If you have been convicted of a Los Angeles DUI offense in the past and are now facing a second DUI charge, your future driving privileges, employment opportunities, and more are hanging in the balance. The penalties for a second DUI conviction in California are significantly stricter than for a first offense, and thus, it is imperative that you avail yourself of a skilled DUI defense lawyer without delay.

Many of the laws and proceedings associated with a first DUI apply to all DUIs, such as the .08% BAC rule, .04% for drivers of commercial vehicles, Zero Tolerance for any detectable alcohol in drivers under 21, and the policies regarding the DMV hearing. For that information, you may want to consult our other service pages.

Here, we will focus on the penalties for a 2nd DUI and note where they differ from a 1st DUI.

Possible Penalties for a 2nd California DUI

Sentences for a second conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating drug, vary considerably in California based upon a variety of factors.

First, it is important to understand that your past DUI, if the arrest took place within 10 years of a second conviction, along with any "wet reckless" convictions within that same time span, count as "priorable offenses" that make DUI penalties more severe. Additionally, any convictions in other states that would, under California law, count as a DUI or wet reckless incident, also count as priorable offenses.

Next, realize that the DMV's "administrative" penalties do not replace "criminal" penalties. For example, the DMV will automatically suspend your license for one or two years after you are arrested on a 2nd DUI charge, but you could end up with an even stricter punishment if later convicted in court. If you get the charges dropped or win an acquittal, however, your license will be restored.

Different counties in California have somewhat different standard sentencing for 2nd offense DUIs, but the following is a good summary of what to expect as possible penalties:

  • County jail time is mandatory, though some counties allow it to be exchanged for community service under certain circumstances. Sometimes, jail time can also be converted to "house arrest." Jail terms range from 96 hours to 12 months, varying based on blood alcohol content (BAC) level and other factors. Note that the 12-month maximum is twice the 6-month maximum of a first DUI offense.

  • Three to five years of Informal Stay Out of Trouble DUI probation.

  • A fine of between $2,000.00 to $3,000.00.

  • Mandatory installation, at your own expense, of an IID (ignition interlock device) on your vehicle. The cost can be up to $1,500.00, and there are ongoing monthly maintenance fees involved besides initial installation.

  • Mandatory attendance and completion of a State-approved DUI school for 18 months.

  • A license suspension of up to two years depending on the facts of your case. However, this can be reduced to a 90 day suspension, with a restricted license granted after the 90 days suspension is over, providing one wishes to enter a plea of “guilty” or of “no contest” to the 2nd time DUI charge.

Aggravated 2nd DUI Penalties

In most cases, a 2nd DUI is (like a 1st DUI) a misdemeanor offense. However, it can become a felony if you have four or more priorable offenses within 10 years on your record or if someone is injured or killed in connection with your DUI incident.

We will look at three types of DUI charges below: misdemeanor DUI with injury, felony DUI with injury, and felony DUI without injury. Then we will mention some other factors that can lead to an "aggravated" DUI.

  1. Misdemeanor DUI with injury

A DUI with injury is a "wobbler" that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the details of your case and your past criminal record.

If charged as a misdemeanor, sentencing factors include:

  • $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 in fines and full restitution to all who were injured;

  • A county jail term of anywhere from five days to 12 months;

  • Three to five years of Informal summary probation;

  • Your license will be suspended for 1 to 3 years, though a restricted license may be possible to obtain;

  • 18 or 30 months in a state-approved DUI school.
  1. Felony DUI with injury

If a DUI with injury is charged as a felony, possible punishments include:

  • $2,000.00 to $5,000.00 in fines plus restitution to all victims;

  • Between 16 months to 3 years in state prison, varying based on the number of people injured and how severely they were injured;

  • A license suspension period of up to 5 years;

  • 18 or 30 months attendance at a DUI school;

  • (Possibly) a strike on your record, pursuant to the California "Three Strikes Law" if Great Bodily Injury was alleged and the Jury found the allegation true or the defendant admitted the allegation pursuant to a plea;

  • A three-year period with the status of a habitual traffic offender (HTO).

Also note that if a DUI leads to the death of someone involved in an associated car crash, it will be a strike on the violator's record and could even lead to life imprisonment in some cases. See below under Watson Murder and Implied Malice

  1. Felony DUI no injury

A felony DUI in which no one was injured, usually (not always) reserved for those with four or more DUIs, may be punished as follows:

  • $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 in fines, plus fees and victim restitution;

  • 16 months to 3 years in state prison;

  • A 4-year license suspension;

  • An 18 or 30 month long DUI class;

  • Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) status applied by the DMV

Can Actual Jail Time Be Avoided With a 2nd Offense DUI?

