A Quick Explanation of California’s DUI Law and Other Alcohol-Related Crimes

As another Saint Patrick’s Day kicks off in sunny San Diego, the SDPD will certainly be out in full force looking out for drunk drivers.  According from the most recent California DUI statistics from 2007, there were nearly 1,500 alcohol-involved fatalities and more than 200,000 DUI arrests.

In California, there are 2 ways to get a DUI (“driving under the influence”)/ DWI (“driving while intoxicated”). The first occurs when one’s blood alcohol content is:

  • 0.08% or higher (21 years old).
  • 0.01% if you are under 21 years old.
  • 0.04% if you are operating a commercial vehicle.

The second type of DUI is if you are simply under the influence of alcohol or drugs. CA Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) defines being under the influence” as “physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that you no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”


While penalties increase with each offense, conviction for DUI/DWI is a misdemeanor unless someone is hurt or killed.  Penalties include:

  • Jail time
  • Large fines and court costs
  • Public work service
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Home arrest
  • License suspension
  • License revocation
  • Court ordered alcohol treatment
  • Court ordered alcohol education

Almost all first-time offenders are placed on probation for 3-5 years.  For a second offense, the penalty includes $1,000-$3,000 in fines and 1 year in jail, and a 2-year license suspension.  A third offense would come with 120 days in jail and 180 days in jail for a fourth offense.  Fines range from $5,000-$18,000.

Finally, California is one of many states that have implied consent laws. This means that as long as you hold a valid state driver’s license, you have agreed to subject yourself to alcohol and drug testing if a police officer suspects you of committing a DUI.

A Caveat

Just because you do not plan on getting behind the wheel, does not mean you will not be arrested for another alcohol-related or substance-related crime.

  • Being drunk in public is a misdemeanor in California.  If convicted, you may face up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. See CA Penal Code 647(f).
  • Underage drinking is a misdemeanor in California. If convicted, you will only face community service, but the conviction will become part of your permanent record. See CA Business and Professions Code 25662.
  • Giving alcohol to a minor (someone under 21) is a misdemeanor in California. You may face community service and up to $1,000 in fines. See CA Business and Professions Code 25662.
  • Driving under the influence of other drugs such as marijuana is a misdemeanor in California.  The penalties are the same as for a DUI with alcohol. See CA Vehicle Code 23152(e).
  • Drinking on the beach and park is prohibited in San Diego. You may be issued fines and a ticket.

CA DUI Attorney 

If you have been arrested and/or charged with a DUI or other alcohol-related crime, it is important that you hire a drunk driving defense lawyer who will aggressively represent you.  The Law Offices of David M. Boertje regularly represents those who are charged with a DUI or an alcohol-related crime in the San Diego area.  Do not try to navigate your case alone. We will aggressively litigate all issues that might lead to you avoiding a conviction. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

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