by Susan Melony, ©2019

Image credit: Zerbor at Shutterstock

(Jan. 25, 2019) — A new year typically brings new laws and regulations, and that’s the case with California’s DUI laws as well.

Driving under the influence is defined as operating a motor vehicle, boat or even a bike while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.

DUI is measured as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. Punishments for DUI convictions include fines, probation, alcohol classes and in some cases, jail.

So what’s the new California DUI law about?

Driving under the influence is measured as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. Punishments for DUI convictions include fines, probation, alcohol classes and in some cases, jail.

So what’s the new California DUI law about?

Required Ignition Interlock Device

Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law back in 2016, SB 1046 that just went into effect at the start of this year. As of 2019, if you are convicted of a DUI in California, you’ll have to install the device in your car to get your full driving privileges restored. The device is a breathalyzer which prevents you from starting your car if you aren’t sober.

If you’re a first-time DUI offender and you didn’t cause injuries, you can choose between six months of ignition interlock, or you can opt for a restricted license for a year.

If you’re a second-time offender or a first-time offender who caused injury to someone else, you are required to use the device for a year.

If you’re a three-time DUI offender, you’re required to use the device for two years. With four or more-time offenders, you’re required to use the device for three years.

Legislation Background

California started a pilot program using the device back in 2010. The pilot program ran in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties. A study done by the California Department of Motor Vehicles found that first-time offenders were 74 percent less likely to be a repeat offender if they used the device.

A spokesperson for the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving came out in support of the use of interlock devices, calling them a game-changer in terms of repeat offenders. She went on to say that while law enforcement officers work hard in the state to keep drunk drivers off the road, with this bill people who are convicted of DUIs can still go to work, school, drive their children and go to treatment but they aren’t driving while impaired.

The California Highway Patrol reports drunk drivers kill more than 1,000 people every year and injure more than 20,000. Over New Year’s last year just in San Diego County, officers arrested 59 people for DUI.

Other California DUI Laws

California is ranked as neither having the strictest or the most lenient DUI laws in the country. Among the states with the strictest DUI laws are Florida, Arizona, and California. Among the most lenient states for DUI laws are Pennsylvania, Montana and Rhode Island.

So what are the laws in California?

The first DUI conviction a person gets carries fines of up to $1,000 and is considered a misdemeanor. However, there is something called penalty assessments that someone convicted of a DUI may also have to pay, so the cost goes up significantly.

Jail is a possible punishment for a first-time DUI conviction as well, but in most cases, a judge will instead opt for probation. It’s rare for a judge to give jail in a first-time DUI conviction in California.

There is also a license suspension for six months after a first DUI conviction, although the newly implemented law will change that and give people the option to use an ignition interlock for six months or the restricted license for a year. With the restricted license, drivers can use the ignition interlock device and drive right away.

Most of the time a first-time DUI offender will receive informal probation for a period of three years, and it can be as long as five years. During this time, the convicted individual usually has to complete DUI school which lasts for three months and requires 30 class hours. If someone has a BAC of 0.20 percent or more, the program is nine months and 60 hours of class time. For multiple offenses, the punishments and penalties get more significant.

If you injure someone in a DUI accident, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. If you receive a felony, you can be given prison time that ranges from 16 months to four years, and if you cause the death of another person, you will usually be prosecuted under vehicular manslaughter or murder laws.


Susan is a writer, blogger, marketer, and entrepreneur based in Kansas City.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.