What is the Sentence for a First Offense DUI in California?

Most persons convicted of a simple first offense driving under the influence misdemeanor (DUI) in California get the same or similar sentences, as long as there was no accident involved.

After hundreds of DUI cases in dozens of California criminal justice courthouses, this is my detailed update on real first offense DUI sentences as of July 2011 for Vehicle Code 23152 convictions.

Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor crime in California, and is written down in Vehicle Code sections 23152(a) and Veh Code 23152(b).  These two sections are separate crimes, and nearly everyone gets charged with both as misdemeanors to start the case.

But if the defendant is willing to plead guilty to one of the Vehicle 23152 charges (known as the “a” or the “b” counts), the prosecutor will generally dismiss one, and the defendant gets sentenced for a single misdemeanor count (rather than 2). It’s a common plea agreement at the first court date – dismiss one charge, Defendant pleads guilty to the other.

In some courts, the defendant without an attorney will get screwed when pleading guilty alone, and end up convicted of both misdemeanors (the “a” and the “b” count), but it rarely makes any difference in the final sentence.

Technically, the law states that a violation of either VC 23152(a) or VC23152(b) can result in a maximum jail sentence of 1 year in the county jail and a fine of $1500++++.  That means if you get charged with both an “A” and a “B” count, you are facing a maximum of 2 years in the county jail. But that is rare.

The most common sentence is as follows (I have it memorized):

A 30 day jail sentence that is “Suspended”, which means not carried out so long as the defendant completes 3 years of Summary Probation under the following probation terms and conditions:

1) Serve 4-10 days actual jail time with a recommendation from the judge that this time be converted to a Sheriff’s Community Work Program service if the defendant qualifies (no violent history, etc); every court has a different name for this aspect of probation.

Visit Traffic Court Pros.com. Free Self Help, Free Attorney Case Reviews for DUI & Warrant Problems.

2) enroll in and complete a First Offender DUI substance abuse counseling program as authorized by the state legislature (known an AB548 program – usually 12 weeks);

3) pay a fine usually totaling $2400 once court costs and assessments are added;

4) obey all laws and do not drive without valid license and insurance.

If any of the probation terms are violated, the suspended sentence is imposed, and there may be separate penalties for the probation violation itself.

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Keep in mind the above description is a general listing of what most first offenders get.  But there are many factors that can increase the sentence, such as:

1) a high blood alcohol content; 2) prior convictions; 3) having minors in the car; and 4) a collision (regardless of whether or not a person was hurt).  There are other aggravating factors not listed here.


Beginning July 1, 2010, a new takes affect that requires a first time DUI defendant to install an alcohol detecting interlock device on any car they own or have access to .  This program is brand new, and is being tested in 4 counties – Sacramento, Tulare, LA and Alameda.


Recently the law has changed in regards to what happens to a Drivers License after a DUI arrest. Presently, at teh time of the arrest, the arresting officer takes possession of the drivers license and issues a DMV notice of suspension in 10 days.  The driver then has 10 days to request a hearing to challenge the suspension with DMV administrative officers.  The court does not take action against the drivers license.  It all happens with DMV.


If you want the judge to tell you what your sentence will be before you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty, ask for an “indicated sentence” before entering a plea.

If you are not sure if you are technically guilty and may have a defense, get an attorney to help.  There are lots of defenses to DUI charges, and there are inherent error rates in testing machines that may affect the reliability of a test result.

An attorney can give you detailed advice about your case and the evidence, and in DUI cases can go to court for you while you go about your life.

** this is only a guide for general information, and not meant to be a prediction on your case.

Questions? send me an email at dort@dortlaw.com

If you were arrested and want a free case review to find out what your options are, request one at www.trafficcourtpros.com/casereview.

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About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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37 Responses to What is the Sentence for a First Offense DUI in California?

  1. Joe M says:

    I was arrested for DUI in ca (bac.95) and took a blood sample afterwards. Its my first offense, no prior convictions and from reading all of the other blogs, I’m assuming I will need to hire a(n) attorney. In addition to my arrest I hit a parked car, and charged code and section 23152 (a) and not (b). I am working and have a stable job. My question is.. at the bac would I have slurred speech, unaware of my surroundings, and etc?? I was knew exactly where I was at, and my alcohol intake. Also, what are my options in this situation. Thanks in advance -Joe

    • When Does an Expert Witness Help a Defendant in a DUI Case?


