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California DUI and Bail Bond Information

Posted on Aug 16th, 2016 by Super User 2827 Views

Being arrested for a DUI or DWI can be very stressful, embarrassing, and expensive.  Sometimes you may not use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to drive after enjoying a few drinks at a family reunion, dinner party, or concert. A fun night out may wind up being anything but fun if you’re driving while impaired. Usually when the driver comes up on a DUI checkpoint or sees the blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror, reality quickly sets back in. What may seem like a small, inconsequential decision in the spur of the moment can suddenly lead to being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI), and even worse may result in catastrophic consequences—many of which can last a lifetime. It’s important to understand California DUI laws, to know your rights when being accused of DUI or DWI, and to be aware of the DUI/DWI arrest process.

California DUI Laws and BAC



S BAC of 0.08% or higher applies to individuals 21+ years old, driving or operating a regular passenger vehicle

S BAC of 0.04% or higher applies to individuals 21+ years old, driving a commercial vehicl

S ZERO TOLERANCE (BAC of 0.01% or higher) applies to individuals under the age of 21, driving a regular passenger vehicle

California’s DUI laws state that it is illegal for an individual with a BAC at or above the limit listed above to operate or drive a vehicle.

California Vehicle Code § 23152(b) dictates that it is unlawful to operate a vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC), also called Blood Alcohol Concentration, is above the legal limit set by California, regardless of impairment. California’s DUI “Admin per se” law goes hand in hand with California VC § 23152(b). This Admin Per Se law gives the police and other CA authorities the right and power to detain, arrest, and/or revoke someone’s driver’s license if there is even suspicion that the individual is driving under the influence. California VC § 23152(a) can be violated be the “admin per se” DUI charge, REGARDLESS if the driver’s BAC is below the legal limit of 0.08%. Blood alcohol concentration is a measurement, usually expressed in a percentage, of how much an individual’s blood (by volume) is alcohol. This is the common benchmark used in determining a person’s intoxication level for legal purposes, especially in regards to DUI cases.

It’s important to note the following about BAC limits, in relation to DUI/DWI suspicion or arrest:

  • Law enforcement must only have suspicion of DUI in order to pull you over. California DUI laws DO include over-the-counter medications and prescription medications. If the medicine affects your driving ability, and you’re subsequently pulled over by an officer, you can be charged with a DUI—regardless if you are prescribed to the medicine.
  • If you fail or refuse a BAC test at a DUI checkpoint or after being pulled over by law enforcement, the officer has full authority to confiscate your driver’s license and issue you an Order of Suspension. You MUST contact the DMV within 10-days of your license being taken/suspended and request an administrative hearing; this hearing allows the driver to contest the driver’s license suspension. Failure to contact the DMV within the 10-days results in an automatic license suspension—anywhere from 4-months to 1-year on a first offense—beginning 30-days from the date of the DUI arrest.
  • There are a variety of factors that can contribute to false or inaccurate BAC readings: rising blood alcohol level (alcohol was still being absorbed in bloodstream so BAC was actually higher at jail than while driving); mouth alcohol; medical conditions, such as acid reflux; weather conditions and outside temperature; and errors with the breath testing equipment used. Many of these factors are used as defenses in DUI/DWI cases. California Code of Regulations violations may also contribute to a case being thrown out.

