First DUI in California

A first DUI in California is a serious matter that results in fines, fees and penalties. It also can lead to your license suspension, a mandatory state-mandated alcohol program of three, six or nine months and installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.

A review of the police report can often reveal important details that may help to win your case. It is very important to hire a California DUI attorney at the earliest opportunity.

Driver’s License Suspension

The first thing that usually happens to a person arrested for DUI in California is their driver’s license gets suspended. This is an administrative suspension, imposed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), that can occur even before anyone goes to court for their case.

The length of time this administrative suspension lasts is based on the blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) reading taken at the time of your arrest and is a separate penalty from any criminal penalties if you are convicted of DUI in court.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this suspension. One way is to hire a local first offense DUI lawyer with the expertise to help you fight your case in the best possible manner. Having your arrest details reviewed as soon as possible for defense options will give you the best chance of saving your driver’s license. This is especially important if you are a professional who must drive to work, or attend meetings for your business.

Jail Time

A first DUI conviction in California carries the potential for a few days to up to six months of jail time. Moreover, the base fine for a misdemeanor DUI is $390 to $1,000 plus penalty assessments that can increase this amount significantly.

However, jail is rarely imposed on a first offense DUI because the judge has a lot of discretion when it comes to sentencing. Generally, the court sentences a first-time offender to informal probation for three years.

In addition, the defendant must pay a fine and complete an alcohol education program (usually a minimum of nine months). The court may also require participation in victim impact panels. Furthermore, many counties require that the DUI convict install an ignition interlock device in their car for four months, which can cost about $500. A first-time DUI conviction also stays on your record for ten years, which can affect your ability to get a job and obtain a mortgage or other loan.


A DUI can have serious legal consequences if a person is convicted of it in criminal court. However, there are also administrative penalties that can be imposed upon arrest (before you’re even formally charged) that can carry on for months or years – even if the accused doesn’t end up being convicted.

The base fine for a first-offense misdemeanor DUI in California ranges from $390 to $1,000, with additional “penalty assessments” that can significantly increase this total. A judge will also sentence a first-time DUI offender to informal probation, which usually lasts three years.

The judge will usually order that the offender attend DUI classes and victim impact programs as part of their probation. Violating the terms of this probation can result in further punishments including jail time, fines, or both. A skilled DUI defense attorney can often get a client’s DUI charges reduced to reckless driving or another lesser offense, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior record.

Drug and Alcohol Education Program

In order to have your driving privileges reinstated by the DMV, you will need to attend a state-licensed DUI school and complete alcohol and drug education and counseling sessions. These classes typically cost between $500 and $600. They must be attended in person and are usually based on video and group discussions rather than individual interviews. You will be required to remain sober during all of the sessions and to actively participate in any one-on-one discussions that may be included.

The most common first offender program consists of three months of DUI classes and includes 34 hours of drug/alcohol education, group counseling, and face to face interviews. The court can also order a more intensive 18 month program for repeat offenders. These programs are typically more intensive and include 52 hours of group alcohol and drug education, biweekly individual interviews, and community reentry monitoring. Many DUI programs have been offering waivers for participants who cannot afford to pay full price for the program.