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Max Punishment for First-Time DUI in California

DUI lawyer Los AngelesThere are two types of drunk drivers: those who get caught and those who don’t. Those who are always responsible enough to call upon a designated driver are surely the wiser. However, when it comes to ethical behavior and reason, drunk drivers rarely tell such a black and white story. As thousands of DUI offenders know firsthand, sometimes all it takes is a few drinks—a momentary lapse of judgement—and suddenly you’re faced with your worst fear: the unknown punishment that lies ahead. If you’re a first time DUI offender, here’s what you should know about the maximum penalties imposed by the state of California. As always, it’s best to consult a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney before taking any further action on your case.

According to a recent publication by Nolo, the state of California has outlined specific minimum and maximum penalties for first-time DUI offenders. Assuming you did not cause anyone bodily injury or death, the following information will serve as a guide for fines, jail time, and other consequences to help prepare you for all possible outcomes. Keep in mind the totals do not account for such factors as missed time from work, public transportation costs if your car is impounded, or insurance increases.

Maximum Penalties

Fines: $1000

Penalty Assessments: $2,600 – $3,000

Imprisonment: 6 months  in the county jail

License Suspension: 6 months*

Other: 30 days vehicle impoundment

Mandatory ignition interlock device ($800)


Grand total: $4,400 (not including vehicle impound expenses which vary)

*License suspensions can be for 10 months for BACs of .15% or higher or 1 year if you refuse the test.

Minimum Penalties

Fines: $390

Penalty Assessments: Total fine of approximately $1,600 – $2,000

Imprisonment: 48 hours

License Suspension: 30 days minimum (plus an additional 6 month license restriction)

Other: Probation

Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program ($500). Course duration dependent upon BAC. Levels of .20% or higher will result in a nine month program versus the standard three.

Probation Defined

While your Los Angeles DUI defense attorney can best advise you on specific details, most first-time offenders will be placed on probation. Essentially this means you’re held to higher standards than non-offenders when it comes to obeying the law. At this point, you may not drive with any alcohol in your system regardless of your BAC and what is considered to be the “legal limit” at the time. You must cooperate with law enforcement by submitting to a field sobriety test if asked. Lastly—notwithstanding ordinary traffic citations—you are not to commit any further misdemeanors. In short, you’d be well advised to stay out of trouble.

Getting a DUI is a scary, sobering experience. There are undoubtedly many questions running through your head and it may seem like everyone has a different answer for you. In California, however, the consequences of your actions are relatively concrete in the eyes of the law. With the right Los Angeles DUI defense attorney, you can build a strong defense against the maximum penalty and very often reduce the charges. The important thing is that you prepare to move forward with your case and work on putting the past behind you.

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