When you are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving a variety of things can happen. An officer may ask if you have indeed been drinking. If you admit that you have been drinking, it is likely that you will be asked to perform some tests, or if you are immediately determined to be intoxicated, arrested for DUI. If you are not asked, or do or do not answer, an officer will usually ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests (FST) and a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test (PAS). You can refuse to perform both the PAS and the FSTs as these are optional tests, but refusing will subject you impliedly consented-to chemical testing and can result in potentially harsher penalties than you would face otherwise.

FSTs, when done correctly, are tasks that will allow the officer to observe your level of physical and/or cognitive impairment. FSTs include, but are not limited to, walking heel to toe in a straight line or recite the alphabet forward and backward.

The minimum blood alcohol level (BAL) necessary to be considered “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated” is .08. Because California has a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drinking if you are under 21 and there is evidence of alcohol (even less than .08), you will be penalized, regardless of evidence of physical impairment.

Sentencing for drunk driving is largely dependent on an offender’s history and the type of damage done, if any. A person convicted of drunk driving may face fines, jail time, ignition interlock device installation, license suspension and mandatory participation in an alcohol treatment program.

Without Accident, Injury or other variable factors, the following are General Sentences for DUI in the State of California:

1st DUI:

  • – Up to 6 months in county jail
  • – Up to 6 month license suspension
  • – Informal Probation for a period of 36 months to 60 months
  • – Alcohol classes (First Offender DUI School AB-541) for 3, 6, or 9 months
  • – AA Classes, MADD Program and/or HAM Program
  • – Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on Your Vehicle
  • – Fines & Penalty Assessment Upto $1,400

2nd DUI:

  • – Up to 1 year in county jail
  • – Up to 2 year license suspension
  • – Informal Probation for a period of 36 months to 60 months
  • – Alcohol classes (Second Offender DUI SChool) for 18 months or 30 months
  • – AA Classes, community service and/or HAM Program
  • – Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on Your Vehicle
  • – Fines & Penalty Assessment Upto $2,000

3rd DUI:

  • – Mandatory minimum of 120 days in county jail to maximum 1 year in county jail
  • – Up to 3 year license suspension
  • – Alcohol classes (3rd Offender DUI SChool) for 18 months or 30 months
  • – AA Classes, community service, alcohol treatment program and/or HAM Program
  • – Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on Your Vehicle
  • – Fines & Penalty Assessment Upto $2,500

4th DUI:

  • – Most likely will be charged as a Felony
  • – 16 months, 2 years or 4 years in state prison
  • – “Habitual Traffic Offender” and driving privledges revoked for minimum of 3 years
  • – Alcohol classes (4th Offender DUI SChool) for 30 months
  • – AA Classes, community service, alcohol treatment program and/or HAM Program
  • – Fines & Penalty Assessment Up to $5,000

If you are charged with a DUI in California, an experienced attorney that specializes in this type of case can help you navigate the system and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Here is a flowchart showing how complicated a DUI charge can be:

Download File