Although it is true that California Vehicle Code Section 23540 imposes “mandatory” jail time (at least 90 days and up to 12 months per count) for a 2nd offense DUI conviction, mandatory, in the legal world, is not always what it might sound like to the novice.

First, the 2nd DUI must be within 10 years of the first offense to count against you. A wet reckless conviction counts the same as a DUI conviction for these purposes.

Next, realize that a good DUI defense lawyer can help you avoid, or at least minimize jail time, in three main ways. These are: by winning you probation, by securing alternative sentencing, and by simply winning your case outright.

  1. Probation Can Lower Required Jail Time

As stated already, the mandatory minimum jail time for a 2nd DUI is 90 days. And many prosecutors will seek even longer jail time in the sentence, such as 120 days. Furthermore, aggravated 2nd DUIs, such as those causing serious injury to others, are felonies and can threaten you with up to four years in state prison.

However, a DUI lawyer who knows how the legal system “really” works and is a skilled negotiator can sometimes get your jail time for a 2nd DUI reduced to as little as 96 hours. This reduction is not a “right” and not something every judge will allow or will allow in every case. The reduction may seem to violate VC 23540’s 90-day minimum, but really it is based on an exception found in VC 23542 for those who qualify for probation, though as we have said, approval for the reduction is at the judge’s discretion.

If you have a clean driving record other than the two DUIs and the 2nd one was clearly an unintentional mistake, you may be granted leniency. If there was no accident, no injuries, and certainly no fatalities connected with the DUI incident, that is in your favor. And if you demonstrate true remorse for your actions to the satisfaction of the judge, that is also an important factor.

  1. Alternative Sentencing Can Take the Place of Jail Time

For California DUIs, including for 2nd convictions, it is possible to avoid actual time in a county jail or state prison by qualifying for “alternative sentencing” programs. These programs help keep down overcrowding at jail facilities and save the state money, and they allow those convicted of DUI to still be able to maintain a job, spend time with their families, and lead a reasonably “normal” life style.

Home Confinement With Electronic Monitoring

The main type of alternative sentencing available is to be placed under “house arrest” and monitored by a GPS ankle bracelet to verify your whereabouts at any particular moment. An allowance is also normally made for the home-confined individual to travel to/from his place of employment. Any movement to non-approved locations, and especially if outside of a specific geographic “zone,” can lead to cancellation of the program and incarceration in jail/prison.

In L.A. County, the county probation department will also run all home confinement programs. So, it falls under the broad umbrella of “probation” in a certain sense and has strict rules that are very much enforced.

Being allowed to see one’s family and support them by working instead of being locked up behind bars is a huge benefit. But do realize that there will be steep expenses involved that are laid on the person put under home confinement and that your full incarceration sentence must be served out at home (it cannot be shortened for “good behavior” as with some in-jail programs).

The SCRAM Program

Another possible alternative to jail time is entering the SCRAM program, which forces you to wear a SCRAM bracelet around your wrist 24/7 that is able to detect any alcohol that is present in your sweat. A small portion of alcohol, maybe around 1% (it varies a bit person to person) is excreted in one’s sweat, and the SCRAM device is hyper-sensitive and able to detect it.

The program is similar to installing an IID (ignition interlock device) on one’s vehicle, except that you wear the bracelet everywhere you go and not just when you attempt to drive your vehicle. The device reports automatically, electronically, to the authorities should alcohol be found in your perspiration.

SCRAM is used for very serious offenders and for those who are deemed addicted to alcohol. If you enter this program you cannot drink at all. That differs from the IID which only prevents you from drinking while driving.

  1. Winning the Case Outright

Finally, by simply defeating the 2nd DUI charge with a solid defense, you can of course avoid jail time and all other potential penalties. A skilled lawyer can make procedural motions at the pre-trial stage. If evidence is of dubious character or was illegally obtained, it can be suppressed. This will normally leave the prosecution without enough evidence to proceed and lead to the case being dismissed.

If a dismissal cannot be achieved, we at Los Angeles DUI Lawyer will apply all available defense strategies. These are not substantially different than those used for 1st DUIs or any other DUI. We conduct a thorough investigation, review the police/accident report, look for ways to challenge the FST, breath, and blood test results, find out if officers were trained to operate the breathalyzer they used and calibrated the device correctly, and seek out any witnesses and evidences in your favor.

Contact Us Today for DUI Defense

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the confusion and fear that surrounds facing a DUI conviction, especially when you already have a previous DUI conviction on your record. We also understand that many innocent people are charged with DUI in California every year. We have the experience to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. We know how to fight the supposedly incontrovertible evidence of the prosecution and win in spite of “the odds.”

For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us 24/7/365 at 310-848-1376. We stand ready to answer your call for help and to help you win the best possible outcome to your 2nd offense DUI case.