California DUI Laws
California has some of the most stringent impaired driving (DUI) laws in the country. A first offense (without bodily injury) is punishable by nearly $2,000 in fines and assessments, 48 hours in jail, several months of license suspension, and completion of a three-month alcohol education program. If you commit a third or subsequent DUI offense within a 10-year period, you may be sentenced to as many as 16 months in state prison, roughly $18,000 in fines and assessments, and the requirement of a 30-month alcohol treatment program. Understanding the law will not only help you avoid committing a DUI, but also help you plan your next steps if you have been arrested for the offense.
The following chart lays out the basics of California DUI law, including blood alcohol contentration (BAC) limits, penalties, and information about license suspension.
California DUI Laws: Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent
|"Per Se" BAC Limit||0.08 Percent|
|Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit||0.02 Percent|
|Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit||0.16 Percent|
to Submit to BAC Test?
California DUI Laws: Select Penalties
|Minimum License Suspension or Revocation
(1st, 2nd, 3rd offense)
|6 months, 2 years, up to 10 years|
|Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment||Both (education if under 21)|
|Ignition Interlock Device
|Yes (mandatory for 3rd offense)|
Note: State laws are always changing through legislative, judicial, or other means. While FindLaw works hard to ensure the accuracy of its legal resources, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the law or check with an attorney to make sure you have the most recent information.
Admin Per Se Immediate Driver License Suspension or Revocation
Under the administration license suspension program ("Admin Per Se"), motorists may have their driver's license automatically suspended or revoked. This includes those who have been arrested for a DUI and:
- Register a 0.01% BAC while on probation; or
- Refuse to take a BAC test
California DUI Resources
- California DUI Statutes: Offenses Involving Alcohol or Drugs (California Vehicle Code Sections 23152 - 23229.1)
- California DUI: General Information - Overview of California DUI laws and penalties (Ca. DMV).
- Ignition Interlock Devices - Information about IIDs and a list of providers (Ca. DMV).
- California DMV Offices - Directory of California DMV field offices, which handle the license reinstatement process (Ca. DMV).
- DUI Arrest DMV Administrative Hearings vs Criminal Court Trials - The difference between criminal trials for DUI charges and administrative hearings with regard to your license (Ca. DMV).
- DUI Reportability Requirements - Summary of California law in regard to how long (10 years) your DUI offense will remain on your driving record.
Have a California DUI Attorney Review Your Case for Free
Whether you were pulled over while cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway or after a night out with co-workers in the Bay Area, it's important to understand California's DUI laws and penalties. A smart way to do that is to speak with a skilled attorney who specializes in defending DUI cases. To learn more about your case and possible defenses, you can have a local DUI attorney evaluate your case for free.