Just How Severe are California DUI Penalties

Almost everyone knows that being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is not a matter to be taken lightly. Regardless of where a person is arrested in the country they are going to face stiff penalties. Since there is no federal law specifying the penalties for DUI, it is up to individual states to set forth the punishments for a conviction under the law. Unfortunately for California citizens who receive DUIs, their legislature and courts takes the crime very seriously. It turns out that California’s DUI penalties are much more severe than some other state’s penalties.

Jail Time

According to our Merced dui lawyer, a person convicted of driving under the influence in California can actually face up to six months in jail on their very first offence. On a second offence a person will face a minimum sentence of ten days and may possibly be sent to jail for a year. A third offence also brings a possible jail term of a year, but the minimum sentence that can be imposed jumps all the way to four months.

While some of these punishments may not seem out of place compared to other state’s DUI penalties, the difference lies in the ‘look-back period.’ This is the period of time in which multiple DUI arrests are considered. Many states only count a second DUI arrest as an actual ‘second DUI’ if the two arrests occur within five years of each other. In California, this period of time jumps to ten years, making it far easier to accumulate multiple arrests.


The imposition of fines is also especially severe in California. Looking at Georgia DUI laws is one way to show the severity of California’s. Georgia law allows a person to be sent to jail for one full year on their very first DUI conviction, obviously making Georgia one of the toughest states on the crime. The Peach State, however, cannot touch California when it comes to fine severity.

Georgia’s maximum fine for DUIs, even a fourth DUI, is five thousand dollars. The minimum fine in Georgia is only three hundred dollars on a first offence. California, on the other hand, can hand down an eighteen thousand dollar fine on a third DUI charge, and the minimum fine imposed on a first time DUI offender is fourteen hundred dollars. This large disparity may seem unfair to many California residents who drive under the influence, but it is unlikely that these fines will ever decrease.

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Ignition Interlock Device

Different areas in America vary wildly on their use of ignition interlock devices (IID). Even laws within the state of California vary county to county. These devices require a person to basically pass a breathalyzer before starting their car. This may not seem like too big of a deal until a person realizes that they have to pay to have the device installed and monitored, and these devices are not made to save offenders money.

California is one of few places that require an ignition interlock device to be installed on a person’s car after only one DUI offence. Though this rule is not statewide, it does exist in many counties. The IID is meant to save innocent lives, but it does basically turn into another fine and penalty for the person that is convicted of DUI.

Driving under the influence is a serious crime that puts the driver and others in serious danger. Because of this most, states treat the crime especially severely even when there is no wreck or bodily harm caused by the offence. California goes a step above and beyond other states in trying to lessen the occurrence of DUI arrests, and while it may work, it definitely doesn’t benefit the defendant’s wallet in any way.

Anthony Joseph is a freelance writer, and also a contributing author for Terry A. Wapner, a Merced DUI lawyer. Attorney Wapner is well-known throughout the legal community as an expert who successfully defends his clients’ DUI cases. He’s highly trained in the cross-examination of prosecution experts and police officers, which has proven to be very effective for winning cases.

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