      Great comment.

      I am sort of unsure about why you think you were not charged with the usual Vehicle Code 23152(a) and 23152(b). Was it because you have not gone to the arraignment and dont know what the charges are actually going to be, or is it because they did not see you driving? Maybe they dont know the time you were driving, and cant pin point an (admissible) BAC at the time of driving, because you hit a parked car and it took them forever to show up? Maybe you were one of those people who told the officers you drank your emergency bottle of Rye Whiskey right after the incident because you were having a panic attack?

      I once had a case like that. The bad news was the surveillance video showed her stealing a can of Altoids, after she crashed through the front door of the store.

      If they did not charge you with a Veh Code 23152(b) because there is some evidential problem with the test result, or the timing of the test result, or the required element of “WHILE DRIVING”, then you might be not guilty.

      And if they did not see you driving, where does the bad driving evidence come from?

      The parked car?

      People hit parked cars every freaking day. That does not mean you are 23152(b). I backed into a tree recently in the forest. That thing had not moved in 120 years, and I still bumped into it and dented my car. (Tree is fine)

      At that BAC would you have the following symptoms:


      That’s not a real question. I say that because what happens in a DUI trial is that the government will have a very well paid forensic toxicologist from the Department of Justice there to give expert testimony that EVERYONE with a BAC of 0.05% or higher will have those symptoms to some degree.

      So yes, according to the government expert who gets paid to slam these cases with “scientific expert testimony” you will have those symptoms. And by the way, he/will probably also testify that it is no surprise that the officers noticed theses symptoms in you at the time of first contact.

      How does a Defendant counter this evidence? They have to have a Defense Expert Witness testify on their side of the case, to provide a counter expert opinion which says (in effect) “The government expert is wrong. He did not read the most current studies. Every person is different. Defendant is different. My opinion on what happened here is different.”

      For more on this subject see Why A Defendant in a DUI Case Should Hire an Expert Witness:


      Are expert witnesses free? No. The best ones are super expensive. $500 per hour ++

      But if you have a defense with an expert that you would not have without one, and your career depends on winning a trial, pull out that Black card, and tell your attorney to start interviewing Forensic Toxicologists. It might make a difference. Maybe not.

      What if you have to rely on the services of the public defender?

      Actually, that would be a great thing. Public Defender clients have access to county funds to hire expert witnesses in DUI cases when needed. The bad news about that? You dont get your choice of who to hire. There is some good news about that too. Public Defender offices usually have long term good relationships with expert witnesses, and they know how to work together well.

      Bottom line here? You may have defenses. You do need a skilled criminal defense attorney. You probably need to hire an expert witness to help you counter the Government’s expert testimony.

      What if your case never goes to trial? Do you still need to hire an expert witness?

      It can help. In some cases a written report for the defense prepared by an expert witness can help as leverage for a plea negotiation when it shows a weakness in the government’s case.

      “Look. Right here. My expert, who is more credible than the Hope Diamond, says the 3 breath tests after my client’s tests on that same machine were F.U.B.A.R. and had to be thrown out because they evidenced a major problem with the machine that was later documented by the DOJ, who gave the machine to the Salvation Army last December.”

      But you have to be careful with written expert reports. Sometimes they can hurt a defendant badly. (Some people actually are guilty). Only an experienced attorney would have a good understanding of when and when not to use an expert or a written expert report.

  2. Tyler says:

    This passed Friday I wasn’t planning on driving home but the DD got to drunk and it was the safest way if I drove. We got pulled over, the cop made me do test, like one foot after the other, passed them all (I think like everyone else). Then at the end of his test he made me do a breathalyzer and I blew a .07. Its under the legal limit but I’m 20 and a half so I got screwed. This is my first time for a DUI. I was arrested and never told my rights(if that helps out). I had one person in the car and she is 21 I’m currently waiting to go to the Army, I ship out 10/15/2013… same as my court date. I really don’t want this to mess up me going into the army. I want to change my life and I’m really sorry I got into this situation but if you can help please contact me asap.

    • Tyler,

      0.07% BAC is not below the legal limit for you. You need to change your thinking a little. You did not get screwed. You were drinking illegally. You committed a crime by drinking before you were over the legal age. Then, after that crime, you got in a car and committed another crime.

      Then, you wrote me this comment and actually used your full real name. Lucky for you I changed it.

