California DUI – Frequently Asked Questions

Being charged with a DUI in the state of California can be a tiresome process where you must fight for your right to drive.
In California, all DUI cases have a set of processes split into two segments. Those segments go through the DMV and court systems.
During the court process you have until your court date to start the various necessary proceedings to figure out how you will structure your case and whether or not you should seek legal council.

What happens now that I've been charged with a DUI in California?

For the DMV system you have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing to prevent the suspension of your drivers license. This will place a stay on your suspension until your hearing proceeding is completed.
Following this, a hearing officer will make a decision based on the findings of your case.

Am I going to jail?

After the initial processing following the charge of DUI there is no jail time until the case has been fully adjudicated. The various factors in each individual case will determine the severity of your sentencing.
With the proper representation, you may end up not having to serve any jail time.

How much will my fine be?

The initial fine is $390, with the penalty assessment going up to $1,600.

How will this affect my driving record and ability to drive?

Following a DUI, you may receive a notice of suspension for a period up to 4 months mandatory suspension, followed by 3 months of restricted driving.

To be granted the ability to be a restricted driver, you must process an appeal with the DMV showing the following:
1. Proof of enrollment in alcohol rehabilitation classes.
2. SR22 form (Financial Responsibility/Insurance). These can be acquired by contacting an insurance agent.
3. $125 DMV fee for a restricted license
4. Have an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) installed in your car. You may also be required to keep the IID installed in your car for a period of time that exceeds the original period of being a restricted driver.

How important is it to have representation for DUI's?

DUI cases are advisable to have an attorney by your side because the arresting officer may not follow protocol of arrest. In these situations the attorney can help you navigate the legal procedures to result in less severe penalty.

How long is the court process?

The duration of these cases in court may take up to one year due to the specific issues involved surrounding the arrest. The normal procedure for DUI is around 4 months.

DUI Information Sheet

A first-time DUI in California can result in consequences ranging from misdemeanor probation to time in jail.
Defendants may be able to continue driving if they are granted an "IID restricted license," which requires them to keep an
ignition interlock device (IID) in their car for four months.
But first-time DUI defendants who do not get an IID restricted license may endure up to a 6-month's
driver's license suspension unless; the driver requests a California DMV hearing and wins, or if the driver is not convicted of a DUI in court.

All in all, consequences of a first-time DUI conviction in California can include:

  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation (typically 3 years)
  • DUI school ranging from 3 to 9 months
  • Fines and penalty assessments totaling between $1,500 and $2,000 (depending on the county)
  • A 6-month driver's license suspension (though people may be able to get a restricted license or drive immediately with an IID restricted license)
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for six months (unless the defendant chooses not to drive);
  • Up to 6 months in jail (depending on the county)
  • In some counties, work release
  • Indirect consequences (such as increased car insurance premiums and harsher penalties if the defendant gets convicted of a subsequent DUI).


A DUI arrest triggers two types of legal proceedings

Being arrested for driving under the influence subjects the driver to two sets of proceedings:

  1. A jury trial or a bench trial in a California criminal court, and
  2. A California DMV license suspension hearing.

The California DMV cannot find a defendant or put him or her in jail. It can only suspend the defendant's license. It will suspend a license automatically unless the defendant timely requests – and then prevails at a hearing but getting a DMV hearing is not automatic. The defendant must request one within 10 days of being arrested.

However if  you hire an attorney, it's typically to represent you in the DMV proceedings and criminal court. Having the same attorney work on both aspects of your case can lead to better outcomes, including a shorter license-suspension period.