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First Time Getting a DUI in California? Here’s What To Expect

blue lights cops carA lot of drivers who receive their first time DUI in California often find themselves asking, “what happens next?”. Rightfully so. The process can seem confusing and can be very scary for someone to go through alone.

This article explains what happens when you get a first time DUI, what you can expect, what steps to take next, and how to seek legal help.

What Happens When You Get a DUI in California?

If you are arrested for driving under the influence it will trigger two different types of legal proceedings.

  1. A criminal case where you have a right to a jury trial or bench trial
  2. The California DMV license suspension

License suspensions cannot result in monetary fine or jail time; it strictly suspends your license. Unless you request a hearing within 10 days of being arrested, your license will be automatically suspended. The court can also but usually will not do so, however, the DMV can order a license suspension for 6 months if convicted of DUI. This 6 month suspension can be connected to a “restricted license” if enrolled in an approved alcohol program and file proof of attendance.

Your trial will take place to determine whether you have committed a crime. For a trial your appearance is mandatory, and it is during this trial that the jury will determine whether the prosecution has proved its case to all jurors beyond a reasonable doubt. With a DUI attorney you can plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest based upon what you were charged with.

California DUI Fines for First Offense

During your trial, the fines will vary based on the severity of the case. For a first time DUI in California, your criminal penalties in terms of potential finds can range between $1,900 and $3,500 depending on the county in which you were charged.

California DUI Sentencing for First Offense

In California there are 7 misdemeanor DUI offenses with which you can be charged under California vehicle code. The most common include the following:

  • 23152(a) VC: Driving under the influence of alcohol. It is important to note that with this charge they have to prove is that your physical and mental abilities were impaired but they do not have to prove your blood alcohol level.
  • 23152(b) VC: Driving with a BAC of .08% or higher. This is a charge similar to the first but it does require the measured blood alcohol level of .08 % or higher at the time of driving.

If an injury was caused as a result of your DUI, the charge for your first time DUI could be a felony. If the accident took place while you were driving a commercial vehicle or an Uber vehicle, it is considered a wobbler. This offense can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the situation and the extent of injury.

You may face different potential sentencing depending on individual circumstances. Typically speaking, for a first time DUI in California the potential sentencing will be between three and five years of informal probation, and most cases are  three years.

You will also have to attend mandatory DUI school which can range between 3-9 months although first offenders are typically given three months unless they had a high B.A.C.

Depending on the severity of the case, you could be charged with up to 6 months in jail. To that end, in some counties the court may order probation for your first-time offense instead of jail time. If you violate any terms of that probation, they can revoke the probation in lieu of jail and reinstate the full sentence which will typically include the entirety of the jail time originally proposed.

What to Do When Charged With Your First California DUI

If you have been charged with a DUI in California, it is very important that you seek legal help immediately. There are dozens of things that you need to do in order to make sure that you get the best results and have the best chance of reducing or avoiding charges and jail time. Without the help of an expert DUI Attorney, you run the risk of facing maximum charges, something you really can’t afford to risk.


My name is Jon Bryant Artz, I have been a DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles for over 40 years, and have helped hundreds of clients to fight their DUI charges in order to get reductions in sentencing and avoid charges completely in some cases. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Contact me today for a free case evaluation.


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