Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Apr 8, 2019

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California has two laws that govern DUI, or “driving under the influence,” charges and their prosecution. California vehicle code 23152(b) states that no person shall operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater. This is tested by a blood alcohol test.

Further, California vehicle code 23152(a) charges that no one shall operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, without setting a blood alcohol limit. This means that you can be charged with DUI in California even if you do not have a blood alcohol content as high as .08%, if you are acting or driving erratically.

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How much is auto insurance after a DUI?

Not only can you be charged in court and found guilty of violations of these laws, but you can also suffer sanction from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which can include license revocation or suspension.

While the courts impose fines for the violation of laws, the DMV actually controls your license and when you can get it back.

Initial Drivers License Confiscation

If you are pulled over by an officer and arrested for DUI, the officer is required to confiscate your driver’s license pending the outcome of the case. The officer reports the incident to the DMV, which conducts an internal investigation into the circumstances of the arrest.

The DMV will examine the blood, breath, or urine test results and the officer’s report, and will either reinstate the license or uphold its suspension.

Administrative Hearing

Up to 10 days after the arrest, the accused has the right to request an administrative hearing from the DMV. In order to be successful, this hearing should be attended in person, with a lawyer present if possible.

When an accused person attends the hearing and brings an attorney, the chances are much greater that the administrative hearing officer will consider granting a reinstatement.

The DMV will mail your final administrative decision within a few days of your hearing. If your license is reinstated, you can continue driving as usual.

Drivers License may be Suspended or Restricted

If your driver’s license is suspended, you can apply for a “restricted” license. As the name implies, this license has many limitations, and is designed to allow you only the most necessary driving privileges, such as to and from work or for medical emergencies.

If you are pulled over while driving on a restricted license, a police officer may check to verify that you are going to or returning from work, or that you have a medical emergency.

If it is discovered that you are driving on a restricted license and are engaged in a non-necessary journey, you may be fined additional penalties and lose the restricted license.

The California DMV imposes a four-month suspension for first-offense DUI convictions with a BAC of .08% or greater. If a second or subsequent offense happens with a ten-year period, a one-year suspension is given.

However, these sanctions only apply if the person is 21 or older and submitted voluntarily to a breath, blood, or urine test.

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Refusing a DUI Test

If the person is 21 or older but refused the voluntary test, and if the court-ordered test returns positive results, then the suspension period rises to one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense within a ten-year period, and three years for a third or subsequent offense.

If the driver is under 21, any measurable BAC will result in a one-year driver’s license suspension. California considers .01% or higher a measurable blood alcohol content.

The court system will, meanwhile, be pursuing its own sanctions.

Unlike the DMV, there are not pre-set amounts of fines or jail time imposed; the punishment is up to the judge’s discretion, and will often be influenced by the person’s demeanor at the time of arrest and in court, how many former offenses the person has, and other circumstances the judge may take into account, such as support of a family.

Possible Jail Time

The judge can assign up to 6 months in jail for a first offense. Subsequent offenses may be punished with longer jail time; in fact, some counties require a minimum 210-day sentence for multiple offenders. The fines for a first offense range from $390 to $1000, and subsequent offenses are generally fined at higher and higher rates.

Judges will often order the offender to attend an alcohol treatment program, the length of which is determined by the blood alcohol content at the time of arrest. If the offender had a lower BAC, the treatment period may be only 30 days; for higher BACs, 60 days or more may be imposed.

Four DUI offenses during a ten-year period is considered a felony, which can mean significant fines, up to three years in jail, and permanent loss of driver’s license.

SR22 Auto Insurance Requirement

California also has a regulation known as “SR22” insurance. This requires convicted DUI drivers to secure this coverage for three years after a DUI conviction. Generally, this coverage is far more expensive than regular liability.

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