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What Happens if You Get a DUI in California?

5 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

If you are arrested for a DUI in California and this is your first offense, your punishment may include up to several years of probation and up to $1,000 in fines. But if this is a repeat offense, things get more complicated.

Drunk driving resulted in 949 deaths in California in 2019 alone. It is a serious offense that comes with long-term consequences that may affect you for the rest of your life. If you’ve had something to drink, make sure to ask a friend to drive you home or get a taxi.

If you’ve already found yourself in an unfortunate situation and need to deal with the consequences of your DUI, here’s what you need to know.

If you are charged with a DUI in California, you will need to address the criminal charges filed against you by the prosecutor as well as the suspension of your license by the DMV. What happens after your conviction depends on several factors such as whether this is your first DUI and the circumstances of your arrest. 

A DUI lawyer can help guide you through the legal process and help you reduce or even avoid serious DUI penalties. Talk to a California DUI attorney today.

What Happens After You’ve Been Arrested for a DUI in California

In most cases, you will be released from jail shortly after your arrest. If this is your first DUI offense and you haven’t caused any injuries or property destruction, no bail will be required.

However, this is just the beginning of your DUI process and there are lots of things that you will need to deal with. These include fines, license suspension, probation period, possible alcohol rehabilitation or attending a DUI school — and more.

What California Does with Driver’s Licenses After a DUI

When you are arrested for a DUI in California, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will start the process that may result in your driver’s license being suspended. 

If you want to challenge this suspension, you need to contact the DMV within ten days of your arrest. If you fail to do this, your license will be suspended for 30 days. 

If you contact the DMV and request your license hearing on time, you will be able to drive while awaiting your license suspension, which could take from several weeks to a few months. 

During your license hearing, you are strongly advised to have an attorney who may be able to prove that your license suspension is unjustified. Handling this on your own can be quite complicated and there is a much lower chance of you preventing your license suspension. 

The period of time for which your license can be suspended depends on several factors and can range from four months to a lifetime, depending on the circumstances of the offense. 

How to Apply for a Restricted License in California

If your license gets suspended, you may be able to apply for a restricted license if this is your first DUI. A restricted license will give you back partial driving privileges. With it, you will be able to fulfill a variety of obligations you have that involve driving such as going to work or driving your kids to school.

To be eligible for a restricted license, there are several conditions that you need to fulfill:

  • You must be 21 years old or older
  • You must take a chemical test
  • You must enroll in a DUI school
  • You must provide proof of insurance
  • You must pay related fees 

If this is your second DUI, you may still apply for a restricted license. However, there are additional conditions in place including the requirement to wear an IID (ignition interlock device) on your vehicle and attend multiple rehabilitation programs.

Consequences of a First DUI in California

In most cases, the consequences of a first DUI in California include three-year informal probation, fines and penalties, and attending a first-offender alcohol program.

In most cases, if this is your first DUI, you won’t have to go to jail. However, you may still be given a jail sentence if there are aggravating circumstances to your offense. These may include going over the speed limit, having a minor in your car, causing bodily harm to a third party, and so on.

Alternative sentences for a first-time DUI include community work, participation in a victim impact panel, and more. In some cases, if your sentencing includes jail time, your lawyer may negotiate to have it replaced with community service or time at an alcohol rehabilitation center.

Consequences of a Repeat DUI in California

If this is your second DUI, you will be looking at harsher penalties.

First, you will be facing a jail sentence of a minimum of 96 hours. The maximum jail sentence for a repeat DUI is one year.

Your license will also be suspended for two years. As mentioned above, under certain conditions, you will still be able to apply for a restricted license. However, if your second DUI occurred while you were still on probation for your first offense, this option won’t be available. 

Getting an Attorney for California DUI Charges

It’s important to have a lawyer on your side if you’re caught up in a DUI charge. Representing yourself before or during a court case will likely lead to a considerably worse outcome than if an attorney is handling your case.

Affordable legal representation is available if you’re involved in a California DUI. Connect with Unbundled Legal Help now for a free consultation with a locally-licensed attorney.

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