How much does a DUI cost? In the past, there was a widely publicized study that estimated the total cost of a DUI in California to be up to $10,000. DUI is not just like other criminal offenses that can be resolved with writing a check to the court or serving a jail term for a specific period. In other words, the crime of driving under the influence has rippling effects that may have long term financial consequences. Read on to find out how the total cost of a DUI in California is computed. At The DUI Defense Attorney, we specialize in helping people who have been arrested and charged for DUI in Van Nuys fight their charges. If you retain us, we promise to assist you to fight for an acquittal or have your charges reduced.

The Cost of a First Time Misdemeanor DUI

The California prosecution department will charge you with a first time DUI if you have never been charged for DUI in the past ten years. When you are under arrest for most criminal offenses in California, you won’t incur any costs until you are convicted of that offense. The court will convict you if you enter a guilty plea, or the jury finds you to be guilty. However, a DUI arrest comes with both administrative penalties – and criminal penalties when convicted. Here is a detailed breakdown of the cost of a first time DUI in California:

Administrative Penalties

There are various administrative penalties that you will automatically face if you have been arrested for a first time DUI in California. California's Department of Motor Vehicles imposes most of these penalties.

The Process

The law enforcement officer who has arrested you for DUI will confiscate your driving license. Then, he/she will issue you a revocation or suspension order and a temporary license. You can utilize this temporary license for 30 days. When these 30 days lapse, the suspension order or revocation order will come into effect. For you to get back your license, you must request a DMV hearing within ten days from the date when you were issued the revocation/suspension order.


If you refuse to take the BAC test, the authorities will suspend your driving license for one year immediately after your temporary license has expired. This is because you would be deemed to have violated California’s implied consent laws by refusing to take the BAC test. This suspension will still be effective even if you win your DUI court trial.

Exceeding California’s Blood-Alcohol Limit

If the BAC test showed that you had exceeded California’s blood-alcohol level limit, your driving license would be suspended by the DMV for four months. Generally, the maximum blood-alcohol limit, which all drivers in California should not exceed, is 0.08%. Drivers of commercial vehicles should not have more than 0.04% alcoholic content in their blood. Teenagers and individuals who are serving a probation term are not permitted to drive if their BAC level exceeds 0.01%.

Note that the police officer who arrested you will still issue you a temporary license even if you exceeded the BAC legal limit. The 4-month DMV suspension will come into effect immediately after this temporary license expires. However, after you have completed a 30-day ‘hard suspension’ term, you can apply for a restricted license. This restricted license will permit you to commute to your workplace and to attend a DUI school. For the authorities to issue you a restricted license, you must show proof of enrolling in a DUI educational program, provide an SR-22 form, and pay a driving license reissue fee that may be around $125.

Reinstating Your Driving License

You can apply for license reinstatement after the suspension term has expired. However, for you to get back your license, you must show proof of completing a DUI educational program. The period of this program may be between 3-9 months, and you may end up spending around $600 - $900 for you to complete it. The cost of this program varies depending on the facts and circumstances of your arrest and your blood-alcohol level limit.


As a first time DUI offender, you may be given the option of having a restricted license and installing an IID for 12 months. You may alternatively have your license reinstated but with the requirement of installing an IID in your vehicle for six months. You will be personally responsible for the costs of installing the IID and its maintenance. The cost of the IID installation may range from $70 - $150, and that of maintenance may be $60 - $80 per month.

Criminal Penalties

Convicted first time DUI motorists may be ordered to pay fines that may range from $390 - $1000. Additionally, various penalty assessments may cause convicts of a first time DUI to part with several thousands of dollars. The court may also order these convicts to serve a jail term of 2 days to 6 months.

Most first time DUI convicts are always sentenced to probation for 3 to 5 years. These convicts should adhere to certain conditions during the probation term. Some of these conditions include:

  • The blood-alcohol level should not exceed 0.01% while driving
  • The convict should always submit to a roadside alcohol test if a law enforcement officer requests him
  • The convict should not violate any other law in California

The court can also impose other conditions per the circumstances and facts of your case. For instance, it may order you to join a support group or attend a victim impact program. If you violate any of these conditions, you may suffer additional penalties.

Moreover, the court may suspend a convict’s driving license for six months. However, the criminal and administrative suspension periods may overlap, and the total suspension time should not exceed any of the two suspensions. The court might order you to restitute all the injured victims if you caused an accident while drunk driving. In such a scenario, the prosecution will charge you of either misdemeanor DUI causing injury or felony DUI causing injury though the injured parties may still institute personal injury claims against you.

The Cost of a Second Time Misdemeanor DUI

You will be charged with second-time DUI if you are arrested for drunk driving within ten years from the date of your first time DUI conviction. Driving under the influence is a priorable offense in California, and its penalties tend to become more severe with each subsequent charge.

Administrative Penalties

The administrative penalties of a second time DUI in California are equal to those of first time DUI, though they may be more grievous. Your license will be put on hold immediately after you are arrested, and you will have to request a DMV hearing for you to get it back. If you had refused to submit to a chemical test and exceeded the legal blood-alcohol limits, the DMV may suspend your license for a considerably long time.

For you to apply for license reinstatement, you must show proof that you completed a DUI educational program. This program should be for a period of either 18 months or 30 months. Additionally, you may be issued a restricted license with the requirement that you must install an IID inside your vehicle for one year.

Criminal Penalties

The criminal penalties of California second offense misdemeanor DUI include a summary probation term of 3 to 5 years, a county jail sentence of 96 hours to one year, and fines that may range from $390 to $1000. Note that different counties in California set standard penalties for a second time DUI conviction. Typically, this standard punishment has a fixed probation and jail term, a fixed amount of fines plus court assessments, and either an 18-month or 30-month mandatory attendance in a DUI school. 

