How Much Jail Time Do You Get for a First, Second, or Third DUI in California?

dui california penalties

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in California that carries severe penalties, which escalate quickly with each subsequent violation. As DUI defense attorneys, we know how devastating a DUI charge can be.

In this article, we’ll walk through what jail time and other penalties you can expect for first, second, third, and subsequent DUIs in California.

What Happens After a First DUI in California

Let’s start with what happens if you’re arrested and convicted of a first-time DUI. For a first-offense misdemeanor DUI in California with no aggravating factors, you can expect:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail. Many first offenses result in little to no jail time. The judge has the discretion to order between 0 and 6 months.
  • Fines are between $390 and $1,000 plus penalty assessments.
  • A 6-10 month license suspension. You may be able to get a restricted license after 30 days with an ignition interlock device installed.
  • Completion of a 3-month or 9-month DUI program.

Now, a first DUI may seem minor compared to subsequent offenses, but it’s still devastating. Even a short license suspension affects your ability to get to work and school. Fines and classes cost thousands of dollars. Some first offenses do result in jail time if there are aggravating factors like an extremely high BAC, accident, injury, or speeding.

But overall, first DUIs tend to have less severe punishments focused on education and prevention unless there are serious aggravations involved. So, if it’s your first offense, the penalties are meant to steer you away from reoffending.

What About a Second DUI in California?

If you’re convicted of a second misdemeanor DUI within 10 years of your first, the penalties become significantly more severe:

  • Mandatory minimum of 96 hours in county jail. Most second DUIs result in a month or more of jail time. Judges can sentence up to 1 year.
  • Fines are between $390 and $1,000 plus assessments.
  • A 2-year license suspension. You may be able to get a restricted license after 1 year if enrolled in a DUI program.
  • An 18-month DUI program.

Unlike first offenses focused on education, second DUIs aim to punish repeat behavior. While a judge could technically give you no jail time, you will almost always serve at least 96 hours.

Can I Get a Restricted License After a Second DUI in California?

Yes, after completing 12 months of your suspension, you can get a restricted license if enrolled in a DUI program. You’ll need to get an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your car that tests your breath for alcohol before starting the engine.

How Much Jail Time is Expected for a Third DUI?

If you’re convicted of a third misdemeanor DUI within 10 years, the penalties ratchet up substantially:

  • Mandatory minimum of 120 days in county jail. Most third DUIs result in a year or more of jail time.
  • Fines are between $1,815 and $2,500 plus assessments.
  • A 3-year license revocation.
  • Completion of a 30-month DUI program.

As you can see, the penalties for a third DUI are severe. By your third DUI, the state sees clear evidence that you haven’t changed your behavior despite previous punishment and rehabilitation efforts. So, California law requires at least 120 days of jail time for a third DUI—no exceptions.

In our experience defending DUI cases, third offenses almost always result in a year or more of jail time. Blowing over a .20% BAC or causing injury can quickly raise your sentence to multiple years.

Is There Any Way to Avoid Jail Time After a Third DUI?

While unlikely, there are a few ways you may be able to avoid extended jail time after a third DUI in California:

  • Enter an alcohol program early: By quickly entering alcohol education and treatment after your arrest, you show the court you’re serious about rehabilitation.
  • File a disregard prior motion: This asks the judge to “strike” a prior DUI for sentencing purposes. But it rarely succeeds.
  • Argue unconstitutional sentencing: In very rare cases, grossly disproportionate sentences for misdemeanor crimes have been ruled unconstitutional.

As you can see, the options are very limited. Never count on avoiding jail time after a third DUI. An experienced DUI defense attorney is your best shot at minimizing your sentence.

Can I Get a Restricted License After a Third DUI in California?

Yes, it is possible to get a restricted license after a third DUI, but the process is much stricter. You must:

  • Complete 30 months of your 3-year revocation period.
  • Enroll and participate in a DUI program for 30 months.
  • File an SR-22 insurance form and pay high-risk insurance rates.
  • Get an ignition interlock device (IID) installed for 3-5 years.

Because of the long revocation period, strict requirements, and expensive IID costs, relatively few drivers pursue restricted licenses after a third DUI.

What Happens After a Fourth or Subsequent DUI?

If you are arrested and convicted of a fourth or subsequent DUI within 10 years, you can expect even harsher punishments:

  • Between 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison. Most result in multi-year sentences.
  • Fines up to $1,000 plus assessments.
  • A 5-year license suspension.
  • An 18- or 30-month DUI program.
  • Likely felony charge, depending on your criminal record, resulting in 2-5 years of prison time.

Simply put, fourth and subsequent DUIs bring life-altering consequences. By your fourth DUI, California shows no leniency for repeat unlawful behavior that recklessly endangers the community. Multi-year jail sentences are standard.

Don’t Roll the Dice with Your Freedom – Contact Kolacia Law Today

Facing DUI charges in California can be an overwhelming and isolating experience. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The dedicated attorneys at Kolacia Law have spent years helping people in situations just like yours. We know your freedom, livelihood, and future are on the line.

Our firm offers strong legal guidance, attention to detail, and personalized care for clients facing DUI allegations. Don’t leave your fate to chance. An experienced DUI defense attorney can analyze the details of your case and build the strongest defense possible.

We know you’re dealing with complex laws and serious penalties. We can walk you through the process, look for ways to reduce charges, and fight to protect your rights. Don’t wait to get the legal advocacy you deserve. Contact our firm for a free consultation. With so much at stake, you need the attorneys at Kolacia Law in your corner.

Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

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