What Can I Expect After Being Arrested for a DUI in California?

Last Modified: June 17, 2024
April 7, 2022 | Rabin Nabizadeh | DUI

what-can-i-expect-after-being-arrested-for-a-dui-in-californiaA DUI charge is a severe criminal offense in California. DUI arrests take away a massive part of your driving privilege and could tarnish your reputation. Prior DUI convictions can inflict further damage to your career opportunities, driving rights, and immigration status.

This blog will go over what you must expect when facing DUI charges. This blog can also help you navigate the DMV hearing process and understand the punishment that goes with a DUI arrest. Read further to learn more.


things-to-expect-when-you-get-duiReceiving a first offense DUI in California is a misdemeanor in most cases. There are various DUI charges in California, depending on the nature of the violation. These local statutes are as follows:

  • California Vehicle Code 23152 VC. This legal statute states that it’s unlawful in the state to drive under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Section (b) of this Vehicle Code mentions that it is also not allowed for drivers to have a blood alcohol content result of 0.08% or more.
  • California Vehicle Code 23152 (f) VC. This section of Vehicle Code 23152 explains that drivers are unlawful to drive while under the influence of an illicit substance.
  • California Vehicle Code 23152 (g) VC. This section of the code explicitly mentioned that it is unlawful to drive under the influence of both alcoholic beverages and illegal substances.
  • California Vehicle Code 23152 (d) VC. This section of the vehicle code states that commercial drivers cannot drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or more.
  • California Vehicle Code 23152 (e) VC. This section of the vehicle code states that any for-hire drivers operating a service vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more are violating the law.
  • California Vehicle Code 23153 VC. The first section of this Vehicle Code defines that any injury caused by a drunk driver is not a case of negligence.

The penalty accompanying a DUI arrest varies depending on the severity of the case. A drunk driving arrest involving bodily damage or death has harsher penalties than a simple drunk driving case.

Following a DUI arrest, here are what you should expect if you are arrested for a first-time DUI in California.


If you are arrested for a DUI in California, you must schedule a hearing with the DMV. This process is called an administrative per se hearing. The DMV will determine whether your license will get suspended or revoked during this process.

The responding law enforcement officer will also confiscate your driver’s license during the arrest. Once you receive a notice of DUI arrest, you only have ten days to request a hearing with the DMV. Otherwise, the DMV has the right to suspend your driver’s license immediately.

When a law enforcer acquires your license, they will give you a notice of suspension. In this notice, a number is written that a driver can call to schedule a DMV hearing. Often, the DUI defense attorney does this.

Once a hearing is scheduled, the DMV will provide you with a temporary license for 30-days. However, situations exist when the DMV cannot hold your hearing within 30 days. They will issue a document allowing the temporary license extension in these cases.


The DMV or California’s Department of Motor Vehicles considers various factors before deciding on your license. One of the most observed factors is the result of your chemical test.

The DMV will check if you agree to take a breath or blood test. They would use this to determine if you exceeded the state’s legal limit for blood alcohol concentration.

However, a chemical test is entirely voluntary. If you decide to decline a chemical test, the department will factor in the police record.

They will evaluate if the responding law enforcer lawfully arrested you for DUI. A law enforcer must inform you of the consequences of rejecting a chemical test.

If you decide not to accept the blood or breath test, you risk your license for suspension or revocation.


court-imposed-license-suspensionIf you are convicted of drunk or drugged driving in California, the court may impose a license suspension. This suspension will last for a certain number of months or years, depending on your case.

It’s essential to remember that a criminal trial is independent of the scheduled DMV hearing. You can prevent a court-imposed licensed suspension by setting up a hearing with the DMV. But this is not enough. You still need to win in that administrative hearing.

To prevent a court-imposed license suspension, it’s also essential to avoid a ‘plead guilty’ or ‘no contest.’ Hiring the best DUI defense lawyer is best to avert a court-imposed suspension.


If an enforcer arrested you for driving under the influence in California, you must appear in court. Unlike the DMV hearing, a defendant must attend a criminal court hearing.

Failure to make a court appearance may result in license consequences such as suspension or revocation. It’s important to remember that attending all court hearings is mandatory once you receive a conviction for driving under the influence.


dui-court-case-vs-dmv-license-suspension-hearingAlthough both legal procedures are essential to your DUI case, a DMV hearing officer is limited by what he can impose on a defendant. A criminal court judge can inflict a severe impact on your criminal record.

To further understand the difference between a DUI court decision and a DMV hearing decision, we listed some key differences below:

  • Criminal penalties. The DMV cannot impose these penalties. In contrast, there will be penalties when you lose a criminal court hearing.
  • Criminal record. Losing a DMV hearing does not affect your criminal record. But, losing in criminal court can severely affect your criminal record.
  • Reversion of penalties. They can suspend your license when you lose in court, even if the DMV decides otherwise. The same thing happens when you win a case, and the DMV proclaims suspension on your license. The court can reverse the DMV’s suspension depending on the hearing outcome.


