California DUI – First Offense




Elements of the Crime


Clearly, if it’s your first DUI, the punishments are likely to be less severe. In California, DUI first offense charges are defined as the first time that an individual has been charged in the past ten years with the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (with a .08 % blood-alcohol level). In order to support a conviction of a violation of VC §23152, subsection (a) the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove a vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol and/or drugs. The concept of impairment is key. Here, it must be proven that the driver’s mental or physical abilities while driving were so impaired that he or she was unable to drive a vehicle with the ordinary caution of a sober person.


In California, DUI first offense charges may not result in a conviction without a fulfillment of VC §23152, subsection (b) where the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove a vehicle and at the time of driving, the person’s blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent or higher.




An individual convicted of a first offense DUI will normally be charged a fine in an amount ranging from $390.00 – $1,000. When coupled with administrative and court fees, total financial penalties tend to be around $1800, which can be paid over time.


Standard penalties for a California, DUI first offense vary by county. For instance, those convicted of DUI in Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare Counties must install a certified interlock ignition device (IID) on their vehicle(s) for a mandatory period of five months before the DMV will issue a restricted driver’s license (VC §23700(7)(A)(i)).


Depending on the BAC (blood alcohol content) of the convicted person at the time of arrest, there are different regulations governing mandatory participation in an alcohol treatment program. If the person’s BAC level is under .20%, then they will be required to enroll in and attend a 30-hour alcohol and drug program that is licensed by the state of California, DUI first offense charges where the person’s BAC reading is above .20%, will result in attendance of an alcohol and drug treatment program for a minimum of 60 hours (VC §23356(b)(4)). In addition to this mandate, the individual person’s driving privileges will be suspended by the DMV for a period of at least four months. This occurs only in cases where a person has cooperated with law enforcement officers and agreed to a breath, blood, or urine test for BAC.


However, if the individual refuses a BAC level test, the DMV may suspend their driving privileges for up to one year – with no opportunity to request a restricted license (VC §13353(a)(1)). If the person cooperated with law enforcement as per the BAC test and enrolls in a state approved DUI school, a convicted person may have the suspension of their driver’s license reduced to a period of one month, followed by a period of five months of using a restricted license. Recall that in Alameda and Sacramento Counties, an IID is required before the DMV will issue a restricted license. In either case – whether one willingly submits to a BAC test or does not – it will be necessary for that individual to show proof of SR22 insurance before their driving privileges can be reinstated. From Los Angeles to San Jose, DUI first offense charges in California should not be taken lightly. If convicted, jail time is often the result, even for a first offense. It is, in fact, up to the particular judge as to whether jail time is warranted in a particular case. Those convicted of DUI and sentenced to 30 days or less in the county jail often elect to serve their sentences through a Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP). In some cases SWAP can be done on weekends and might include roadside trash-picking or other similar work. Sentences for those granted probation range from no time in jail to a maximum of 6 months. Alternatively, if no probation is granted, the sentence could be from between 96 hours to 6 months in the county jail. It all depends on where you are, but one thing is for sure: in California, DUI first offense charges require immediate attention.



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