How California increases penalties for each additional DUI charge

Impaired driving is a common reason people get arrested. Some drunk or drugged driving arrests occur after someone causes a crash that results in property damage or injury. However, quite a few driving under the influence (DUI) charges are victimless and result from traffic stops rather than collisions.

Given that they don’t cause injury or damage to others, traffic stop-based DUI charges might seem less serious than other criminal charges. An officer merely has reason to believe that their blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit of 0.08%.

While the penalties associated with a technical DUI are lower than the charges and penalties involved when a driver hurts someone or damages their property, they can still change the course of your life. That is especially true for a second, third or subsequent DUI charge, as the penalties increase with each conviction.

How does California punish a DUI charge?

The first time someone faces DUI charges, the charge will be a misdemeanor. The penalties include up to 48 hours in prison, $390 in fines, and six months of license suspension. Anyone convicted of a DUI will also have to complete mandatory substance use disorder education.

For a second offense within 10 years, the penalties increase. Someone could go to jail for 96 hours, face three years of probation, and loss of their license for two years. A third or subsequent offense can lead to 120 hours in jail and three years of license suspension.

The threat of increasing penalties is a strong reason to defend yourself

If you compare the penalties for a first offense with a third offense, a first-time DUI may not worry you very much. However, once you have that arrest on your record, you will be at risk for future arrests with higher penalties for a decade.

Defending yourself against a first DUI conviction will mean that you don’t face increased penalties if you ever get arrested again. Instead, you will only face the first-time consequences. The same is true of those who have gone more than 10 years since a DUI offense. Those with a previous DUI on their record face will likely want to aggressively defend themselves to avoid the loss of their freedom and their license.