Are These DUI Campaigns Keeping You From Driving Drunk?

Kris Caudilla


A new ad by the nonprofit We Save Lives shows real bar patrons being confronted by a convicted drunk driver in a Los Angeles bar’s bathroom.

The video shows the reactions of real bar patrons when they are presented with a videotaped message from a real convicted drunk driver in the bathroom mirror. The convict, speaking from prison, challenges bar patrons to think before they or their friends leave the bar and drive drunk.

The goal of We Save Lives is to educate drivers, hold them accountable if they drive drunk and injure or kill someone, to support victims’ rights, and to encourage others to prevent their family and friends from driving drunk.

What follows is a brief overview of how the state of California handles those who are caught drinking and driving.

The Consequences Of Drunk Driving In California

In California, you will be arrested and charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) whenever you are found to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, whether your driving was impaired or not

The penalties for a DUI conviction in California DUIs increase with every subsequent offense that takes place within a ten-year period. So, if you are convicted of a second DUI within a ten-year period, your penalties will be significantly higher.

Penalties For A First DUI In California

For a first time DUI in California you can expect to receive the following penalties:

  1. Probation – 3-5 years of informal probation. This basically means that in order to stay out of jail, you will be required to stay out of trouble, avoid picking up any new DUI charges or violating your probation in any way.
  1. License Suspension – Your license will be suspended for six months.
  1. A Fine – a conviction for a first time DUI carries a base fine of $390 plus court fees which will bring the total amount to 1800 to 2000.
  1. Alcohol Program – You will be required to complete an alcohol program. For a first-time DUI offender this will be an AB541 which is a 3-month long alcohol program that you will need to attend once per week.

Aggravating Factors Can Increase The Severity Of Your DUI Penalties

The penalties for a first time DUI can become significantly more severe with the presence of certain aggravating factors. These aggravating factors may include:

  • Refusing a chemical test
  • Resisting arrest
  • Fleeing the scene of the accident
  • Injuries caused to others
  • Property damage
  • A Blood Alcohol Concentration of above .15
  • Excessive speeding
  • Children in the car
  • Being under 21 years of age

In the event that your BAC was above .15, you may be ordered to attend a 9-month long alcohol program.

Penalties Can Vary From County To County

It should also be noted that penalties, especially for a first time DUI, will vary from county to county in California. For example, some counties enforce a minimum amount of jail time or have work release programs through the local sheriff’s office. Some counties will also require an ignition interlock device to be installed in your car, even for a first time DUI.

Penalties For A Second DUI In California

For a second DUI in California you can expect to receive the following penalties:

  1. Probation – 3-5 years
  2. License Suspension – 2 years
  3. Alcohol Program – This is likely to be the SB38 which is an 18-month alcohol program that costs approximately $1600 to attend and complete.
  4. Mandatory Jail Time – There is a statutory mandatory minimum jail time of at least 4 days for a second DUI, but many counties will impose anywhere from 30 – 60 days in jail.

The severity of the penalties you receive for a second DUI in California can be affected by the length of time between your first and second DUI offenses. If the two offenses were years apart, you may have room to negotiate less severe penalties. However, if you are convicted of a second DUI 3 months after your first, for example, you will be punished more harshly and be in a very bad position to negotiate less severe penalties.

Penalties For A Third DUI In California

The Penalties for a third DUI conviction in California are as follows:

  1. Probation – 5 years
  2. License suspension – 3 years
  3. Minimum Jail Time – 120 days to one year in jail
  4. A fine – $300 – $1000
  5. Alcohol Program – A 30-month alcohol program
  6. Be designated as a habitual DUI offender by the California DMV

The Penalties For A Fourth DUI In California

A fourth DUI in California is a felony. This means that you have been convicted of three prior DUIs in a ten-year time period. The penalties for a fourth DUI in California are as follows:

  1. Prison sentence – You may be sentenced to anywhere from 16 months to four years in a state prison
  2. Fines – Up to $1000
  3. License Revocation – Up to 4 years.
  4. Be designated as a habitual alcohol offender by the California DMV

The Penalties For A DUI That Results In Injury Or Death

Having multiple prior DUIs in a 10-year period is the most common way in which a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony. Another way to turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony is by injuring someone during your DUI offense.

If you injure someone while driving under the influence, you will be facing 16 months – 10 years in a California state prison, as well as, an additional and consecutive sentence of 1 – 6 years, depending on how many people you injured and the extent of their injuries. If someone dies, you may be sentenced to as much as life in prison.

In addition, you will receive the following penalties:

  1. Fines – $1000 to $5000
  2. Alcohol Program – 18 – 30 months
  3. Be designated as a habitual DUI offender and
  4. Be required to pay restitution to all of the parties involved

Furthermore, this will qualify as a strike under California’s three-strikes law and require you to complete at least 85% of your sentence before you are eligible for parole.

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