      Even for adults, a 0.07% BAC can result in a DUI conviction. How? There are 2 DUI statutes in nearly all states. IN CA, there is Vehicle Code section 23152(b) – which makes it a crime to drive with a BAC of……..if you are over 21…….0.08% EVEN IF YOU DRIVE PERFECT.

      On the flip side, there is Vehicle Code section 23152(a) – which makes it a crime, no matter what your age, to drive with any alcohol in your blood if you are “impaired”. Some people (especially young small people) can be impaired at 0.05%. Some experts will testify in court (Department of Justice Experts) that all people are impaired at 0.05% BAc, which means according to those DOJ experts all persons 0.05% or above are impaired and therefore guilty of VC 23152(a).

      So even if you were an adult, you can still get convicted of the DUI at 0.07%. It’s harder for a prosecutor to get a conviction at that level, unless the defendant has no attorney and just gives in.

      What can I tell you that will help? Your court date on a criminal case like a DUI is not optional. You must attend, unless you hire an attorney in advance to go for you.

      You should hire a private attorney in advance.

      If you were my client, I would also tell you that you might be going to jail for a while ( probably not, but maybe ) and that you should plan on missing your Army date. You should probably contact them now and tell them that you have been charged with a crime, and you have a court date conflict.

      Will this screw you up with the Army? Yes, probably. But there is nothing you can do about it. You have to just deal with it correctly and work from there. That means being honest in advance, taking the heat, and letting it sort out.

      Chances are you are not the first 20 year old to get a DUI right before entering the Army. I imagine they have a solution for you if you do everything right.

      Do you want to know how to really, really screw this up? Skip your court date, dont tell the army and just report for duty. Then just sweat and wait for the day your CO pulls you by the collar into an office and explains to you that he has been notified that you have a warrant for your arrest and your deployment orders have been cancelled. Oh yea, that security clearance application, it was DENIED.

      With red ink.

  3. ashley says:

    I was arrested in Ca for a dui and a BAC of .13
    I am understanding that I am most likely not going to get jail time. it is my first offense. i am more worried about what is going to be more financially effective for myself and my husband. I do not want to hire a lawyer and have him do basically nothing for my case and I have to end up paying 4500 dollars for him, and then 2000+ alcohol classes(500). I am pretty sure that the cops were right with arresting me, since my BAC was .13
    I did the field sobriety tests, and like you say, everyone feels like they passed them. then i was taken to the station and a breathalyzer was done on me. They gave me a very basic DUI, it is the least offending one. my dui doesnt even state if it was for alcohol or not, which i heard was good.
    The cops were pretty thorough. I just dont see what having a lawyer hired could do besdes keep me physically out of the courtroom. (i also kind of need him to go to the DMV hearing too.) but i was wondering…what is your advice on what could be cheaper for me? honestly. I just have a feeling that this lawyer is going to play around with me, make me feel like i need him to represent me so I can stay out of jail or avoid these extensive fines, when i already know what is pretty much going to happen. I am not stupid or scared of jail because I know that will not happen. basically, is there really anything a lawyer is going to be able to do at all? I dont want to be stuck paying 2500 dollars in fines and 4500 dollars in lawyer fees too, because he “kept me out of jail.”

    • Self Help Video on How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI Case in CA :

      PS – I need to add that I will handle a DUI case for less than $1500 in many courts if all you want to do is plead guilty without a trial and make sure everything is in order. If you want a trial, I would charge more.


      This is a great comment. I could write for days on this subject. I probably already have written for days on this subject.

      If you want the cheapest option in the short term – just show up on time in person, and as soon as the judge starts talking about your case, just say “I’m guilty. Guilty. I plead guilty.”

      If you do that, you’ll get convicted and sentenced right away and that will be that.

      But there are giant dangers. For instance, convicted of what? Nearly all first offense DUI cases in CA start out as 2 (two) separate criminal charges: 1) a Violation of vehicle code section 23152(a) and 2) vehicle code section 23152(b). These are different crime, both misdemeanors, and them come at you at the same time.

      What’s the difference between the two? Ask your attorney.

      If you just walk in and plead guilty right away, you will be convicted of those 2 different crimes. And that sucks for you, the poor defendant without an attorney, because people with attorneys are usually able to negotiate a dismissal of one of those 23152 charges in exchange for a guilty plea – even if the person is totally double guilty. It’s a standard plea agreement that you will not have access to without an attorney, because the prosecutor is not allowed to talk to you at all.