The Cost of a Third Time Misdemeanor DUI

The Prosecution Department of California will charge you with a third-time misdemeanor DUI if you have been arrested for drunk driving within ten years from the date when you were convicted of second-time DUI. Being convicted of a third-offense DUI will make you incur more financial expenses compared to both the first time and second time DUI conviction.

Administrative Penalties

Your driving license will be confiscated immediately after an arrest. For you to get back your license, you should request a DMV hearing within ten days from the date of arrest. Moreover, your license will be suspended for more extended periods depending on the circumstances of your case. For instance, it may be suspended for one year if you had refused to submit to a chemical test. 

Sometimes, you may be permitted to have a restricted license. This restricted license will allow you to commute to and from work and to attend a DUI school. For you to reinstate your license, you must demonstrate that you have completed an educational DUI program. A third offense DUI conviction will require you to attend this educational program for 30 months.

The authorities may also order you to install an IID inside your car for two years. You will be held personally responsible for the costs of IID installation and maintenance. Furthermore, the DMV may designate you as a habitual traffic offender.

Criminal Penalties

The California criminal penalties for third-time misdemeanor DUI include an informal probation term of 3 to 5 years and a minimum of 120 days to a maximum of one year in county jail. You may also be ordered to pay a fine, which may be between $390 - $1000 plus court assessments.

The Cost of Felony DUI

Generally, DUI is charged as a misdemeanor in California. However, an individual can be charged with felony DUI if he/she acquires four or more DUI convictions within ten years. Felony DUI is the most expensive charge of drunk driving in California, and it has the most severe consequences.

Administrative Penalties

The arresting officer will confiscate your driving license, and you will have to request a DMV hearing for you to get it back. Also, you will be ordered to install an IID in your vehicle for one year. If you refuse to install the IID, your driving license may be suspended for up to four years. Furthermore, the DMV will designate you as a habitual traffic offender.

If you have been convicted of felony DUI with injury, the court may order a strike on your record pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. Also, you will be obligated to attend an 18 to 30 month DUI educational program. You will have to bear the habitual traffic offender status for three years, as well as install an IID in your vehicle for two to three years. Furthermore, you will be responsible for the loss of the injured persons; and you will be required to compensate them.

Criminal Penalties

The penalties for felony DUI include a state prison sentence of sixteen months, two, or three years and fines which may be between $390 - $1000, together with court assessments. California felony DUIs that result in death are treated very differently. For instance, a convicted felon of DUI causing death may be sentenced to life imprisonment.

What is the Cost of a DUI if Pleading Guilty with an Attorney?

You should retain a defense attorney even if you intend to plead guilty to the DUI charges. This way, you will incur fewer costs. An attorney is well versed with the techniques and defense mechanisms that may be utilized to reduce your punishment or dismiss your case if possible.

Your defense attorney can enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the prosecution for you to obtain a lesser charge. Also, he/she will advocate for the court to issue you a sentence that reflects your circumstances and situation. For instance, he/she may assist you in getting an intermittent jail sentence instead of a consecutive one.

The exact amount that you will have to pay when retaining a DUI defense attorney when pleading guilty will vary per various factors. Some of these factors include how complicated your case is, whether you have been charged with the first time, the second time, third time, or felony DUI, and the strength of the prosecution's case. Your attorney will need a sufficient fee to cover his/her disclosure review, court appearances, meeting with the prosecutor, and preparation of case materials.

The Cost of DUI Offense Charges if Defending Yourself in Court

Most people believe that the cost of a DUI charge will automatically reduce if they don’t retain an attorney and defend themselves in court. This belief is false.

We strongly recommend you hire a DUI defense attorney rather than speaking out for yourself. A DUI attorney is well trained and experienced to make sure that your rights are not violated during the trial. As a defendant, it will be difficult for you to speak out for yourself without making mistakes. For instance, you may address the prosecution, judge, and the witnesses improperly, thus prejudicing your case. Furthermore, you may find it difficult to challenge evidence or take a clear stand, thus assisting the prosecutor in strengthening his case against you.

The Cost of a Retainer for a California DUI Case

A retainer is the total amount of fees that you must pay upfront before you hire a DUI defense attorney. This retainer will cover all the costs and fees owed him, together with any extra expenses the attorney may incur while helping you fight your DUI charges.

During the trial, some surprises may come up, which may make your attorney incur extra costs. Sometimes, your attorney may be able to identify these costs before your case proceeds to trial. 

Most DUI lawyers will require you to pay a significant portion of the retainer fee before they start working on your case. Trust is an essential element in the relationship between an attorney and his client. This is why you must be very careful when selecting your DUI defense attorney.

Also, you should always keep in touch with your lawyer. Don't hesitate to book an appointment with him to discuss your case and to be updated on any past or future DUI costs.

Moreover, other costs can affect how your case will turn out. For instance, your attorney may hire technical specialists to prove before the court that you are innocent. As a client, your attorney will charge you for any scientific and medical experiments on your body and examination of chemical breath test machines. Therefore, it is essential to ask your defense attorney if he/she intends to use the services of any experts and the costs of hiring them.

Find Out the Total Cost of Your DUI Case from a DUI Attorney Near Me

The best way to know the total cost of your drunk driving case is to talk to a DUI defense attorney. This attorney may examine your arrest details, and give you an estimate of the costs you may incur.

At The DUI Defense Attorney in Van Nuys, we will review all the details and facts of your case, and then give you a California DUI cost estimate. We will also inform you how many days you may be required to attend court, and the various expert witnesses you may need. Call our Van Nuys DUI lawyer today at 818-253-1913 to obtain professional legal help.