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DUI Court Penalties

There are serious consequences to the very serious criminal offense of driving under the influence. If you were recently arrested for DUI, you are very likely facing stiff penalties, and in some cases, potential jail time. In San Diego, Carlsbad, and other cities in San Diego County, please contact the Law Offices of David M. Boertje to discuss your case during a free consultation with an experienced San Diego DUI lawyer.

Below is a list of the consequences that can come with a DUI conviction:

Court Penalties

There are some key ways in which court-imposed DUI penalties vary:

Misdemeanor v. Felony

A misdemeanor DUI offense (California Vehicle Code section 23152) usually doesn’t involve any injuries, while a felony DUI offense (California Vehicle Code section 23153) involves someone besides the driver getting hurt or dying.

A person with a first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction could end up serving up to six months in jail (and up to one year for subsequent misdemeanor DUIs) and paying a fine as high as $1,000. A person convicted for committing a felony DUI may be sentenced to state prison and a fine over $1,000.

Subsequent Offenses Come With Harsher Punishments Than Past Offenses

Second or subsequent convictions that occur within a 10-year period come with mandatory jail time. A court will consider a person with a prior “wet reckless”(a guilty plea for reckless driving in which alcohol was involved) to have a previous conviction for DUI.

Mandatory Penalties

Below is a list of criminal penalties that are mandated in California. While California law mandates most of the DUI offender sanction minimums, a judge has discretion over whether to apply sanctions that have not been mandated or increase an offender’s sanctions to the maximum allowed.

It is the judge’s decision whether to grant probation or send an offender to jail for a first offense misdemeanor DUI. At the very least, the judge has to impose the minimum fine, restitution, penalty assessment, and the duration of the treatment program. While ignition interlock installation and vehicle impoundment are not mandatory, a judge can order to have them imposed.

Criminal Sanctions

For a driver convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor DUI:

  • Probation
  • County jail or state prison
  • Ignition interlock device requirement
  • License restriction, suspension, or revocation
  • Vehicle forfeiture or impoundment
  • Fine, penalty assessment, and restitution
  • Drinking and driving treatment
Jail and Prison

A DUI conviction can lead to a mandatory prison or jail sentence. If the conviction is for a misdemeanor first offense, however, the judge can substitute the fine with a mandated DUI program. California courts also can order community service or public work service for first time DUIs.

Prison and jail sentences can be extended when there are “enhancing circumstances,” which are defined as:

  • “Excessive speed” driving (either 20 mph above the legal speed on roadways or 30mph faster than the lawful speed on freeways). This can increase the mandatory minimum jail sentence to 60 days.
  • The refusal to undergo a chemical test can add a mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail.
  • A minor passenger (someone under 14 years of age) was in the motor vehicle.
  • Victims other than the driver were injured. Sentencing can be enhanced by one year in state prison for every victim.
  • Hit and run involving vehicular manslaughter.
  • Victims(s) experienced bodily harm. Sentences can be enhanced by up to three years in prison per victim.
Fine, Penalty Assessment, and Restitution

Offenders are usually ordered to pay an offense fine, a penalty assessment, and restitution:

  • $390 to $1,000 fines for misdemeanor offenses. $390 to $5,000 fines for felony offenses.
  • Additional fines that a California court can impose to substantially increase a fine are called penalty assessments. Typical fines and assessments in San Diego Courts vary between $1,800 and $2,200.
  • Victims are compensated for their losses and injuries with restitution fines, which can range from $100 to $10,000. There can be additional restitution orders mandated for the victim’s total out-of-pocket fees, including medical expenses.

A person convicted of a DUI can be ordered to take part in and complete a substance abuse treatment program. Courts can order programs lasting the duration of 3 months, 9 months, 18 months, or 30 months. Drivers with license suspensions as a result of a DUI conviction must complete a treatment program before their driver’s license can be reinstated. Offenders do not receive credit for any program activities they took part in before this latest violation.

Vehicle Forfeiture and Impoundment

The court mandates the impoundment of a DUI offender’s vehicle if the offender is also the owner of the vehicle. A judge can declare a vehicle a “nuisance” and order it forfeited and sold. Vehicle owners younger than 21 years of age can also be slapped with an impoundment penalty whether or not the owner was in the vehicle if a driver or passenger in the vehicle that was in illegal possession of alcohol is below the legal drinking age.

A driver’s license can be:

  • Restricted: This limits when a driver can use a motor vehicle. Restrictions may include only being able to drive to and from treatment, work, school, court-ordered programs, and for work purposes.
  • Suspended: The driver’s license is taken away for a specific time period or until the fulfillment of a certain condition.
  • Revoked: The license is terminated and the driver must apply again for a new one following the revocation period.

Courts can delay the date of the DUI offender’s license revocation or suspension until after he or she has served prison time. This delay is usually applied if someone is a repeat offender, there were multiple victims, or hit and run was involved.

Drivers under age 21 with a DUI conviction or one for alcohol-related reckless driving may get their license suspended for another year beyond the license suspension they received for getting a DUI.

Ignition Interlock Device

For DUI offenders, courts can decide to order the use of a certified ignition interlock device. This prevents a motor vehicle from starting if the driver has consumed alcohol. A court can require that the device be in place for 1-3 years after the driver’s license is reinstated.


