DUI First Offense California

What is a DUI?

According to California law, the acronym “DUI” stands for “Driving Under the Influence” of alcohol or other substance. It is considered an alcohol-related vehicle code violation that occurs on a public street, highway, or other public place. There are three different types of DUI cases in California, including:

  • A DUI case that does not involve a collision;
  • A DUI case involving a collision with property; and/or
  • A DUI case involving a collision with an individual

What to Expect From a First-Offense DUI in California

An arrest for a first offense DUI in California usually results in being charged under Vehicle Code section 23152 subdivisions (a) and (b) absent property damage or harm to another. The DUI arrest typically leads to your driver’s license being confiscated and the issuance of a 30-day temporary driver’s license, with a suspension of driving privileges 30 days after the arrest. However, the driver has 10 days to contact the DMV, or the suspension becomes automatic and without the possibility of contesting the matter. It is important to note that DUI offenders, depending on the circumstances of the case, often have the option to choose to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, which allows the individual to continue driving on a restricted basis for a period of time.

Court Processes

There are multiple court proceedings as well as DMV hearings that may follow a DUI charge, including:

  • DMV Hearing (separate Civil proceedings determining whether you will be suspended or not)
  • Arraignment (Criminal)
  • Pre-Trial Conference (Criminal)
  • Trial

If you retain DUI defense counsel, you may not have to appear in person for your court proceedings, but you should be prepared to do so, and this option can be discussed with counsel.

A trial is unnecessary if the matter is resolved via a plea bargain. Generally, more lenient plea bargains may be available for first-time DUI cases (though, this depends on the specific circumstances and facts associated with your case). The most common plea bargains for a first-time DU that is not filed with a blood alcohol enhancement include:

  • DUI conviction, but with time served (as long as you successfully complete a probationary term); or
  • Agreeing to a “wet reckless” (i.e., Vehicle Code 23103.5) conviction, which is a lesser offense of a DUI charge, but alcohol-related, and with lesser penalties.

License Suspension

If you are convicted of a first-time DUI, the conviction from the court automatically triggers a license suspension of six months, pursuant to Vehicle Code 13352. Once the conviction is formally filed, the court will notify the DMV and impose the license suspension.


If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, the potential monetary fines that can be levied range from close to $2,000. However, it is important to note that the Judicial Council of California indicates the expense associated with a first-time DUI conviction can be more than $5,000 (this is an “all-inclusive” amount, including fines, legal fees, court costs, and expenses related to mandatory educational programs).

Possible Jail Time

Many people are surprised to discover that first-offense DUI convictions may result in incarceration. In fact, a DUI conviction may be punished by up to six months in county jail. In certain instances, a first-time DUI conviction can result in enhanced penalties, which is when jail time typically becomes a reality. Some of the circumstances that may lead to enhanced penalties include:

  • Having a BAC above .15%;
  • Refusing to take a chemical test;
  • Having a child under the age of 14 in the car at the time of the arrest;
  • Causing an accident;
  • Reckless driving.

Typically, a first-time DUI conviction will result in having to serve informal (i.e., unsupervised) probation (this means avoiding jail). For the majority of first-offense DUI convictions, the probation term will be around three years (but may be longer, depending on the specific facts of your case). Informal probation generally does not require regular check-ins with a county probation office. Nevertheless, informal probation includes being prohibited from driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system for the entire term of probation and other such terms.

Consequences of a First-Offense DUI Under the Age of 21

If you are charged with a DUI and under the age of 21, your youth will not lessen or reduce the potential penalties associated with a DUI conviction. This is because California is a “zero-tolerance” state when it comes to alleged drunk driving. Any motorist under the age of 21 charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of any measurable amount (i.e., a level above 0.01%), may be found in violation of California’s Zero Tolerance Law. If you are convicted of a DUI, potential penalties include:

  • Suspension of your driving privileges;
  • Probation (which could span anywhere between one year and five years);
  • Monetary fine;
  • Jail time;
  • Court-mandated DUI course

How Kevin Heaney Law Can Help with the First Offense DUI

For a DUI first offense in California, Kevin Heaney stands ready and able to assist you in your time of need. Kevin is a seasoned DUI attorney with over 33 years of practical experience representing individuals charged with various criminal offenses, including DUIs, DWIs, and other traffic violations.

When you retain Kevin’s legal services, he personally guarantees that you will fully understand your case because he will take the time to answer your questions and help guide you through the legal process.

Contact Kevin Heaney Today

If you have been charged with a DUI, even as a first offense, retaining effective and experienced legal counsel is often the way to go. Why? Because having a DUI conviction on your record can have significant, life-altering ramifications and serious penalties. The Law Offices of Kevin Heaney understand the nuances of the California criminal code and will work tirelessly on your behalf to advocate for your interests. Contact Kevin today to learn more about your legal options and potential defense strategies. Whether you call, email, or text, all inquiries will be answered and returned promptly.