Punishment for a California DUI will vary depending on a number of factors such as prior convictions, blood alcohol content, related collisions, and other circumstances. Some aspects of a sentence are statutorily mandatory and some are discretionary.
Before I move on, let me be clear that I’ll be discussing the expected punishments for a first-time California DUI without injury. When there prior DUI convictions or when the DUI causes injuries, punishment can increase significantly. That’s a different discussion for a different day.
The California Vehicle Code provides that a person convicted of a DUI can be sentenced to up to six months in county jail. However, while it’s allowed, it’s rarely given. In fact, I’ve never seen it. Having said that, courts sometimes give some jail time. Again, this often depends on the circumstances. If jail is given, it is sometimes possible to complete community labor or work release to satisfy jail time.
The mandatory minimum fines and fees for a California DUI is $390, the maximum is $1,000. The minimum is usually ordered. However, “penalties and assessments” will be added to this amount. Think of them as court taxes. Once added, a person can expect to pay around $2,000 in fines and fees.
A person who is convicted of a first-time DUI will be required to enroll in and attend a DUI offender program. The program will be either three, six, or nine months in length. Unless there were aggravating circumstances, the three-month program is usually required.
First-time DUI offenders can expect to be placed on summary (informal) probation for a period of three to five years. More often than not, three years of summary probation is given. While on probation, a person cannot pick up any new cases, cannot drive without a valid license, must submit to field sobriety tests (normally FST’s are optional), cannot drive with any alcohol in their system, pay all fines fees, complete the DUI program discussed above, and/or complete any other obligations the court requires.
In addition to the required penalties mentioned above, the court may also impose discretionary penalties.
Discretionary penalties may include attendance at AA meetings, community labor (Caltrans), community service, a MADD Victim Impact Panel, a Hospital and Morgue Program, installation of an ignition interlock device, and/or installation of a SCRAM device.
As you can see, there is a lot at stake when a person is facing a California DUI, not to mention a conviction on the person’s criminal records. This is precisely why it is so important to consult with and hire a DUI attorney if you are facing a California DUI.