If you are arrested for inebriated driving in California, you can face many legal consequences. A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor in most cases. At this offense level, you may be able to keep driving if you obtain an ‘ignition interlock device restricted license’ for a few months.

You will also likely be required to partake in DUI classes. The court may also demand you install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car.

If your blood alcohol level is exceptionally high or you were involved in an accident, you may be facing more severe charges that could result in jail time.

Here’s a list to further understand what penalties you may face in drunk driving charges:

  • DUI probation or jail time. A misdemeanor DUI is punishable by six months in county jail. The court may also give you three to five years of informal probation.
  • DUI school. An educational DUI program usually lasts between three to nine months for a first offense DUI.
  • Penalty assessments. A first offense DUI violator usually faces a penalty amount of $1,500 to $2,000.
  • License suspension. A first-time DUI offender may receive a six-month license suspension. However, the court may present a defendant with several options as an alternative for license suspension.
  • Ignition interlock device. In most counties in California, arrested defendants are required to install an IID for six months. The court’s decision to require an IID will depend on various factors.
  • Other penalties. Foreign defendants may face some immigration consequences or have limited travel privileges.

Regardless of the specifics of your case, it is essential to seek experienced legal representation immediately. DUI lawyers can help you achieve a favorable case outcome.


When the court convicts a defendant for DUI, the judge may choose to sentence them to probation instead of jail time.

Receiving probation means that the defendant must follow certain conditions, such as attending DUI classes or installing an ignition interlock device.

Probation is a criminal sentence of supervision in the community rather than imprisonment. It is a way to keep an offender out of jail and allow them to continue their life, as long as they comply with the court’s orders.

The court may offer probation instead of jail time or, in addition to a jail sentence. There are two most commonly known types of probation: informal and formal probation.


If the court grants you probation, there are certain things you can and cannot do during the probationary period:

  • A police officer must not detect any amount of blood alcohol concentration in your chemical test;
  • You cannot refuse a breath or blood test;
  • You are not allowed to commit any criminal or civil misconduct;
  • You need to comply if the court demands you to install an IID.


probation-optional-conditionsThere are instances when the court may demand additional penalties or conditions for your DUI probation. The court’s decision to include other conditions in your probation depends on the nature of your case.

They may require you to attend organization meetings or support groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Program.

Furthermore, the court may also require you to pay for victims’ compensation if they sustained injuries. The amount of restitution varies depending on the damages received by the victim.


If you neglect the conditions of your probation, the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest. A bench warrant is a legal penalty given by a judge to arrest and bring the defendant before the court.

The consequences of a bench warrant depend on the severity of the violation. The court may also consider the defendant’s standing criminal record.

Typically, a bench warrant will result in the defendant being taken into custody and brought before the court. The court may then sentence the defendant to maximum jail time or imprisonment.


lose-license-after-1st-duit-arrestWhen you are arrested for DUI in California, the officer will confiscate your driver’s license. Once the officer suspends your license, they will give you a notice that spells out the suspension process and your rights.

This notice of suspension is effective for 30 days after your arrest. The defendant will need to arrange a hearing with the DMV within ten days after a DUI arrest. If the defendant fails to do this, the DMV can impose an automatic license suspension.

The court may also grant a defendant a restricted license. There are two types of limited licenses in California. Namely, these are standard restricted licenses and IID-restricted licenses.


A defendant with a suspended license may apply for a restricted license in California. A restricted license will allow the defendant to drive for specific reasons, such as going to work or school.

A restricted license is not available to defendants disallowed by the law. Defendants who also refused a chemical test are not allowed by the law to apply for a restricted license.

There are two types of restricted licenses in California. These licenses are the ignition interlock device (IID) restricted and standard limited licenses. These two licenses have differing regulations and applications.


An ignition interlock device restricted license is a restricted license in California. This license is available to defendants with a suspended license who must install an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of their probation.

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a device installed in a vehicle and measures the driver’s BAC. If the driver has a BAC above the legal limit, the IID will not start the engine.

The DMV may require a convicted defendant to use an IID for four months. However, if they lose a case in the criminal court, they may require the defendant to use an IID for up to six months.

Furthermore, a defendant with a detected amount of BAC greater than or equal to 0.02% may have to extend their IID restriction to 10 months.


A defendant can request an IID-restricted license immediately after an arrest. In contrast, a defendant can only apply for a restricted license 30 days after the arrest.

A defendant can only use a standard restricted license to drive in between a DUI treatment program. Defendants can also use a restricted license to drive to work, during work, or go home.

