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Introduction to Misdemeanor DUI in California by DUI Lawyers in San Diego

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in California, you may be facing serious criminal charges that can affect your life in many ways. The DUI Lawyers in San Diego at The H Law Group is a team of experienced attorneys who specialize in defending clients accused of DUI offenses. We understand the law, the penalties, and the defenses that can help you fight your case and protect your rights.

What is a Misdemeanor DUI in California?

In California, DUI offenses are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. A felony DUI is a more severe charge that involves causing serious injury or death to another person while driving under the influence. A misdemeanor DUI is a less serious charge that applies to most cases where no one was hurt or killed.

However, a misdemeanor DUI is still a criminal offense that can have harsh consequences, such as fines, jail time, license suspension, DUI school, probation, and more. The severity of the penalties depends on the number of prior DUI convictions you have within a 10-year period and the circumstances of your arrest.

What are the Legal Standards and BAC Limits for DUI in California?

According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152, it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. The state uses blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to measure the amount of alcohol in your system. The legal BAC limits are:

  • 0.08% for drivers 21 years and older operating regular passenger vehicles.
  • 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers.
  • Any detectable alcohol level for drivers under 21 years old, in accordance with California’s zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

If you are found to have a BAC level above the legal limit, you can be charged with DUI per se, which means that the state does not need to prove that you were actually impaired by alcohol. However, you can also be charged with DUI if you are found to be impaired by drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, regardless of your BAC level.

What are the Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI in California?

The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in California vary depending on whether it is your first, second, or third offense within a 10-year period. The following are the general penalties for each offense:

First Offense

  • Fines: Base fines range from $390 to $1,000, but the total costs can be much higher after adding penalty assessments and court fees, possibly exceeding $1,800.
  • Jail Time: Possible county jail time from 48 hours to 6 months, which may be converted to probation for first offenders.
  • License Suspension: 6 to 10 months, but you may be eligible for a restricted license that allows you to drive for essential purposes.
  • DUI School: Mandatory enrollment in a 3- to 9-month DUI education program that teaches you about the dangers and effects of alcohol and drugs.
  • Probation: 3 to 5 years of informal probation, which means that you can avoid jail time if you follow certain conditions, such as not driving with any alcohol in your system, not committing any new crimes, and complying with the court’s orders.

Second Offense

  • Increased Fines and Penalties: Similar base fines as a first offense, but with higher total costs due to additional penalties, such as an ignition interlock device (IID) that prevents you from starting your car if you have any alcohol in your breath.
  • Jail Time: 96 hours to 1 year in county jail, which may be reduced by participating in a work release or community service program.
  • License Suspension: 2 years, but you may be able to obtain a restricted license after 12 months if you install an IID in your car and meet other requirements.
  • DUI School: Enrollment in an 18- to 30-month DUI education program that covers more topics and requires more hours than the first offense program.
  • Probation: Stricter probation terms compared to a first offense, such as more frequent testing and monitoring, higher fines and fees, and longer probation period.

Third Offense

  • Fines and Penalties: Higher end of the range for fines and penalties, plus mandatory installation of an IID in your car for at least 2 years.
  • Jail Time: 120 days to 1 year in county jail, which may be partially served in a residential treatment program or an alternative sentencing program.
  • License Suspension: 3 years, but you may be able to get a restricted license after 18 months if you complete a DUI education program and install an IID in your car.
  • DUI School: Required participation in a 30-month DUI education program that is the most intensive and comprehensive of all the programs.
  • Probation: Similar or stricter conditions compared to the second offense, such as longer probation period, higher fines and fees, and more restrictions on your driving privileges.

What are the Additional Consequences of a Misdemeanor DUI in California?

Besides the legal penalties, a misdemeanor DUI conviction can also have other negative effects on your life, such as:

  • Increased Auto Insurance Premiums: Your insurance company may raise your rates or cancel your policy after a DUI conviction, or you may be required to obtain an SR-22 certificate that proves you have the minimum liability coverage required by the state.
  • Employment Difficulties: A DUI conviction may show up on your criminal record and affect your current or future employment opportunities, especially if your job involves driving or requires a professional license.
  • Loss of Professional Licenses: Some professions, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and others, may suspend or revoke your license if you are convicted of a DUI offense, or impose additional sanctions or requirements on your practice.
  • Negative Impacts on Immigration Status: If you are not a U.S. citizen, a DUI conviction may jeopardize your immigration status and lead to deportation, removal, or denial of naturalization or citizenship.

How Can DUI Lawyer San Diego Help You Fight Your Misdemeanor DUI Charge?

If you are facing a misdemeanor DUI charge in California, you need a skilled and experienced DUI defense attorney to represent you and protect your rights. DUI Lawyer San Diego is a team of dedicated lawyers who have successfully defended thousands of clients accused of DUI offenses. We know how to challenge the evidence against you, such as:

  • Challenging the Traffic Stop: We can argue that the police officer who stopped you did not have a valid reason or probable cause to do so, or that they violated your constitutional rights during the stop, such as by conducting an illegal search or seizure.
  • Disputing Field Sobriety Tests: We can highlight the flaws and inaccuracies of field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand, which are often influenced by factors other than alcohol or drugs, such as fatigue, illness, injury, medication, or environmental conditions.
  • Questioning BAC Testing Procedures: We can attack the reliability and validity of breathalyzer or blood tests, such as by showing that the testing device was not properly calibrated or maintained, that the testing officer was not adequately trained or certified, that the testing procedure was not followed correctly, or that the test results were contaminated or tampered with.
  • Rising Blood Alcohol Defense: We can demonstrate that your BAC level was below the legal limit at the time of driving, but rose to above the legal limit by the time of testing, due to the delay between the traffic stop and the test, and the absorption and elimination of alcohol in your body.
  • Medical Conditions and Diet: We can present evidence that certain medical conditions or diets could have affected your BAC test results, such as diabetes, acid reflux, ketosis, or high-protein diets, which can produce false positives or inflate the BAC readings.


A misdemeanor DUI charge in California is not a minor matter that you can handle on your own. It is a serious criminal offense that can have severe and lasting consequences on your life. That is why you need DUI Lawyer San Diego to help you fight your case and achieve the best possible outcome. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle any DUI case, no matter how complex or challenging. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights, your freedom, and your future.

If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor DUI in California, do not hesitate to contact The H Law Group today.  Our DUI Lawyers in San Diego are available for a free consultation at 888-499-4948. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and discuss your options.