Facing DUI charges in California can be stressful. A DUI conviction becomes worse. Being convicted of DUI can subject you to severe penalties that are both long-lasting and immediate. If charged with any drunk-driving offense in California under VC 23152 and VC 23153, a DUI defense attorney can help you avoid harsh penalties. The attorney will help you make constitutional decisions that only benefit your specific case. He/she will also build a solid defense strategy that may lead to a case dismissal or charge reduction, which has less severe consequences.

At The DUI Defense Attorney, we are dedicated to helping clients in Van Nuys, CA, with any DUI case they are facing. Since we understand the negative impact of DUI penalties, we fight with all our resources to ensure our clients avoid it. Reach out to us if you have been charged with DUI for expert legal representation. In this article, we focus on the various punishments you can face if convicted of a DUI offense.

DUI Penalties

How severely you get punished for DUI depends on several factors. For instance, it could rely on your past DUI history, BAC, or whether the offense resulted in a crash that led to an injury or death. Most DUI offenses are charged as misdemeanors. However, certain cases are considered felony offenses. The prosecutor determines whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor.

If your DUI causes death or a severe injury to someone else, or if you have three or more past DUI convictions on your criminal record, you will face felony charges. You are more likely to suffer a lengthy jail sentence if convicted of a felony DUI than a misdemeanor. Here are the general penalties a person would face for a typical DUI conviction in Van Nuys.

Consequences for a Misdemeanor First Offense DUI

If you get convicted of DUI in California, and you don’t have any other DUI or wet reckless conviction on your criminal record, this will be your first offense. And if no aggravating factors are in your case, you will face misdemeanor charges. The penalties for a misdemeanor first-offense DUI conviction include:

  • Summary or informal probation for a period not exceeding five years
  • A maximum county jail sentence of six months
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000
  • A court-approved drug/alcohol education program for three or nine months
  • License suspension for at least six months and a maximum of ten months. You may be allowed to obtain a restricted license, which will enable you to continue driving to & from school, work, or DUI school
  • The court may order you to install an IID in your motor vehicle for up to six months, which will enable you to continue driving without restrictions.

Note that after you get arrested for drunk-driving in California, you have only ten days to ask for a DMV administrative hearing. Requesting a hearing puts the license suspension on hold until after the DMV hearing officer resolves the case. If the outcome of the case favors you, your license may not be suspended. Hiring a DUI defense attorney within this ten-day timeframe can be of benefit to you. For instance, the attorney can demand the hearing on your behalf as well as represent you during the proceedings.

Punishments for a Misdemeanor Second Offense DUI

A second offense DUI is charged when you get arrested for DUI for the second time in ten years of the commission of the first offense. The punishments for this offense (without aggravating factors) include:

  • Summary probation for up to five years
  • Between 96 hours and one year of a county jail sentence
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000 and court assessments
  • A court-approved DUI school for eighteen or thirty months
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for a year
  • Two years of license suspension. After a year of suspension, you may be allowed to obtain a restricted license

Consequences of a Misdemeanor Third Offense DUI

DUI consequences for a misdemeanor third DUI conviction in ten years include:

  • Informal probation for a maximum of five years
  • Between 120 days and one year of a county jail sentence
  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000 plus assessments
  • Court-approved alcohol/drug school program for thirty months.
  • Two years of mandatory installation of an IID
  • License suspension for up to three years. After eighteen months of the suspension, you can obtain a restricted license.
  • The DMV will designate you as a habitual traffic offender

Penalties for DUI Causing Injury

DUI causing an injury under VC 23153, is charged as a wobbler offense.  This means the prosecutor has the discretion to charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor based on the specific facts of your case and your criminal record.

