First Offense DUI Overview

If you have been arrested for DUI, it may be your first experience with facing a criminal charge. If convicted, you could face jail time, fines, suspension of your driving privileges and increased insurance rates. Convictions can also have negative consequences on your employment, especially if you are a licensed professional or a commercial driver.

You Have Two Cases 

If you have been arrested for DUI, you have two problems – A DMV problem and a criminal court problem. The DMV and the Court process are separate and each must be fought independently. The DMV case relates to your California driving privilege and whether your license will be returned, suspended, or revoked. The Court case deals with punishment for the crime of DUI and may include jail time, fines, alcohol education classes, license suspensions, probation, vehicle impound, installation of an ignition interlock device or a combination of these things. Sentencing enhancements may increase punishment and length of license suspension.

DMV License Suspension vs. Court License Suspension

There are two ways your driving privilege in California can be suspended. If you lose or default on the DMV hearing, a 4-month to 1 year suspension can occur. If you get convicted in court, it will trigger a 6-month to 10-month suspension. In most first offense cases, you are eligible for a work restricted license after 30 days.

Important – DMV Hearing Date MUST BE SET Within 10 days of arrest

To get a DMV hearing you must call DMV to request a hearing, it is not automatically set for you. It is your responsibility to set your DMV hearing within 10 calendar days of the arrest. If you do not request a hearing within 10 days, your license will automatically be suspended 30 days after your arrest for a period of 4 months on a first offense. In under 21 and refusal cases your license will be suspended for 1 year. The number to call to set your DMV hearing is on your Temporary License/Notice of Suspension.

First Court Date

After you are released from jail, you are given a court date for your arraignment. Arraignment is where the government tells you the charges and potential punishment you face. If you hire an attorney, your attorney can appear for you on a misdemeanor DUI so you never have to go to court. If you don’t hire an attorney, you must appear at your first court date or a warrant will be issued. Don’t confuse your court date with your DMV Hearing date.

Temporary License 

At the time of your arrest, the police take your license and give you a Temporary License/Notice of Suspension. This piece of paper is your new temporary driver’s license so keep it with you. If you had a valid driver’s license at the time, you can continue to drive until the outcome of the DMV action. If you request a DMV hearing within 10 days, you will be allowed to drive until a decision is rendered on the outcome of the DMV hearing. Once your DMV hearing is set the DMV is supposed to mail you a new temp license. If you don’t set a DMV hearing, your driving privilege will be suspended 30 days after your arrest.

Notice of Suspension

The notice of suspension notifies you of your right to a hearing to contest the action against your license. Most people don’t read it but it explains that you need to request your hearing within 10 days. You must read your temporary license and notice of suspension because it contains important information regarding your legal rights.

Work Restricted Driver’s License

If your license was valid at the time you were arrested, you will be eligible for a restricted driver’s license.

SR-22 Requirement

To get your license reinstated after your DMV suspension or after your court conviction you will need to obtain an SR-22. An SR-22 form is a certificate filed by your insurance company with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To obtain an SR-22, you would contact your car insurance company to inform them of your need for an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility. The costs of an SR22 vary by insurance company. The costs of filing the certificate itself from your insurance company should be between $25 and $50.

Reduced DUI Charges – Wet Reckless (VC23103/VC23103.5) 

A wet reckless is reckless driving involving alcohol or drugs. In cases where there is a low alcohol level usually below 0.10% or drugs like marijuana or prescription medications, your attorney can try to negotiate for a wet reckless disposition. It’s a better resolution then a DUI because it comes with no license suspension, no IID, and usually no jail time. A wet reckless is a good resolution for commercial/employed drivers, professional licensees, and anyone that needs a valid driver’s license for work. The negative thing about a wet reckless is that it is priorable against you by the DMV or Court if you get another DUI within the next 10 years.

Reduced DUI Charges – Reckless Driving (VC23103)

A dry reckless is reckless driving not involving alcohol or drugs. It’s a better resolution then a DUI or Wet Reckless because it is not prior able against you by the DMV or Court if you ever get another DUI within the next 10 years. There is no license suspension associated with it.

DUI Probation First Offense

DUI probation is from 3 to 5 years, can be formal or informal, and the terms usually include: no driving with any alcohol in your system, no refusal of chemical tests, submit to search and seizure for blood/breath, enrolling and completing the DUI class, paying fines/fees, paying restitution, obeying all laws, don’t drive unless properly licensed and insured, completing your jail sentence, and showing up for all court ordered appearances.

No Alcohol Terms

In some cases, because of either an accident, high BAC, or other aggravating factors or enhancements, the court may order a “no alcohol” term as part of probation. This means you will be on search and seizure for alcohol including on your person, vehicle, or home. You will also be prohibited from using or possessing alcohol and will not be permitted to be anywhere where alcohol is the primary item of sale like bars.

First Offense DUI school

If you are convicted of a first offense DUI, you will be required to attend a first offense DUI program. These range in length from 3, 6, or 9 months depending on your alcohol BAC. Under 0.15% is the 3 month class, 0.15%+ is the 6 month, and over 0.20%+ is the 9 month class. The costs of the classes are approximately $500 for 3 month class, $800 for 6-month class, and $1200 for 9 month class. All programs have payment plans. To sign up for the DUI class you will need your court paperwork or an H6 DMV printout.

Alternative Sentencing

In most first offense DUI cases, the court will allow you to apply for alternative sentencing. This means instead of doing actual jail time you would satisfy your jail sentence by doing Sheriff work project or home electronic monitoring.

DUI Fines and Fees

You can expect to pay approximately $2000 in fines if you are convicted of a DUI. Most counties will allow you to make payments. In many counties you can convert your fines to alternative sentencing which can save you a lot of money.

Violating DUI Probation

You will be in violation of probation if you fail to comply with the court ordered probation terms including failing to enroll/complete DUI classes, appear in court when ordered, or completing your jail sentence. If probation is violated, the judge will issue a bench warrant and you will be arrested and brought back to court to answer for the violation of probation.

Court Punishment 1st Offense DUI


48 hours to 6 months

DUI Program

3/6/9 months


$390 to $1000

Ignition Interlock Device

Up to 3 years


3 to 5 years – Informal

Car Impound

Up to 6 months

License Suspension

6 months, 10 months if 0.20%+


23578 – Driving with BAC .15%+ – Add 6 month DUI class

23578 – Driving with BAC .20%+ – Add 9 month DUI class

23577 – Refusal to take chemical test – Add 96 hours jail

23582 – Excessive Speed – Add 60 days jail

23572 – Child under 14 in car – Add 48 hours jail

DMV Suspension Period 1st Offense DUI 

Under 21

1 year, “Critical Need” Eligible

0.08% or higher

4 month, Restriction Eligible after 30 days


1 year, No Restriction Eligibility

DUI Expungement

Even if you are convicted of a DUI, you can still get your case expunged. An expungement allows you to lawfully answer that you have never been convicted of a crime. To be eligible, you must have successfully completed probation, paid all you fines and fees, and completed the terms of your probation.

You don’t have to plead guilty, contact our office today for a free same day consultation

Because you have so much to lose, you need the most experienced and aggressive DUI Defense attorneys on your side. Whether it’s defending you in trial or negotiating for dismissal, you can count on us. Our experienced and aggressive negotiating efforts usually result in better outcomes for our clients including reduced charges, lesser jail days, and smaller fines. Call our office today at (916) 939-3900 to speak directly to an attorney about your First Offense DUI case. We are open 24/7/365 to answer your questions.