California DUI 101

According to California DUI laws, drivers under the age of 21 are legally drunk if their blood alcohol content is .01 percent or greater. Adult drivers are not typically considered legally drunk until their blood alcohol level matches or exceeds .08; however, if the driver is operating a commercial vehicle, the limit is .04 percent.


First time offenders of California DUI laws can expect to pay a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000. A jail sentence of four days to six months, as well as a license suspension of six months is possible.

Another offense within 10 years of the first will result in a jail sentence of three months to a year. The fine remains the same; however, the license suspension is extended to two years.

A third offense within three years of the previous offenses calls for four months to a year in jail. The usual fine will apply, as well as a license suspension period of three years.

A fourth offense leads to about six months to a year in jail, the fine of $390 to $1,000, and a four year revocation of the driver’s license.

California also has several additional penalties that apply in certain situations. For example, if an intoxicated driver causes an accident that injures or claims the lives of multiple victims, the driver may spend up to a year in state prison for each victim. Repeated offenses that lead to the injury or death of victims will result in additional years in state prison and fines ranging from $390 to $5,000. The license revocation may range from one to five years.

Drivers who violate DUI laws while a child under the age of 14 is in the vehicle will receive an extended jail sentence. The first offense calls for a jail time extension of 48 hours; the second offense results in a 10 day extension; and the third offense extends the sentence by 30 days. These penalties will increase if the accident also injures or claims the lives of others.

Restricted Licenses:

Drivers who have had their licenses suspended can request a restricted license, which allows them limited use of a vehicle. Eligibility will vary based on the situation; however, in many cases, after the first offense, drivers can obtain a restricted license by completing a DUI program. Visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles website for additional information on acquiring a restricted license.

DUI Programs:

The state of California offers over 450 DUI programs for individuals who have violated drinking and driving laws. The cost and nature of the programs vary. For example, the First Offender Program spans 3-months, 30-hours and includes counseling and drug education sessions. Six-month, nine-month, 18-month and 30-month programs are also available, as well as a 12-hour course for younger drivers. The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs website provides policies, reports and applications for various DUI programs. Drivers who are currently being penalized for breaking California DUI laws should explore the applicable programs.