How Much Does a DUI Cost in California?

If you are arrested and convicted of DUI in California, you should expect to pay a steep price. Penalties for DUI convictions, including fines and costs, are meant to punish offenders and dissuade them from committing future offenses. These goals explain, in part, why fines for DUIs can reach $1,000.

However, fines are only one potential cost. In total, a DUI conviction in California can result in up to several thousand dollars in direct and collateral fees, fines, penalties, and costs. This fact underscores the need for aggressively fighting DUI charges with help from an experienced California criminal defense lawyer.

California DUI Penalties

The penalties you will face in California for committing a DUI depend on the number of previous DUIs you have committed. The more prior DUI offenses you have committed within the preceding 10 years, the more severe the penalties. The California Vehicle Code outlines these consequences:

First DUI Offense

If this is your first offense, you could face between four days and six months in the county jail. You can also be fined up to $1,000 for this offense. 

Second DUI Offense

For a second DUI offense, the possible fines remain the same. However, you can now face between 90 days and one year in jail.

Third DUI Offense

Similarly, the length of incarceration increases with a third DUI conviction. Your potential fine can still reach up to $1,000. You will also face between 120 days and one year in jail.

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offense

You face the potential for prison for your fourth and subsequent offense. A fourth conviction could result in one year in jail, while subsequent convictions could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years. The fine may reach $5,000, according to Forbes.

Additional Penalties and Sanctions

In addition to fines and incarceration, a DUI conviction carries with it other consequences. You could be ordered to attend DUI school for up to nine months after a first conviction. You might attend up to 30 months for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction. The costs of DUI school would be in addition to any fines imposed.

You could also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any personal vehicle you intend to drive. You must blow into the device before your car can start. You must also periodically blow into the device while your car is running. If the machine detects alcohol on your breath at any time, the car will cease to function.

The installation and maintenance costs of an IID are high, and you will be responsible for these costs in addition to fines and other fees.

Average Cost of a DUI Conviction in California

Do not be fooled by the possibility of a $1,000 fine. The total costs of a DUI in California can far exceed this number. The California Highway Patrol recently estimated the total cost of a DUI arrest and conviction to be $13,500. To reach this number, the CHP estimated various costs as follows:

Costs Associated with Arrests

If you are driving and your car must be towed and impounded, the CHP estimates that fee alone could reach $187. And these fees will increase if you cannot immediately get your vehicle out of impound. There could also be fees associated with your booking and fingerprinting at the jail. According to CHP’s estimate, these costs are about $156.

Costs Associated with Convictions

The costs associated with a DUI conviction quickly add up. You could face, according to the CHP, up to:

  • $1,248 in fines and penalties
  • $2,557 in attorneys’ fees
  • $100 payment to the DUI victim fund
  • $500 for DUI classes

There will also be a $100 fee to reinstate your driver’s license following any period of suspension imposed.

Ancillary Costs

Beyond these fees and costs, your car insurance premium could increase up to $8,652 per year after a DUI conviction. The cost of obtaining an ignition interlock device is not included in the CHP’s list of estimated costs, but it may be several hundred dollars. 

Finally, the conviction might lead to you losing your job or being demoted, which could further impact your finances.

Avoiding the Cost of a DUI Conviction

It may be possible to avoid many of these costs following an arrest for DUI in California by defeating the DUI charge itself. A successful defense could save you many times the amount of attorney fees you might have to pay. 

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