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If you are charged with DWI in California

If you have been charged with a California DWI you are in deep trouble and you must realize that. The laws and penalties governing DWI in California are quite stringent and the loss of your driving license in a state where the car is king could have extremely detrimental effects on your ability to work and survive in today’s tough economic climate.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits

A urine, breath, or blood test measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Illegal limits are:

0.08% and above for most drivers

0.04% for commercial driver license (CDL) holders

0.01% and above for those younger than 21 and those on probation for a DUI

If the officer suspects you're on drugs, you'll have to take a blood or urine test.


Even if you've just taken too much allergy medicine, you can still face DUI charges. Therefore, know the side effects of any medication you are taking before you get behind the wheel. California law doesn't distinguish among prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), and illegal drugs.

DUI Penalties •

Penalties for DUI are very stiff. On a first conviction you might:

Be sentenced to up to six months in jail.

Fine between $390 and $1,000.

Pay a "penalty assessment" equal to approximately three times the amount of your fine.

Lose your driver's license for six months.

Be required to complete a DUI program. Depending on your BAC, you might have to enroll in a program that lasts as long as nine months.

Pay a reissue fee of $125 to have your driver's license reinstated.

File an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) with the DMV.

Ignition Interlock Law

Ignition interlock devices are required for all first-time and repeat DUI offenders in the following counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare.

Subsequent Convictions

If you are convicted of a second or third DUI, you will lose your license for two to four years. Once the revocation period has ended, and you have completed a nine-month DUI course, you may be permitted to drive a vehicle as long as it has an ignition interlock device (IID) (you have to blow an alcohol-free breath into the IID to start your car). You will not be granted a restricted license allowing you to drive to and from the DUI course.

If someone gets injured or killed, you could be tried under the California Three Strikes law (meaning jail for 25 years to life), as well as be sued in civil court. You'll also have an administrative hearing with the California DMV, face higher fines, and lose your license for up to four years.

Underage Drivers

Penalties for underage DUI are stiffer. Unless you are employed by someone who is licensed to sell alcohol, and are carrying a closed and sealed container in the course of your employment, it is illegal for a minor to have any alcohol in their vehicle even in a closed container unless you're accompanied by a parent or guardian.

California has a 10 year 'washout period'. This means if you are arrested for a California DWI and have no additional DWI arrests during the next 10 years, the offense will be removed from your record. If you do have another California DWI arrest during that period of time than it will be considered a second offense, which could result in harsh penalties, significant fines and possibly even jail time.

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