      And what about that prosecutor? Do you think they want to explain anything to you? No! Ha! They want to maximize their conviction rate. They want to go back into their office with the $7 coffee drink laughing about how they got you to plead to both the “A” count and the “B” count.

      Then there is this question: do you want to tell future employers that you have 2 misdemeanor convictions or 1? Did you really save any money on that attorney fee after all?

      What if you cop made a classic error and forgot to sign the certification forms for the breath test, and you dont figure it out because you have never seen those forms before and don’t know what to look for? You get 2 convictions when you could have had zero! Shabang! You know what they call that in the military? FRED. F****king Ridiculous Economic Disaster.

      What if after you plead guilty, the judge tells you to do a whole list of things with deadlines in rapid fire succession, and you dont understand a word of it. And then the clerk gives you your paperwork, pushes you out of the courtroom quickly as they call the next DUI case, and then you look at the handwritten clerks’ order on probation terms and you cannot read or understand anything it says – because you dont know what it is supposed to say.

      Here is what happen when I plead a guilty client to a first offense DUI (generally):

      I collect the probation paperwork for the client. I review it for completeness and errors while the client hands out in the hallway texting her boyfriend. I then take the paperwork to the client, we go outside to a private area, and I explain everything about how probation works in detail and explain all of the terms in detail. I tell client exactly where to go to sign up for the sheriff’s jail / work program (yes, there is jail time for everyone but an attorney can get it converted to sheriff’s work program IF YOU QUALIFY); where to go to set up monthly fine payments, I explain what paperwork is important and what is not and . . . . . . .

      Then there is this problem – Guess who gets their cases called first in a DUI arraignment or pretrial courtroom? Attorneys. Why? Because they are sworn court officers who are required to be ready to go and competent to know how to get their action done the right away. Who gets to wait until the end of the court’s calendar before their case gets called? Defendants without legal representation.

      Then there is this problem . . . . what if the breath testing machine had strange results right before your test. The person right before you blew a 0.02%, then a 0.09% two minutes later, then a 0.03% 5 minutes later???????? Is that a problem even though it did not hapen on your test and even though you admit to drinking???? Hell Yes that is a big problem – if you know how to get those records on that specific machine prior to pleading guilty . . . .

      Then there is this problem . . . .What if you are one of those poor suckers who gets over charged by an aggressive DA? What if they want to charge you with an enhancement for a high BAC level? What if . . .

      OMG that’s it. My hands cramped.

      Never mind. You dont need an Attorney. Probably cant afford it anyway.

      Self Help Video on How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI Case in CA :
      Free Attorney Case Review

  4. SCP says:


    My ex was arrested for code 23152 (a) only. I have no details, but I’m assuming he was under the influence of prescription pills/marijuana and alcohol combined but not enough for a (b). Not exactly sure how all of this works.

    He has 2 prior DUI’s he was convicted of in another state within the last 7 years – the last one of which he did several months jail time. Does California look at other state convictions for sentencing considerations?

    This guy is never going to learn. Appreciate your feedback in advance.

    • Can Out of State DUI Convictions Be Used as California Priors?


      Great question. The answer is yes, they probably can be used as prior convictions in a CA criminal case, if the prosecutor finds out. They dont always find out. And sometimes – and sometimes – in cases like this a good defense attorney will walk into the arraignment, see what’s there on the sheet the first day – and if they do not know that first day – advise client to immediately plead guilty to a first offense before anyone figure’s out where the dude is from.

      For those of you who might find defense attorney tactics offensive in general, turn away now.

      It’s is also a common tactic in a DUI case with an accident, where they haven’t found the dead body yet.

      Imaginary Example: You show up at the arraignment expecting a murder case, and whoa! It’s filed as a misdemeanor. Client says passenger dead, no one found passenger. Client was unable to speak at the time of accident, no one knows. Thus, “Plead guilty immediately!” may be the advice in some fact patterns.

      Maybe not. That never happened.

      So for this reason, it’s best to hire a private defense attorney to deal with the case and see what is there before making any decisions. You can tell the defense attorney the problem, and they are obligated to keep it confidential. Then they can go look to see if there is a big problem, or a medium problem.

      But if the prosecution knows, they know. You’re screwed. Computers are getting better, not worse.