A DUI offender’s probation can run from three to five years. While under probation, offenders are not allowed to:

  • Fail to pay a fine, restitution, or assessment.
  • Drive with any measurable alcohol in their system.
  • Commit a crime.
  • Refuse to take a requested chemical test.
Enhanced Penalties

There are a number of enhancing grounds in California, including:

High Blood-Alcohol Concentration: Increased penalties can be imposed when a driver’s BAC is .15% or greater.

Refusal to Undergo Chemical Testing: Increased jail time can be added to the administrative suspension of refusing to submit to this test.

Reckless Driving and/or Speeding: This enhancement can be applied when someone that has a BAC greater than .08% or was under the influence of alcohol when driving faster than the legally specified speed limit. The state of California will impose this enhancement when a defendant was apprehended driving 30mph above the speed limit on a freeway or 20mph faster than the speed limit allowed on a surface road.

Child Endangerment: If there was a minor passenger (under 14 years of age) in the vehicle when the drunk driving incident occurred, the enhanced penalty is mandatory jail time.

Injury or Accident: In California, a DUI accident resulting in property damage can result in a harsher punishment. If personal injury was involved, California will elevate the offense to a felony crime.

DUI Criminal Sentencing Chart for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs (VEHICLE CODE SECTION 23152)
OffenseMinimum and Maximum Sentences With Probation (3 to 5 Years Probation Term)Minimum and Maximum Sentences Without Probation
FIRST Offense within 10 yearsA 48-hour to 6-month jail sentence may be imposed, in addition to a fine, which can range from $390 to $1,000. Any “penalty assessment” will substantially increase the fine amount. The court may also order a defendant to complete an alcohol/drug treatment program lasting 3 months, 6 months, or 9 months. The DMV will impose a license suspension for 6 months or for I year if the driver has a class A license.Jail time is 96 hours to 6-months, and the fine is $390 to $1,000 fine. License suspension is for six months.
SECOND Offense within 10 yearsThere are two alternatives: Both alternatives comes with a fine ranging between $390 to $1,000, plus either: (A) jail time lasting from 10 days to 1 year or (B) jail time running from 96 hours to 1 year and an alcohol/drug program lasting for 18 months or 30 months. The DMV will impose a 2-year driver’s license suspension.Jail time ranging from 90 days to 1 year and a fine between $390 to $1,000 fine. The DMV will impose a 6-month driver’s license suspension.
THIRD Offense within 10 yearsJail time may range from 120 days to 1 year in length, a $390 to $1,000 fine and an 18-month alcohol/drug program if you haven’t already completed one. The DMV will impose a 3-year driver’s license revocation.A jail sentence ranging from 120 days to 1 year and a $390 to $1,000 fine. The DMV will impose a 3-year license revocation.
FOURTH or Subsequent Offense within 10 yearsA jail sentence ranging from 180 days to 1 year and a $390 to $1,000 fine. Driver’s license will be revoked for 4 years. If an alcohol/drug program was not completed previously, an 18-month alcohol/drug program will be ordered.A state prison sentence of 16 months or 2 or 3 years or 180 days to 1 year in county jail, as well as a $390 to $1,000 fine. The DMV will impose a 4-year license revocation.
DMV License Suspensions and Revocations DMV License Suspension Process

The DMV administrative suspension process starts the moment a driver receives a DUI citation. The arresting police officer will take the license away immediately if the driver:

  • Refused to submit to a chemical test after the arresting police officer requested it.
  • Violates the admin per se laws, which is .08% for drivers 21 years of age or older and .01% for drivers that are below the legal drinking age.

A licensed offender is then served a revocation or suspension order by the DMV. The order is a 30-day license. The revocation or suspension period begins after 30 days. A driver has 10 days from the date of citation to ask for a DMV hearing.

Issues that can be considered at the DMV hearing:

  • Did the arresting officer have reasonable cause to believe that the driver had an illegally high blood alcohol concentration?
  • Was the arrest a lawful one? Or, if the driver was 21 years of age and under, was he or she “lawfully detained?”
  • Did the driver have a BAC of .08% or greater?
  • Did the driver refuse to take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test or a chemical test?
  • Was the driver told that refusing to take the test would lead to his or her driver’s license being revoked or suspended?

DMV hearings are separate from criminal prosecutions. Proceedings and findings in one venue do not affect the other. There is, however, a key exception: If a defendant is found not guilty in a criminal case, then the ALS ruling and accompanying sanctions will be overturned.

DMV Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs
First Offense.08 or Greater

6 month suspension

1 year suspension
Second Offense Within 10 Years.08 or greater

2 year suspension

2 year revocation
Third Offense Within 10 Years08 or greater

3 year revocation

3 year revocation
Fourth Offense Within 10 Years.08 or greater

4 year revocation

4 year revocation

To request your free consultation with an experienced San Diego DUI attorney, contact the Law Offices of David M. Boertje today. We have offices in Carlsbad and San Diego, and you can call us, contact us online, or send us an e-mail.

Client Reviews
“David and his staff made everything simple and easy. Everyone who I spoke to about the case, was telling me that he was facing some jail time. That made me nervous, but after meeting with David I felt confident that my son had nothing to worry about. ” Robert Simas