Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a severe crime in California, which can have serious legal and administrative consequences. Depending on the conditions of the case, fines and penalties for a DUI can range from a simple fine to a lengthy prison sentence. In this article, we will show you the main types of fines and penalties that apply in DUI cases in California, as well as some tips to avoid or reduce them.

Financial fines

Financial fines are one of the most common penalties for a DUI in California. These fines can range from $390 to $5,000, depending on the severity of the case and the number of previous offenses. In addition, administrative, legal, and rehabilitation costs must be added, which can increase the total amount to be paid. For example, if it is a first DUI without injuries, the base fine is $390, but it can reach about $2,000 with additional costs.

Driver’s License Suspension or Revocation

Another common penalty for a DUI in California is driver’s license suspension or revocation. This measure is applied by both the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the court trying the case. The length of the suspension or revocation depends on the driver’s blood alcohol level (BAC), the type of license he or she has, and previous offense history. For example, if it is a first DUI with a BAC of 0.08% or greater, the DMV administrative suspension is four months, while the judicial suspension is six months. In some cases, you can apply for a restricted license that allows you to drive to certain places, such as work or school, as long as a breath interlock device (IID) is installed in the vehicle.

Alcohol or drug education program

Another common consequence of a DUI in California is the requirement to attend an alcohol or drug education program. These programs aim to inform and raise awareness among drivers about the risks and effects of substance use that affect the ability to drive. The duration and content of the program vary depending on the case, but can range from 3 to 30 months. The cost of the program is the driver’s responsibility and can be quite high.

Conditional freedom

Probation is an alternative measure to prison that involves compliance with certain conditions imposed by the court. These conditions may include not committing any other crime, not driving with any level of alcohol or drugs in your system, submitting to periodic alcohol or drug testing, paying any applicable fines and costs, attending an alcohol or drug educational program, and complying with any other court order. Probation can last between 3 and 5 years for a DUI without injuries and between 3 and 10 years for a DUI with injuries.


Prison is the most severe penalty for a DUI in California and is reserved for the most serious or repeat cases. The length of the sentence depends on the type and degree of the crime, as well as the number of previous offenses. For example, a first DUI without injuries is a misdemeanor that can carry up to 6 months in prison, while a fourth DUI or a first DUI with injuries is a felony that can carry up to 16 years in prison.