What Is the Penalty for First-Time DUI in California?

What Is the Penalty for First-Time DUI in California?
Christopher J. McCann

Having a DUI is a serious matter that can follow you for years after the incident. While driving under the influence is illegal in all states, each state has its own laws regarding the penalties for driving under the influence. An attorney can help you understand the laws, and Fullerton DUI lawyers can help you if you have been charged with a DUI in California.

California DUI Laws

In California, a driver is considered to be under the influence if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or more. Driving under the influence includes driving impaired as a result of consumption of a controlled substance, such as opioids or marijuana. California also prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from having a BAC of 0.01% or more.

California has an “implied consent” law with drivers. This means that drivers agree to take a breath test to test their BAC if they are reasonably arrested for DUI. A motorist who refuses will have an automatic license suspension for 1-3 years, depending on their criminal history. The suspension will be upheld regardless of the case outcome.

What Is a DUI First Offense?

A DUI is considered a first offense when a driver has had no prior DUIs in the last ten years. Even for a first-offense DUI, there are still potential penalties. There are two types of penalties: administrative and criminal.

Administrative penalties are enforced by the DMV. These mainly refer to penalties regarding your driver’s license, including temporary licensing and suspended licenses. Criminal penalties are given by the criminal court. These can include fines, jail time, and probation.

Administrative Penalties for First-Time DUI

When someone is charged with DUI, their license will automatically be confiscated and be given an “Order of Suspension/Revocation,” along with a temporary license.

The temporary license will be valid for 30 days. The Order of Suspension/Revocation will begin once the temporary license becomes invalid. Their license will be suspended for a minimum of one year, regardless of the outcome of their future court date. The driver can request a DMV hearing if they want to contest the suspension. They will have ten days to do so.

A person can apply for a restricted license, where they will be able to drive only under certain circumstances, which are usually for things like driving to work or to or from a DUI program.

A person can also apply for a full license reinstatement, depending on their eligibility. The fine for license reinstatement ranges between $600 and $1,200, depending on the facts of the DUI. They will also have to participate in a DUI educational program, which usually lasts between three and nine months.

Criminal Penalties for First-Time DUI

Most times, a first-time DUI is considered a misdemeanor, so the criminal penalties won’t be as severe as a felony DUI. A driver can be granted probation, which is common for first-time offenders. The probation will typically last three to five years. Some likely conditions of probation include:

  • Refraining from additional violations
  • Completing roadside alcohol testing
  • Refraining from driving with any amount of alcohol in their system
  • Participation in alcohol treatment or victim support groups.

Depending on the circumstances, a driver can be sentenced to time in jail, although jail time will not be required if they are put on probation. If the judge deems it necessary, jail time will be between two days and six months.

First-time DUI drivers are also likely to have to pay fines. Initial fines are generally between $390 and $1,000. There may be penalty assessments in addition to the fines. Penalty assessments can cost up to thousands of dollars.

Ignition Interlock Device Penalties for First-Time DUI

For a first-time DUI, a person will likely be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their car. With this device, the driver will have to take a breath test, proving they are beneath the legal BAC limit before their car will start. Typically, they can choose between having a restricted license with the IID on their car for 12 months or having a license reinstatement with the IID on their car for a maximum of six months.


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

A: If you are arrested for your first DUI in California, you will likely not face any jail time unless there are special factors in your case, such as the presence of a minor in the car or driving 30 miles or more over the speed limit. Generally speaking, a person can expect three years of probation, as well as $390 in fines, plus penalty assessments (which can be around $2,000) as well as participation in an alcohol program.

Q: How Can I Get Out of My First DUI in California?

A: It is possible to get a DUI charge dismissed in California. In order to do so, you will want to complete all requirements given to you by the court, such as completing probation and completing any programs they have required. If you believe there was an error or unlawful processing in your charge, you will need to show proof of this occurring to dismiss the DUI.

Q: How Long Will My License Be Suspended for the First DUI in California?

A: For a first-time DUI conviction, a judge will generally be required to suspend your license for at least six months. This is separate from the administrative penalties the DMV can impose. However, these time periods can overlap, meaning the total suspension time will not exceed the longer penalty. A first-time offender can request a restricted license during this time.

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

A: Most first-time offenders do not go to jail in California. They will more likely be placed on probation instead. Exceptions include getting in a crash that severely injured or killed someone else, having a minor in the car at the time of the DUI, or driving recklessly or at a severely high speed at the time of the DUI.

Contact CJM Defense

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC if you have been involved in a DUI. We can help you understand your rights and options today.

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