      A good defense attorney may be able to make some good arguments that the prior convictions are not the same as convictions under CA law because the elements of the crime are different, and therefore CA cannot draw factual conclusions about what happened. But those arguments generally fail in a DUI case.

      If they do charge him with priors, and he is subsequently (later) convicted of this new DUI, he will be sentenced under CA law.

  5. frank says:

    I was arrested for DUI on october 9 and blew a 0.15 and was asked to blow again into the machine but I was unable to because my asthma. I was then given a field sobriety test but I failed that. However, I told the police that I have a recovering ruptured back disk and could not perform the tests well( I have MRI scans to prove it).I then I asked for a blood test and the results came back with a 0.18.

    This is my first time getting a DUI and my record is clean. What is going to happen to me? I am 26 years old and a full time student . Will the judge take into consideration that I am currently taking a sociology course on alcohol and drug abuse? I got a public defender because I could not afford an attorney. I am also going to apply to many universities this November and I need money for that as well. My pre-trial is on November 5, 2012. Please advise.

    Thank you.

    • Frank,

      My advice is to show up on time to everything, do what your public defender tells you to do.

      No, neither the judge nor the prosecutors are going to care about your drug and alcohol class – or where you want to go to school.

      From a defense attorney’s point of view, asking for a blood test was a terrible decision. You need to be protected from yourself in court.

  6. darren braden says:

    I live in Boise, ID, I was arrested in Dublin, CA. for DUI, first time, Im a 47 year old male that is a recovering alcholoic.
    This happened October 11, 2012. I blew a .10
    I said I had two large beers and a hotdog at game 5 Detroit vs Oakland at 7:54pm.
    I waited for traffic to die down and was arressted 30mi south of the Coliseium at 12:30am. Then they parked my truck so it wouldnt get towed, then at the station I took a blood test. I am looking for the more expensive lawyers that specialize in California DUI’s.
    Let me know what is the best way to get a savay lawyer? What is there typical retainage fee ?

    • Darren,

      Thanks for the real comment.

      I’d say first you have to forget about the part of the story “I’m a recovering acoholic”. That will not help you. Especially since this incident happened 4 days ago!

      The blood test is a bad fact. Blood test results are way more accurate and hard to challenge because of the science.

      But people sometimes do win a trial with a 0.1% BAC blood test result. Sometimes there are problems with the case.

      How much does a good attorney cost for a DUI? That depends on your goals. If you just want to avoid court and get it over with ASAP so you can do the classes and starting paying the fine and go to get that IIE installed, I would do that for you for a flat fee of about $1200. That would include a detailed explanation to you of all aspects of the case, and probation – and a lecture on how to do everything exactly right and thereby not screw up probation.

      But – if you want a 5 day jury trial, detailed expert witness review of the evidence, copies of all the dashcam videos, breath test maintenance records, employee certification records, and motion to suppress the obviously illegal stop, a Pitchess Motion to see if there is any bad behavior that is relevant from the cop’s personnel file, a DMV hearing with an expert witness to testify on your behalf, a full shelf on my book case, etc – I would charge about 10,000$ and would say you have to budget $3000 for expert witness fees, $500 for trial exhibits, some jury fees, witness millage fees, $100 in copying fees, $1000 in subpeona costs estimated.

      Total Estimate for a DUI trial case in Dublin this week is about $15,000. These fees are not set by law. Attorneys make up their own prices. Some would charge $100,000 for the same work and do a worse job. There might be someone out there that will do it for $5,000 and do a better job????

      Probably not.

      Maybe less if the prosecutor gives up early, before we have to pay the experts. (Experts Plural).

      Let me know if you are ready. I can schedule your DMV hearing today. I accept Paypal, and have a 2 page simple fee agreement.

      No, I cannot promise we would win. But I can promise a great defense. The prosecutor needs 12 jurors to vote to convict. You only need 1 crazy juror to vote innocent (as the saying goes).

    • Deandre says:

      Hey, I was at that game too man! & I was pretty hammered as well. Fortunately, I wasn’t driving that night. What a series that was! Screw Verlander. Go A’s!