If convicted of drunk-driving where another person who is not you sustained an injury or injuries, you will be subjected to these punishments:

If charged with a misdemeanor DUI causing injury, your punishment will include:

  • Summary probation for a maximum of five years
  • Between five days and one year of a jail sentence
  • Fines ranging between $390 and $5,000
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for up to six months
  • A court-approved alcohol/drug school program for three, eighteen, or thirty months
  • License suspension for one year
  • Restitution to the injured victims

The punishments for felony DUI causing injury include:

  • A fine between $1,015 and $5,000
  • Alcohol or drug program for eighteen to thirty months
  • A three-year habitual traffic offender title
  • A strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes laws
  • Restitution to the injured parties
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for a period not exceeding three years
  • License suspension
  • Sixteen months to ten years in prison. You will also get an additional & consecutive one to six years in jail depending on the number of victims injured and the level of the injuries

Penalties for Felony/Fourth Offense DUI

Generally, a felony drunk-driving offense is charged if you acquire four or more drunk-driving convictions in ten years. The punishments for a felony drunk-driving offense include:

  • A prison sentence of up to three years
  • A fine ranging between $390 and $1,000
  • Mandatory installation of an IID for a minimum of a year
  • License suspension for a maximum of four years
  • A habitual traffic offender title

Note that DUI offenses that lead to the death of another person are convicted very differently. The punishments for these crimes may result in a strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes laws and life imprisonment.

Penalties for Commercial DUI

Drivers holding commercial driver’ s license (CDL) are, at all times,  held to higher standards compared to regular drivers, even if they’re not operating commercial vehicles. According to California law, the legal blood alcohol content limit for commercial drivers is .04% and not the .08% that applies to other drivers. The holders of commercial driver’s licenses have to be careful when taking alcoholic drinks before since it’s easy to blow up to .04% level even if you feel you are completely sober.

If you refuse to take a chemical test, it is equal to admitting to drunk-driving. In this case, your CDL will be revoked or suspended. This applies to all commercial drivers. However, we have enhanced penalties based on how many DUI offenses you have committed. They are as follows:

  • If you are a first-time offender, you will face a CDL suspension for one year
  • Second-time offenders will have their CDLs permanently suspended for life
  • Also, a commercial driver whose CDL has been suspended is not allowed to obtain a restricted license, which would enable you to drive for work. By this, it means you won’t be able to continue working as a commercial driver
  • Your employer is notified within thirty days of your drunk-driving arrest

Based on the facts surrounding your offense, you can be subjected to possible jail sentences of:

  • Life imprisonment if it is a subsequent offense
  • Life imprisonment if you used a CDL in committing a felony offense that involves controlled substances
  • Three or more years in case the crime occurred when you were driving a commercial motor vehicle transporting hazardous materials

Given the harsher nature of the DUI punishment imposed on commercial drivers, it is critical to hire an experienced attorney to challenge the charges against you as quickly as possible.

Additional Probation Terms and Conditions for a DUI

Apart from the DUI punishments mentioned above, when a judge imposes a drunk-driving sentence that involves probation, you will be required to follow the following terms and conditions:

  • Do not operate a vehicle with any detectable alcohol amount in your bloodstream
  • Do not decline to take chemical tests of breath, blood, or, in other cases, urine, in case you are rearrested for another DUI
  • Do not commit any other additional crimes

Also, based on the facts of your case, a judge may impose the following probation terms and conditions:

  • Attendance in Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) or Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings
  • Taking part in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Program
  • Restitution to the injured victims in case your drunk-driving action led to an accident

Violating these probation terms may lead to consequences related to a DUI probation violation.

Aggravating Circumstances that May Enhance Your DUI Penalties

Particular circumstances and facts will alleviate your DUI state prison or county jail sentence if they are present during your arrest for driving while intoxicated. These are what we call aggravating factors. These factors will enhance your DUI punishment irrespective of whether your conviction is for a first or subsequent driving while intoxicated offense.  The factors that can lead to sentence enhancement include:

  • Refusal to take chemical tests
  • Driving with a BAC of .15% or more
  • Causing a crash in the commission of your DUI offense
  • DUI at an excessive speed
  • Drunk-driving with a passenger under 14 years in the vehicle. This offense can also result in additional charges of child endangerment under PC 273a
  • Being below 21 years during the commission of your DUI offense
  • Drunk-driving on a suspended license

The type of increased punishment you are subjected to for any of the above aggravating circumstances depends on two factors:

  • The precise circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest
  • Your criminal record (mainly your past DUI history)

Alternative Penalties for DUI

Alternative penalty options are other punishments a person can face instead of a prison or jail term for a conviction of DUI. They include:

  • Community service
  • Cal-Trans roadside work
  • House arrest or electronic monitoring
  • You would be ordered to reside in an environment with sober-living people
  • Confinement in a city or private jail

Those lawyers who do not specialize in drunk-driving defense may fail to know about the existence of these alternative sentences. And in case they do, they may fail to identify practical approaches to use to persuade the judge to grant them. Therefore, it’s critical to hire yourself specifically a drunk-driving defense attorney to defend against your DUI case as well as help you reduce your DUI punishment. Hiring a skilled lawyer to represent you at the DMV hearing and in court enables you to avoid the harsher penalties of a DUI conviction.

