Enhanced DUI Penalties

California is continually increasing its penalties and enhancements for DUI offenses. This comes from ongoing pressure from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

As a result, under certain circumstances surrounding an arrest for DUI, a driver may be subjected to increased penalties, including mandatory jail time, even for a first offense.

Prior Convictions

Previous convictions for DUI within the past 10 years will increase minimum jail sentences, length of DUI school and license suspension. A fourth offense within 10 years is a felony in California, which carries mandatory incarceration in the California State Prison.

High Blood-Alcohol Concentration

Driving with blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or higher is considered high BAC. As a result, even for a first conviction, the court may impose increased penalties, including but not limited to:

  • Mandatory attendance in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings;
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in any car you own or have access to for 1-3 years;
  • Public work service;
  • Community service;
  • Electronic bracelet monitoring;
  • Incarceration in the county jail; and/or
  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol/drug abuse.

Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing

Refusal to submit to a chemical test after being arrested for suspicion of DUI carries additional penalties in California. These penalties include:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 1 year with no ability to obtain a restricted license;
  • A 9-month alcohol education program;
  • Mandatory jail time; and
  • Increased fines.

High Speed and/or Reckless Driving

Penalties are enhanced for DUI committed at excessive speeds and/or for reckless driving. In order to prove this enhancement, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. Driving under the influence or with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more;
  2. Driving at least 20 mph over the speed limit on a street or 30 mph over the speed limit on a freeway; and
  3. Guilty of reckless driving.

If all three elements are proven, the court will impose a mandatory 60-day jail term in addition to the standard penalties of the DUI conviction.

Child Endangerment

If a DUI is committed with a child in the car under 14 years old, the court will enhance penalties by adding between 48 hours to 90 days of additional jail time. Depending on the circumstances, if the prosecutors believe that the DUI was particularly egregious, you could be charged with Penal Code section 273a Child Endangerment Law in addition to the DUI.

Child Endangerment Law violations carry a California State Prison sentence of up to 6 years.

Accident or Injury

Under California law, a DUI with injury is considered a “wobbler” which means that it may be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the arrest and criminal history.

Misdemeanor DUI with injury:

  • 5 days to 1 year in county jail;
  • Increased fines of up to $5,000;
  • 3, 18 or 30-month alcohol program;
  • A 1-3 year license restriction; and
  • Restitution to all injured parties.

A felony DUI with injury:

  • 16-months to 10-years in California State Prison;
  • An additional and consecutive 1-6 year prison sentence depending on the number of injured parties, and the extent of their injuries;
  • Possibly obtaining a “strike” on your criminal record;
  • Up to $5,000 in fines;
  • An 18 or 30-month alcohol program;
  • Habitual Traffic Offender status for 3 years; and
  • Restitution to all injured parties.