  7. m Solorio says:

    I just got pulled over this Wednesday and received a DUI, I got a .089 BAC on the breathylizer, I had an option to take a second test so I did, they offered me another breathylizer or the blood test. I opted for the blood test, they told me that they would get the results in 2 weeks. I am a full time student and recently managed to acquire a part time job to start paying off my student loans early. Would I qualify for a public defender? And what would be my options since I do not want to lose this job that I just got. Thanks in advance

    • M,

      If you have a job, you probably do not qualify for a defense attorney’s help at the tax payors’ expense. Paying back student loans is completely irrelevant to the question. The court is court is going to expect you to default on all of your consumer obligations before they offer you a defense attorney at public expense. What do you think the county prefers?: 1) keeping their money to pay prosecutors; or 2) having you pay your bills after an arrest?

      So you gave them an extra breath test and an extra blood test? Did you give them any other evidence they can use to jack you? Did you admit to drinking? Tell the cop you feel a little “buzzed” but not drunk? Answer all of their questions? Refuse to use your right to silence thinking that helping the cops would help you? Hoping that blood test magically does not show that cocaine from last week?

      You’re not alone This fact pattern happens every week.

      My advice? Go to the pawn shop, sell everything and hire a good defense attorney to get you the best possible result under the circumstances. You need to be protected from yourself in court.

  8. tom ramirez says:

    Hey I. Have court this Tuesday , my breath results were 1.3 and I had an accident this happend in the east la area, the person did go to the hospital , but I don’t thin he got seriously hurt, I’m a college student with good grades and volunteer a lot! I don’t work and have had problems with the law but that was in hs, four years ago it was supposed to get cleared this jan. 12′ , I am seriously worried about my life and school, I wouldn’t want to have Ws on my transcripts, any helpfull tips ? I also can’t afford a attorney,

    • Tom,

      I assume you mean a DUI arrest with a BAC of 0.13. With an accident, and injuries. Sounds like a felony.

      You need to hire a Defense Attorney. The best trial attorney possible. Sell everything you have, borrow all you can. Your entire future is now at risk.

      Felony = prison time possible.

      If you are in prison, you dont have to worry about being a student anymore. So staying out of prison is your #1 concern now.

  9. Ernesto R. says:

    If convicted in Los Angeles County CA on vc 23152(b) is this a requirement for the Ignition Interlock Device?

    • Ernesto,

      That is actually a good question,

      The ignition Interlock Requirement is generally assigned as a term of probation.

      You can reject probation and demand jail time. So to that extent, no it is not required.

      But the judge does have the power to impose that requirement as a term of the “optional” probation.

      The judge will ask you if you accept those terms of probation. You can say NO.

      I dont think it would help you though.

      You or your attorney for you can ask the judge to NOT IMPOSE that term. But you have to have a reason to talk the judge into it. Something like “I do not own or drive a car” is a good fact if true.

  10. Luis says:

    Hi I’m Luis I’ve jumped all my hoops on my DUI I think I passed my three years on it now how long does this DUI stay over my head for in the DMV as my new job needs a driving print out

  11. Melissa says:

    I was arrested in california for a dui and with a breath test I blew a 1.9. I have a serious gerd disorder and have all the prescriptions and doctors notes to prove it. I was throwing up stomach acid 10 minutes before I was arrested. I passed the road side sobriety test but still got booked for the breath test. What is my best avenue to go. They have given me a public defender I am a full time student with no job and am 41 and have never been in trouble. Please give me advice.

    • DortLaw says:


      I assume you mean your test result was 0.19% BAC.

      0.19% is more than 2x the legal limit.

      If you have no income and no assets, and cannot hire a private attorney, it is good that you have a public defender to help you through it. I’d say pay attention to what that person tells you.

      FYI – everyone thinks they passed the field sobriety tests. But if you were put in handcuffs – the investigating officer disagrees with your self scoring assessment.

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  12. Audrey says:

    Hi, I stumbled upon your website while I was researching DUI penalties. I received a DUI last night, a first-time offense. I have never been in trouble w/ the law. I spent the night in a detention center & was released this morning. I have a court hearing in one month. Do you recommend I hire an attorney? I’m scared of getting jail time, but since I’m only 27 I can’t really afford to hire a private attorney. Will it help? I do feel extremely guilty about what I did and I will never drink+drive again. Thanks in advance for our help.

    • DortLaw says:


      Hiring a quality attorney to defend and represent you can make a giant difference in your life if there is any chance you have a defense. Who else is going to subpoena and examine the testing machine’s maintenance records for you? Who else is going to call and interview potential expert witnesses for you? Who else is going to negotiate with the prosecutor for the best possible plea offer prior to court for you?

