Every California motorist already knows that driving under the influence is illegal in this state, and most motorists also know that anyone who is arrested and convicted of DUI will face serious, extensive consequences, even if the conviction is for a misdemeanor first DUI offense.

However, if a driver has been convicted of driving under the influence in California at any point in the previous ten years, or if a driver entered a guilty plea to a wet reckless charge to avoid a DUI conviction at any time in the previous ten years, another driving under the influence incident will be treated as a second offense, and this time, that driver will face harsher penalties.

For most drivers in California who are convicted of driving under the influence, a DUI conviction is a single, isolated event, and it doesn’t happen again. However, repeat offenders still account for approximately 27 percent of the DUI arrests in this state.

The law in California presumes that repeat DUI offenders should face harsher punishments, and those penalties become incrementally harsher with second, third, and subsequent driving under the influence convictions.

This state’s judges, law enforcement authorities, and legislators are forever seeking new and more effective methods of deterring and penalizing repeat DUI offenders. Contacting an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney is the first move to make for anyone who is charged with driving under the influence in Southern California, whether it is a first offense or a subsequent DUI charge.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR SECOND DUI CONVICTIONS IN CALIFORNIA?

A second DUI conviction in California within ten years of a first DUI or “wet reckless” conviction is punishable by a jail term ranging from 96 hours (the mandatory minimum for a second DUI conviction) up to a year in jail and a fine ranging from $390 (also the mandatory minimum for a second DUI conviction) to $1,000.

In lieu of a fine, jail time may be served or community service may be performed. The convicted offender will be placed on probation for three to five years, his or her driver’s license will be suspended for up to two years, and the court may order 18 to 30 months of attendance in DUI education classes.

Those are the criminal penalties for a second driving under the influence conviction. California also imposes “administrative” DUI penalties that are entirely separate from the criminal justice process. Anyone facing a second or subsequent DUI charge already knows about the role played by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after a driving under the influence arrest.

When a driver is arrested for DUI in California, the arresting officer fills out paperwork (the “Officer’s Statement-Admin Per Se”) that informs the Department of Motor Vehicles, which automatically suspends that driver’s license unless he or she requests, within ten days, a license suspension hearing before the DMV.

To retain your driver’s license in Southern California after any driving under the influence arrest, it is imperative to obtain experienced legal counsel immediately, because you have only ten days to request and prepare for a hearing. An Orange County DUI defense attorney can request the DMV hearing and advocate there on your behalf.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE DMV HEARING?

At the conclusion of the DMV hearing, a DMV hearing officer considers the matter and then issues a written decision, which is mailed to the defendant within thirty days. Even if the Department of Motor Vehicles decides not to suspend a driver’s license, that license could still be suspended as a “criminal” penalty rather than an “administrative” penalty if the defendant is convicted of driving under the influence in the criminal case.

Anyone who is convicted of a third DUI offense within ten years in California will serve a minimum of 120 days in jail, but a judge has the discretion to make that jail term a full year. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend the driver’s license for up to three years.

Other penalties for a third California driving under the influence conviction include fines and fees that can total $3,000 or more. After completing the jail sentence, the offender will be on probation for three to five years and will additionally be ordered to participate in an 18- to 30-month alcohol treatment program.

The fourth driving under the influence offense in California in a ten-year period is a felony punishable upon conviction by three years or more in a California state prison and a $10,000 fine. Every DUI case is different. The sentencing standards and practices are complicated and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within the state.

Where the law specifies a mandatory minimum jail term, some prosecutors routinely ask the court for more jail time for convicted offenders. On the other hand, some DUI offenders serve less time in jail based on credits for exhibiting good behavior or participating in a jail work program.

WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE IF YOU FACE A SECOND DUI CHARGE?

California authorities want drivers to “learn a lesson” from a first DUI conviction so that those drivers do not become repeat DUI offenders. More than seven out of ten California drivers convicted of a first offense DUI do learn that lesson and are never charged with driving under the influence again.

Everyone is capable of making a mistake once. But if a driver is charged with his or her second or third DUI in Southern California, that driver must obtain the advice and services of an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney. A second driving under the influence conviction is a genuine threat to anyone’s finances, freedom, and future.

But even if you face a second or third driving under the influence charge in California, there’s hope. An arrest is not the equivalent of a conviction, and the prosecution still has the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Every day the courts are open in this state, good DUI lawyers are succeeding on behalf of their clients, having DUI charges dropped or reduced and winning acquittals for defendants. If you face any driving under the influence charge in this state, make certain that you have an experienced DUI attorney protecting your rights and fighting for justice on your behalf.