California State Laws and Requirements

In California, a DUI charge is a serious offense. If you’re convicted with a DUI, you could face penalties ranging from a fine all the way up to imprisonment. In most cases, you’ll have to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) even after your first offense. Understanding California DUI laws is critical, especially if you’ve been charged with or convicted of a DUI. However, the legal system can be complicated, and determining which laws apply to your situation can be difficult.

Here are the basic California DUI laws that every driver in the state should know.

Is it Legal to Drive? BAC Levels and Legality

In the state of California, it’s always illegal to drive if your BAC level is 0.08% or higher. This law applies to every driver in every situation. Depending on your age, other BAC levels and situations may also be illegal. Here are a few of the circumstances you should be aware of.

  • Under 21 – If you’re under the age of 21, a BAC of 0.01% is illegal. If you’re pulled over and you test at this level or higher, it’s automatically considered to be illegal because you’re not at the legal drinking age.
  • Under 18 – Any measurable sign of alcohol while driving a vehicle is illegal in the state of California.
  • Commercial Vehicle – If you’re driving a vehicle that requires a commercial license and you’re given a sobriety test, any level above 0.04% is considered illegal due to the nature of commercial driving.
  • Repeat Offender – If you’re a repeat offender, any measurable sign of alcohol is considered illegal given that California DUI laws have a zero tolerance policy for multiple offenses.


Circumstantial DUI Laws in California

Aside from age restrictions, you’ll also face different sets of penalties based on your situation. California DUI laws assign different penalties to different drivers depending on how many offenses you’ve had in the past for driving under the influence or drunk driving.

First Offense 

In the state of California, your first DUI offense can carry with it some steep penalties. While they’re not as severe as the penalties imposed upon repeat offenders, they’re still serious and can greatly affect the lives of those subjected to them. Here’s what you can expect if you’ve been convicted of a DUI/DWI in California for the first time.

  1. Fines of up to $1,000 in fines.
  2. License Suspension that can last from 30 days to 6 months.
  3. Imprisonment  that can last anywhere from 4 days to 6 months
  4. IID Installation – In some counties, you’ll be required to install an IID and enroll in the Ignition Interlock Program.

Second Offense

After your second offense, you’ll be imposed to the same types of penalties listed above. However, second offenses are treated as repeat offenses in California, so there are stiffer penalties associated with them. Here’s what you’ll be looking at if you’re convicted of a second DUI/DWI in California.

  1. Fines of up to $1,800.
  2. License Suspension of two years, which can, in some cases, be reduced to one year.
  3. Imprisonment lasting from 10 days to a year, depending on your situation.
  4. Mandatory IID Installation

Third Offense

If you receive your third DUI charge or conviction in California, DUI laws state that you could face any combination of the following penalties.

  1. Fines of up to $1,800.
  2. License suspension of three years.
  3. Imprisonment lasting from 120 days to three years.
  4. Mandatory IID Installation

Fourth Offense

Repeat offenders who obtain four or more DUI convictions in California will be met with any combination of the following penalties.

  1. Fines of up to $1,800.
  2. License suspension of four years.
  3. Imprisonment lasting around 16 months.
  4. Mandatory IID Installation

Special Restricted Driver’s Licenses in California

Most DUI-related violations in California will result in license suspension. In some cases, you can become eligible for a special restricted license which will allow you limited driving privileges before your suspension is up. Keep in mind that these licenses are only available to those who are 21 years of age and older. If you’re convicted of a DUI and you’re below the legal drinking age, your license will likely be revoked or suspended, depending on your specific situation.

In order to be eligible for a special restricted driver’s license in California, you must meet the following requirements.

  • Pay Penalties – You’ll have to pay penalties that range anywhere from $390 to $1,000. On top of that fine, you’ll have to pay a $15 fee called a restriction fee. The restriction fee isn’t applicable in every county, but it’s a possibility.
  • SR22 – You’ll have to submit an SR22 form, which is a form substantiating your ability to be financially responsible in the future.
  • Clear Your Record – If you have any holds, suspensions, or revocations on your license you’ll have to clear them before you can get a special restricted driver’s license.
  • Prison – A prison sentence will also be required in order to obtain your special restricted driver’s license.
  • DUI Course – In addition to the penalties above, you’ll have to submit proof that you’ve enrolled in a driving under the influence course of either 18 or 30 months, depending on your situation.
  • IID Installation – In most cases, you’ll have to install an IID, or Ignition Interlock Device, in your car in order to obtain a special restricted driver’s license. Make sure you obtain your device and have it installed by a reputable service provider who is registered and state-approved.

Court Orders for IID Installation in California

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI in California and you’re required to install an IID, that installation will be initiated by a court order. Once you have the court order you can go to a state-approved and registered service provider for your IID installation. Depending on your county and unique situation, your court order may require you to have an IID installation that comes with a DMV connection. Only a state-approved and registered service provider will be able to fulfill the court order and help you get back on track.

Just because you install an IID doesn’t mean you automatically have your driving privileges back, though. You’ll still have to go through legal proceedings that may or may not require you to obtain a special restricted driver’s license in order to drive.

There’s usually a 10-year lookback period, as well, meaning that your DUI is relevant in future sentencing proceedings for ten years.

While the information reflected here is current as of this writing, laws do change from time to time and unique circumstances may change the penalties and requirements that you’re subject to. Check with the California Department of Motor Vehicles for the most up-to-date and case-specific information.








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