      And besides all of that, if you hire a private attorney in advance, you may not have to go to court at all.

      Request a Free Attorney Case Review from trafficcourtpros.com

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      • JC says:

        I too stumbled upon your website while I was researching DUI penalties. I received a DUI last Friday night, a first-time offense. I have never been in trouble with the law, ever. Other than one speeding ticket 2 years ago. I spent the night in a detention center & was released this morning. My court hearing in three weeks. I am GOING to hire a defense attorney. Also I am from out of state and apparently the police didn’t give me all the right paper work and they pulled me over because of my headlight going out (which happened that morning before work). I do feel extremely guilty about what I did and I will never drink and drive again. What should I be looking for in an attorney and I only moved to CA for a job and I was out with some co-workers after work celebrating my new full time job. Which it looks like I am going to lose since I am not able to drive. What really are my options?

  13. bill w says:

    I was just arrested for dui (.20 bac) and released in los angeles, with a court date in two weeks. I have no prior convictions, and am trying to figure out if I will have to serve jail time. This would cause me to lose my job, so I am willing to complete any court-ordered programs necessary. Should I obtain a public defender? I can deal with taking the bus to and from work until I can legally drive again, but I am trying to determine if I will be thrown in jail if I represent myself in court. I will not be trying to get a reduced sentence or anything like that, I just need to know what to expect in this situation.

    • Bill,

      These are good questions.

      If you are employed, it is super unlikely that you will qualify for the public defender. Generally, judges only appoint the public defender to defendants who have no income, no assets, and no access to borrowing money.

      At 0.20% BAC, you are way over 2x the legal limit. You are actually near the point where people die.

      With that BAC, I would expect that you will be charged with an enhancement for a high BAC. This enhancement will bring additional jail time exposure beyond the regular DUI (Veh Code 23152(a) & (b)) max penalty of 1 year in county jail.

      Most first DUI offenders in CA are sentenced to some days in jail, but they are then referred to the sheriff’s work program. If they qualify for the Sheriff’s program (no violent history, etc), then the Sheriff’s will convert the jail time into work time (team orangina as it has been called).

      But . . . with a BAC of 0.20% you do not qualify for the minimum penalties of a first offense DUI. And if you run into the type of judge that wants to punish DUI offenders harshly, you might just have the facts that would lead to a lot of jail time.

      So I’d say you are in trouble, you need to hire an attorney to try to get the best possible – you’re hoping- no jailres ult.

      I recommend that you contact our local LA Attorney Sponsor, Mark Gallagher for a quote on the case. He knows how to get a no jail result if possible and gets good results on tough cases. He can be reached at attorneygallagher (at) gmail.com. I’ll ask him to contact you by email if he can help. You should contact him to get a consult. It cant hurt.

      And you should do it right now.

      Want More Detail? Get a 1Hr. Attorney Conference.
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  14. kenya says:

    I was charged with a DUI at the age of 20 with a Class B license. I got a lawyer and he is working on my case. When i got arrested i told them i had been smoking weed and drank 2 shots 1 1/2 hrs prior to me driving, when the test was taken at the police dept. I had a BAC of 0.08% . To my understanding, chemical tests are not to be dont until 3 hrs after the last time i drove. this test was taken only an hr after. with all these contributing factors what can be a probable outcome?? plz help!!

    • Kenya,

      It is a good thing you have an attorney to help you, because you are wrong about the 3 hour thing. In CA, the law presumes that any BAC test taken WITHIN 3 HOURS of driving accurately reflects the BAC at the time of driving.

      It also sounds like you admitted a lot of bad, bad, bad facts. Should have used your right to remain silent.

