What Happens If You Receive a Second DUI Offense?


In the United States, more than one million people get arrested every year for driving under the influence (DUI). But that is a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 111 million self-reported incidents of driving while under the influence every year. And drunk driving is a factor in more than one-quarter of all automobile crash fatalities.

DUI is a serious crime. And a second DUI offense carries more severe consequences than a first-time conviction. But how harsh depends on several factors, most of which may be unique to your individual case.

You may think that there is nothing you can do if you have been arrested for a second DUI. But that is not true. The most important thing is that you understand the penalties you are facing and get the best possible representation possible to assist you in addressing them in court.

Here is what you can expect if you are facing a second DUI charge in California. There also is some information on how to reduce penalties or even avoid a conviction altogether.

Penalties for a Second DUI Offense

In California, multiple DUIs within a 10-year period carries stiff penalties. A second offense is a misdemeanor unless the incident caused serious injury or someone's death. The punishment for a second DUI includes fines, license suspension, community programs, probation, and as much as one year in county jail.


Fines can range from $390 to $1,000. But “penalty assessments,” or fine percentages that go to supporting various state funds, will increase the total. You can expect total fines closer to $2,000 or even $3,000 for a second DUI conviction.

License Suspension

When someone has two DUIs, the state suspends their driver’s license for two years. After 12 months, they can request conversion to a restricted license.

There is the option of having an ignition interlock device (IID) installed immediately to avoid suspension. This can be a bit confusing because after a second DUI the state requires you to have an IID in place for a year anyway. So, you can avoid license suspension by immediately requesting the IID.

It is worth noting that the individual must cover the costs associated with the IID. This includes an installation fee and approximately $100 a month for the duration that it is on the vehicle.


The state requires someone convicted of a second DUI to attend a specific impaired driving and awareness program. These classes last between 18 to 30 months. The court also may mandate attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), or other programs dealing with substance abuse.

Jail Time

If convicted of DUI for a second time, the court can sentence you to anywhere from 96 hours to one year in county jail. You also will receive three to five years of misdemeanor probation.

This requires you to check in with a probation officer. And, during this time, any crimes committed can have more serious outcomes.

California has a mandatory minimum sentencing law. This means the court must impose the least sentence associated with a crime. But there may be wiggle room in some cases. Often attorneys can convince courts to supplement jail time with “house arrest” or work furlough.

Criminal Record

DUIs stay on your permanent record. Although California does allow expungement in some cases, for the purposes of criminal proceedings, a conviction always comes into play.

In other words, expungement keeps the conviction from coming up on employment background checks. But it is still known to law enforcement and will impact subsequent offenses of the same type (like DUI).

Factors That Can Increase Punishment

There are several circumstances that will likely increase the penalties of a second DUI conviction. Causing an accident or driving at excessive speeds are two of them. Refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) could increase penalties as well.

Due to California’s “implied consent” law, a driver has no right to refuse a breathalyzer test. If this happens, there is a separate civil component. It could result in a 2-year driver’s license suspension, regardless of what happens in the criminal trial.

All states except one have a threshold of 0.08 percent BAC for legally operating a motor vehicle (Utah’s is lower, at 0.05 percent). Having a BAC of 0.15% or higher will likely bring about increased penalties. Finally, having children under the age of 14 in the car at the time of the offense could incur more severe punishments from the court.

Best Possible Outcomes

To challenge a second DUI, you need to hire a lawyer that can present the best case in your defense. This involves looking at the evidence surrounding the arrest. This could include obtaining surveillance videos from the police vehicle or subpoenaing witnesses.

Knowledge of the laws pertaining to the charges is important, but also of those that inform the law enforcement procedures. For instance, a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion, or “probable cause,” to pull you over for DUI. They also must follow proper procedures while administering field sobriety tests.

Identifying and exposing situations or behavior that is outside of these regulations can produce reasons to challenge the evidence against you. And it can be central to having the case thrown out.

Even if convicted of a second DUI offense, having representation skilled at plea bargaining is imperative. Having someone who knows how to negotiate with prosecutors is essential if you want to minimize penalties and avoid jail time.

Get the Legal Help You Need

DUI charges can have a significant impact on your life and should be taken seriously. If you are facing a second DUI offense, you need proper legal representation to ensure the best possible outcome for your situation.

Prentiss Law provides some of the best DUI criminal defense in northern California. We have decades of experience helping our clients navigate the complex criminal justice system. We pride ourselves on looking at the unique details of each case so that we can achieve the best results for our clients. We offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by reaching out to see how we can help.