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California DUI Sentencing: Unraveling Second, Third, and Fourth Convictions

DUI Sentencing:  Part II – Prior Convictions and Sentencing Enhancements


The consequences of a DUI conviction in California (VC 23152) become more severe with prior DUI convictions within a 10-year window. Additionally, specific facts or special allegations can enhance the DUI sentence when properly pled and proven.

Prior DUI Convictions

Prior convictions for VC 23152, VC 23153, or VC 23103/23103.5 (“wet reckless”) in California can be used to enhance a DUI sentence [i]. The prosecution can utilize convictions from 10 years surrounding the current DUI offense, looking forward and backward. This means that the “prior conviction” can extend beyond the incident date of the current case [ii].

Second Time DUI Sentencing [iii]:

For a second DUI, the court can impose a maximum jail time of 364 days, with a base fine of $390-$1000. Probation conditions may include at least 96 hours or at least 10 days in jail, and more severe conditions if the blood alcohol level exceeded .15 or if there was a chemical test refusal. Probation, if granted, can last from 3 to 5 years.

Third Time DUI Sentencing [v]:

A mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail (364 days maximum) is imposed for a third DUI. This can be reduced to 30 days if the court agrees to a 30-month alcohol treatment program. Probation typically lasts for 5 years.

Fourth Time DUI Sentencing [vi]:

A fourth DUI within 10 years can be a misdemeanor or felony. If granted probation, a mandatory 180-day jail term is required. The individual will be designated as a habitual traffic offender. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office often files all fourth DUIs as felonies.

Special Allegations

These enhancements are not separate crimes but describe specific facts or conduct, proven by the prosecutor:

Reckless Driving and Excessive Speed: If driving recklessly (VC 23103) and speeding (30 mph over the highway speed limit or 20 mph over any other posted speed limit), a mandatory 60 days jail is imposed, consecutive to any other sentence [vii].

Refusal to Take a Chemical Test: Refusing a test post-lawful arrest results in additional mandatory jail time [viii].

Child Passenger: If convicted of DUI (VC 23152) with a passenger under 14 years old, mandatory jail time is imposed, even with probation [ix].

In addition to court probation conditions, the DMV will suspend your license once notified of a DUI conviction, and the suspension length increases with every prior on record. For a comprehensive case evaluation and assistance with prior DUI convictions, contact our Los Angeles and Pasadena DUI expert lawyers at THE LEVENTHAL FIRM.

Reference List:

[i] Certain out-of-state DUI convictions may also be used as sentence-enhancing DUI priors. See Cal VC 23626.

[ii] People v. Snook (1997) 16 Cal 4th 1210

[iii] Cal VC 23540, Cal VC 23542

[iv] Cal VC 23580

[v] Cal VC 23546, Cal VC 23548

[vi] Cal VC 23550

[vii] Cal VC 23582

[viii] Cal VC 23577

[ix] Cal VC 23572

[x] Driving under the influence while a child is in the car is conduct chargeable under Penal Code 273a. In California, the additional 30 days for the Vehicle Code enhancement cannot be imposed if you are also convicted of PC 273a.