  15. Trina says:

    I was arrested for a DUI awhile ago, The judge told me to go to two meetings a week,
    (N.A.) , and gave me a court date. Which was in about a month and a half from the last time I was in front the judge, He gave me a card that was to be signed by the counselor’s at the meetings I was to attend. I Attended several meetings, more than he had asked me to do. On my next court date, I could not find my name on the court documents that hang on the wall’s before you go into court , so I went up to one of the criminal/traffic windows to ask the lady if she could tell me anything about
    why my name wouldn’t be on the schedule, and she ask me my name, I gave it to her,
    told her the time and date I was to appear.\. She looked at me and said, your court date was yesterday, you have a warrant for your arrest now, (I freaked out), she immediately responded, “calm down honey”, I can pull your file and get you in right now! if you want me too?
    I said o.k., ” thank you so much”. So when I went into the court room, it was pretty packed. As i sat there listening to case after case, as the judge was throwing people in jail left and right, I got scared and started to panic, ( and started thinking that’s what he’s going to do to me.) So I got up and walked out. Now my question is to you: Does that mean I have two warrants? I want to turn myself in, but I’m scared! I continued going to n.a. meeting’s
    and still have the card , all signed from (2010), Can you give me some advice? What should I do? and how to go about doing it? Do I turn myself in? Yes I know that’s pretty much what I should do, what will the out come be? This was my first and last
    DUI!!!!!!!!!! for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, Crank/Meth/etc.
    Which I had relapsed after 8 years of being clean, it was once and it was 2 days before I got pulled over for a miner traffic violation that they never even wrote me a ticket
    for, The sheriff also drove my BF’s vehicle from one city to the next doing speeds of
    80-85 mph, weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway as I watched from the back seat of the police car following behind him with the other officer driving. They then had about seven other officer’s come out to my bf’s car and open the back and searched it for several minutes than put a k-9 in to search, which turned up nothing and I had nothing on me and have never been arrested for any kind of illegal drugs.
    Wanted to let you know a little bit about the incident in question.

    • Trina,

      Obviously, leaving a courtroom because you are scared is a terrible, terrible decision.

      Anytime you have a warrant for your arrest, you are considered a fugitive from justice. Everyday you wait to solve the problem makes it worse.

      Dont take this personally, I am trying to help here, and here is my advice:

      99% of the information in your comment has nothing to do with the problem. And this combined with the fact that you were close to doing the right thing, and left, indicates that you are not capable of taking care of this problem alone. You dont have the focus, or the right frame of mind.

      So you need an Attorney to help you solve this problem.

      You should hire an attorney to handle the right now. You can email me the details, (location, case #, etc) and I can get you a quote for the work if we can help.

      If you cannot hire an attorney on your own right now, you need to put down the coffee cup and go in person to the COURT RIGHT NOW! NOW< get there before 10, tell the court clerk you have a warrant case to take care of and follow their instructions. STAY THERE! You may get arrested, but better today than tomorrow. Do not say anything to the judge except: "I ask the the court appoint a Public Defender Attorney to help me."

      That's it. That is what you need to do NOW! Go – Go get now! go! out! go . . .

  16. Matt says:

    I was convicted of a DUI in California, and placed on probation. I failed to complete my required meetings in the allotted time. I was brought back into court, and thought I was to return when completed. I found out I now have a warrant for failure to appear, as I had a court date 11/12. I want to go back, I finished my meetings, but I am not sure what to do and if I will be arrested. Please advise.


    • Matt,

      Thank you for your submission. We are working on getting you a quality case review. Here is my initial response to your question. This is a common problem.

      Well, the bad news is this is a disaster unless you take care of it now.

      When a defendant fails to complete an item of probation on time (such as meetings or paying a fine), the court will revoke your probation, and issue a warrant for your arrest. Once probation is revoked, it’s over – there is no more probation. Game over, insert new quarter.

      By granting probation, the court gave you a chance to avoid a jail sentence. But once probation is revoked, the court is free to re-sentence you on the original DUI to real jail time. The maximum penalty is now hanging over your head.

      You are also subject to a new case for the violation of probation, which is a separate crime that can bring 6 months or more in jail itself.

      Because the meetings were a term of your probation – finishing them does not solve the problem. You don’t have probation any more.

      What happens depends on how you take care of the problem. You need to immediately hire an attorney to go in to court, get the case on calendar, and make a request to recall the warrant. Then, there must be a request to reinstate probation.

      The judge can say yes or no. Most people who take care of it fast, and voluntarily, get a second chance. But some judges willl send everyone in this position to jail for 30 days or more as soon as they are found. Some judges have responded to political pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups and accepted a no tolerance policy on DUI defendants who violate probation.

      If you are arrested on the warrant before you take care of it, you will do jail time and the chances of a go outcome are very low. Warrants do not go away with time by themselves, and they can cause the sudden loss of a job (or even deportation if you are not a US Citizen). So you need to make this problem a priority in your life now.

      My best advice – hire an attorney to go to court for you today.


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