Penalties for Non-Immigrant Visa DUI

Non-United States citizens may be subjected to the consequences we mentioned above with other complications of repercussions related to immigration. Recent changes in rules and regulations are causing severe drunk-driving immigration repercussions for non-immigrants facing DUI if not appropriately addressed. Immigration consequences for DUI offenders in California include:

Visa Revocation

If you are a non-immigrant and you get convicted of DUI, the United States Department of State (DOS) may automatically revoke your visa. This generally happens so fast before you even have the opportunity of defending yourself. You don’t have to be guilty for your visa to be revoked.

The Department of State has provided guidance and clarified how this policy is implemented. Peace enforcement agencies share arrest records and bench warrant so quickly. When this happens, visa holders often get surprised by how they so promptly receive a notice for visa revocation even before the cases against them are heard.

Visa revocation affects holders of non-immigrant visas as well as their dependents like:

  • International students who are on F1 Visas
  • Scholars and exchange visitors holding J1 Visas
  • Highly skilled laborers and other individuals on H1B Visas

If your visa gets revoked, you cannot use it to enter the US. First, you must appear before the US consulate in your country and re-establish your visa validity. If you attempt to enter into the US while your visa is revoked, you will be stopped before boarding a plane. Or you could be prevented from entering into the US after you land.


Undocumented aliens arrested for drunk-driving are subject to immigration proceedings, which may lead to deportation. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are guilty of drunk-driving. Once the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) learns of your detainment, they will issue an immigration hold. ICE may know about your arrest through:

  • When the arresting officer finds out you are an undocumented alien, he/she informs ICE when you’re in custody
  • The police sharing information to the ICE through the DHS Secure Communities Program. This program causes a quick record and fingerprint sharing between the police and ICE

ICE focuses its resources on pursuing individuals that have a criminal history. Therefore, it is crucial to fight your drunk-driving and maintain a criminal-free record if possible so that you minimize the chances of being deported.

Non-immigrants charged with drunk-driving should seek legal representation from both DUI and immigration experts. These two will carefully scrutinize the case and fight to lift additional consequences.

Deportation for drunk-driving Cases with aggravating circumstances

Generally, DUI convictions cannot lead to the removal of immigrants or other legal U.S aliens from the country. In 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled that drunk-driving isn’t a violent crime, and therefore, it is not an aggravated felony. An aggravated felony is a conviction that can lead to deportation.

However, a drunk-driving conviction with aggravating circumstances can lead to the deportation of a non-immigrant and immigrant alike. An immigrant or non-immigrant convicted of aggravated DUI can also have difficulty adjusting his/her immigration status as well as re-entering the United States. Aggravating factors that can lead to deportation or inadmissibility include:

  • DUI on a suspended or revoked license
  • DUI of drugs
  • DUI with a passenger under 14 in the vehicle
  • Multiple DUIs

Immigrants and non-immigrants facing drunk-driving charges should seek legal counsel from an immigration and DUI attorney who is conversant with both DUI defense and immigration laws. Every non-immigrant or immigrant case is different and needs legal defenses that may prevent possible penalties of a drunk-driving conviction on one’s immigration status.

Find a Van Nuys DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

The punishments for a drunk-driving conviction vary from one person to another. This depends on whether one is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties we have mentioned, you may find it hard to get future employment, affordable housing, or suffer serious financial setbacks if convicted of DUI.  If you are in Van Nuys, CA, and have been charged with DUI, contact The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913. Our expert DUI defense attorneys will assess your case comprehensively and advise on the available options.  We understand California DUI laws and are dedicated to using it to help you. Call now for a free consultation, and let us provide a long-lasting solution.