An emergency medical situation is also permitted with a restricted license. If public transport is unavailable, a defendant can also use the limited license to drive a minor or a dependent adult.


requirements-in-obtaining-iid-restricted-licenseObtaining a restricted license in California is not much of a hassle. The DMV requires defendants with a suspended license to submit an SR22 form. You must submit the form to the DMV within ten days of the arrest.

The SR22 form is a certificate of financial responsibility that proves the driver has car insurance. This form is a critical document proving that you can be held responsible for any damages you might cause.

You may also need to submit other essential requirements, such as proof of enrollment in a DUI school. In addition, you may also need to pay a $125 reissue fee. This amount can change to $100 if the defendant is aged 21 or below.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer can help you seamlessly organize and process your restricted license request. Furthermore, they can help you resolve any conflict that might arise during the application process.


A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor in California in most cases. The DUI arrest will stay on your criminal record for ten years.

A DUI conviction can have long-lasting effects. Receiving a DUI misdemeanor can affect your driving rights, job opportunities, and insurance premiums. Moreover, you may also need to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees.

Depending on the nature of your case, the court may allow you to file for erasure in a criminal record. This is known as expungement, a legal process of erasing a criminal conviction from your criminal record.


getting-your-first-dui-conviction-expungementThe primary benefit of obtaining an expungement is for career purposes. Employers are legally bound by the law to prohibit asking applicants about their criminal convictions during an interview. However, once a job offer is made, they are legally allowed to ask this question.

If you have not expunged your DUI conviction, you must disclose this information to your employer. However, once your DUI record is deleted, it’s not your responsibility to inform your employer about your former DUI conviction.

Before you can apply for an expungement, you need to identify first if you can qualify for one. Here’s what California Law allows for expungement:

  • The defendant completed the probation
  • The defendant did not receive jail time

Once you complete the probation, you may apply for expungement to the court. The judge will then review the defendant’s case to approve or reject the defendant’s request. If allowed, the court will remove your DUI conviction from your record.


Aggravating factors increase the penalty of a crime. The added penalties can range from enhanced community service to a longer jail sentence. A first-time DUI may have more significant penalties in California if the court identifies the following factors.

  • Blood Alcohol Content. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08%. Suppose the police officer detected that you have a BAC equal to or higher than 0.15%. The court can impose heavier penalties for your conviction.
  • Chemical test. Resisting to take a blood or breath test may further improve your penalties.
  • Accident or injury. Causing an accident or inflicting damage to a victim can also increase your penalties.
  • Overspeeding. Driving beyond the speed limit while under the influence can also increase your criminal penalties.
  • Minor occupants. Suppose that the police officer finds that you are driving with a minor passenger. The court can give you harsher penalties for your negligence towards your passenger.
  • Underaged driving. Drivers below 21 years old during the arrest may face severe legal consequences.

Moreover, the court may also factor in your criminal history to impose an enhanced legal penalty. If they identify that you have a prior DUI conviction, the court is more likely to give a heavier DUI sentence.

Even if it’s your first DUI offense, the court can still give a harsh sentence depending on the aggravating factors of your case. This is why it’s essential to have a reliable DUI attorney during the legal proceedings.


penalties-for-a-first-dui-with-injuryCalifornia Vehicle Code 23153 VC outlines DUI cases causing bodily injuries. A first offense DUI is charged as a misdemeanor offense in most cases. In line with this offense level, the punishment is less harsh than a felony offense.

However, a DUI with injuries is a wobbler offense. The court will look at the accounts of the case and the driver’s criminal history to identify the appropriate offense level.

  • For a misdemeanor DUI with injuries:
    • Summary probation of up to five years or a jail sentence of up to one year;
    • Up to $5,000 in penalty fines;
    • Up to thirty (30) months of DUI school;
    • Up to three years of license restriction;
    • Provide compensation for the victim’s damages.
  • For a felony DUI with injuries:
    • Up to ten years of sentence in California state prison;
    • A strike under California’s three-strikes law;
    • Up to $5,000 in penalty fines;
    • Up to thirty months of DUI treatment program;
    • Provide compensation for the victim’s damages.


When it comes to DUI offenses, there are different levels of severity. In some cases, the court may impose an alternative sentence for first-time DUI offenders. Here are some DUI alternative sentencing offered in California:

  • Providing roadside work;
  • Engaging in community service;
  • A house arrest;
  • Residing in a sober-living environment.


california-dui-lawyer-near-meDUI attorneys are experienced legal professionals who handle this field of criminal law. It’s essential to seek the best legal service available for you. Our DUI attorney at Summit Defense can help you build the best legal defense for your situation.

Building a solid attorney-client relationship is crucial in these situations. A reliable and proficient DUI lawyer will ensure that they will handle your case with confidence and confidentiality.

If you are in great need of an expert and reliable criminal defense lawyer, call us now at 1-866-851-9645. We provide a free consultation for all our potential clients. You may also use our online contact form to reach us.

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