What Is the Most Common Sentence for a First DUI in California?

What Is the Most Common Sentence for a First DUI in California?
Christopher J. McCann

A fun night out could turn tense when the strobing lights of a police car appear behind you. Anyone found driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher can be lawfully arrested and charged with a DUI. Being under the influence of drugs can also result in a charge. A DUI criminal conviction can lead to serious penalties, including jail time, fines, or loss of driving privileges. If you’ve been arrested for a first-time DUI, you may be wondering, “What is the most common sentence for a first DUI in California?”

Possible Penalties for a First-Time DUI in California

In California, DUIs are primarily misdemeanors, especially for first-time offenders. Misdemeanors still come with potentially serious penalties that can include:

  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Jail time
  • Requirement to attend victim impact panels

While this range of penalties, especially for jail time, may seem alarming, the criminal justice system is generally more lenient on first-time offenders. Even well-intentioned, law-abiding Californians can slip up and have one too many drinks before driving. Consuming alcohol is not a crime, but driving while intoxicated is.

The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit for a DUI does not take into consideration someone’s tolerance for alcohol. Maybe you felt like you were okay to drive, but sometimes, the justice system sweeps up responsible citizens.

Many first-time offenders charged with a misdemeanor, especially one that does not involve physical violence, are given probation in lieu of jail time. There is no guarantee of this, though, which is why having a Yorba Linda DUI lawyer represent you in court is so important. Your attorney can work to reduce the penalties tied to your DUI so that you do not have to deal with the consequences of the worst-case scenario.

How Can My Lawyer Help Reduce My Charges?

After you are arrested for a DUI, you will likely begin thinking about all the possible penalties you may be facing. Some of the most severe involve suspension of driving privileges and jail time.

Reinstating Limited Driving Privileges

In California, any arrest for DUI comes with an immediate administrative action against your driving privilege, enforced by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If it is your first arrest for DUI and you are over 21, the automatic suspension is for four months. The suspension begins 30 days after your arrest. You can request a hearing with the DMV.

Your defense attorney can advocate on your behalf so that restricted driving privileges may allow you to drive to and from work. You may be required to drive with an IID, or you may be ordered to undergo a DUI treatment program. While these options come with fees and may seem like a hassle, being able to drive to and from work will allow you to remain employed as your criminal case plays out.

Reducing Penalties

If the state has ample evidence that you committed a DUI, your lawyer can help in having these penalties reduced. You will likely have to plead guilty to the DUI in return for a plea bargain agreement from prosecutors. Being a first-time offender often helps during the plea bargain period. Prosecutors generally look more favorably on first-time offenders of non-violent crimes. Repeat offenders often face more serious penalties.

Your defense attorney is one of your greatest resources to avoid time in jail. If there are no aggravating factors involved in our DUI, you may be given probation instead of jail time.

DUI probation periods often come with restrictions and requirements. You may be required to attend a rehabilitation program, for example.

If your DUI involves an accident, you will be expected to financially compensate any victims. Getting out from under a DUI charge may seem tedious because the state takes DUI convictions seriously. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can lower the consequences related to the DUI and begin focusing on the future.


Q: How Likely Is Jail Time for a First DUI in California?

A: Jail time for a first DUI in California is not as likely if the defendant has no criminal record and there were no aggravating factors involved in the DUI arrest. Your BAC levels are another factor that the courts will consider when determining if you should serve time in jail.

Q: Can a First-Time DUI Be Dismissed in California?

A: A first-time DUI can be dismissed if you did not commit the crime or if the state lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute you for the DUI. Defendants have constitutional rights. If the police violated your Fifth Amendment rights when pulling you over, you may have legal grounds to ask to have the charges dropped. Your attorney can help research evidence that could exonerate you.

Q: What Is the Most Common Sentence for a First DUI?

A: Every DUI case is unique, but all involve the potential for probation, fees, jail time, suspended driving privileges, and mandatory participation in a drug rehab program of some type. Individual cases may have elements of all of these penalties. Even if you do not have to serve time in jail, you will likely be placed on a probation period as a condition of accepting any plea bargain.

Q: Do You Always Go to Jail for a DUI in California?

A: You do not always go to jail for a DUI in California. Repeat offenders and drivers who injure someone while driving under the influence are much more likely to face jail time than someone who is a first-time offender. While there are no guaranteed outcomes in criminal court, you can improve your chances of avoiding jail time by working with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Schedule Your DUI Consultation Today

Facing any criminal charge for the first time can be a scary experience. The criminal justice system can seem daunting and imposing. The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, have served many clients who were arrested for the first time for driving under the influence. Our legal office can assist in clearing your name or negotiating with prosecutors for an ideal outcome.

Having a lawyer can reduce the chances that you face harsh penalties for your first-time offense. Contact our office today to learn how we can serve your interests.

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