Nine-month DUI classes
If your BAC level is over 0.20 percent OR you refused a chemical test after being arrested, you may be required to attend DUI school for nine months.
These programs typically include 60 hours of counseling and education spread over nine months.
18-month or 30-month DUI classes
The longer-duration DUI programs are reserved for repeat offenders.
If you have a second or additional DUI conviction within 10 years of a prior DUI or wet reckless conviction, you will be ordered to attend an 18 or 30-month DUI education program. This program usually spans 70-90 hours of education and counseling.
The 18-month program is the one most commonly used for repeat DUI offenders. In most cases, even a third-time offender may be ordered to complete an 18-month (rather than 30-month) program.
Only some counties in California impose a 30-month DUI school attendance for drivers with a particularly high BAC during a repeat DUI offense. This program involves a community service element on top of education and counseling.
Orange County does not currently provide such programs.
How much are DUI classes and who pays?
As you can see, DUI school is a major commitment in California. It is also a major expense.
There are many DUI class providers in California (see next section) and costs do vary but, on average, you can expect to pay the following guideline fees:
DUI Program Duration
$200 – $300
$450 – $550
$750 – $950
$1,000 – $1,250
$1,550 – $1,750
Unfortunately, offenders are asked to pay these costs out of their own pockets – including an initial down-payment when they enroll in the course.
If you do not have the means to fund your program, you can apply for a fee waiver or a fee reduction from some of the providers.
Who runs DUI classes in California?
There are over 200 providers of DUI classes around California, so you can expect programs and costs to vary significantly.
Typically, DUI school programs are based entirely on in-person sessions and there is no option to complete the course online. However, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, some schools have been allowing for attendance over the internet, since in-person meetings have not been possible. This is a very uncommon exception being made for a global emergency, so it will not likely be a permanent change.
If for some reason you cannot make it to class, you are allowed to miss a session without penalty (if you make it up later). However, if you repeatedly miss class, you will be terminated from the program.
What happens if you fail to complete DUI school?
Failure to complete DUI school can have serious repercussions, including:
Defying a court order – This is a probation violation and you will need to go back in front of a judge with a potential jail sentence again on the table.
Bench warrants – A California bench warrant will likely be issued for your arrest upon your failure to attend the program.
Driving prohibition – completing a DUI class is a condition of obtaining a license. Therefore failure to complete the program may maintain your original license suspension and prohibit you from driving legally in California.
Have you or a loved one been charged with DUI in California?
If you or a loved one have been charged with DUI in Orange County, you need an experienced DUI attorney to protect your rights and freedoms and limit the consequences.
Call The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian at (855) 918-4253 today to set up a free consultation with an attorney who can advise you on the next steps in protecting your rights.
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