Bail/Bond Proceedings

  • If arrested for DUI, you will be held at the police station or county jail for up to 24 hours.
    • For misdemeanor DUI cases, which is almost all 1st offense DUI cases, you will usually be released on your own recognizance (O/R release).
    • For felony DUI cases in the state of CA, you will more than likely be held until you post the mandated bail amount (if bail is granted).
  • Essentially, bail is a monetary and written promise that you will appear for your future court appearances, and is the price you must pay in order to be released from jail. Each county has their own bail schedules, and bail is based on the severity of the DUI occurrence --click here for 2022 Orange County bail schedule. DUI bail amounts may vary by county, but are assigned based on the arresting county’s schedule. If you appear for your scheduled court date, bail will be returned minus the DUI fees, which are non-refundable. Also, be mindful that towing and impound fees will be additional costs.
  • If the DUI did not result in any property damage or damage to another person, DUI bail amount usually falls anywhere between $1,000-$15,000.
  • The amounts significantly go up and a bail bond is generally set much higher, especially for DUI-related accidents causing injuries or death. In Orange County, DUI with injury to another person requires at least $100,000 bail bond before being released. Two DUIs within 10 years typically requires a $15,000 bail bond. Furthermore, if probation is broken during the DUI event, bail may be $25,000 or even more depending on the specifics of the case.  Other examples of circumstances that can increase bail amount include (but are not limited to):
    • damage occurs to people or property during the DUI
    • children were in the car (also may be charged with child endangerment)
    • hit and run
    • driver under the age of 18
    • driving over 20 mph
    • insubordination/ poor conduct with law enforcement
    • 15% or more BAC
  • Anyone can post bail for you in a DUI case. The fastest way to help get a loved one released is by being able to give the jail or police station the accused person’s full name and date of birth. If a friend or family member can’t provide the money on their own, a licensed bail-bond agent can do so for a very small fee. Some counties require that the arrestee/defendant be held until their court appearance, as does San Diego County, others require a bond before release on ALL DUI cases.
  • After being released, it is extremely important for the accused driver to seek and retain an experienced DUI attorney who will investigate the DUI event, the arrest, provide representation in court and negotiate with the prosecution and judge to try to get charges dismissed or greatly reduced. Some attorneys will even provide a free consultation to discuss your case.

At your initial court appearance, the “arraignment”, you will make your plea.

  • If you plead guilty or no contest to the DUI charges, the judge will give you your sentence.
  • If you plead not guilty to the DUI charges, a future date will be set for your trial.


  • If convicted of California Vehicle Code §§ 23152(a) and 23152(b), which are DUI-related charges where no injury occurred, or § Vehicle Code 23153(a) and 23153(b), which are DUI-related charges where bodily injury to another person occurred, the two offenses are combined for sentencing and you are only charged/sentenced for one offense of DUI.


To be convicted of a DUI in California, the prosecutor must prove two things:

1.       that you were driving/operating the vehicle

2.       AND that your BAC was ≥ the legal limit at the time you were driving

  • If convicted, the misdemeanor DUI offender may be faced with:
    • probation
    • time in jail
    • exorbitant fines  
    • mandatory DUI school, typically 90-day programs but up to 30-months programs, and/or required AA meetings
    • installation of an IID – a small breathalyzer device that’s wired to your vehicle’s ignition that the driver must blow into and pass the internal BAC test in order for the vehicle to start, as well as periodically requires additional analysis throughout the drive
    • DUI on driving record for 10 years (mandatory)
    • community service
    • increased insurance costs; requirement of an SR22 to reinstate license after suspension

The “Three-Strikes” Law:

Ø  CA has some DUI offenses that fall under the “three-strikes” law. This law pertains to those individuals who commit multiple serious and/or violent felonies; and, upon the driver’s “third strike”, he/she receives a life sentence with parole only possible after serving 25 yrs.

  • Felony DUI charges are usually attached if the offender causes a DUI injury, or receives his/her 4th or higher DUI offense within a 10-yr period (aka felony DUI based on prior convictions). If convicted, penalties can include up to 3 years in the California state prison and 4 years of a revoked license—in addition to most of the punishments listed for misdemeanors.

Many individuals have a plethora of emotions running through them when faced with a DUI arrest and/or conviction: feeling ashamed and overwhelmed about what to do; stressed about finding someone to post bail; worried about finances and how to pay all of the fines and fees; scared of potential job loss; and unsureness how friends and family are going to react to the “big news” are common thoughts are jumbled together, beginning with the first glimpse of those familiar blue lights. Being aware of California’s DUI laws, bail process, and other DUI-relevant information is a great way to arm yourself with necessary knowledge to avoid being unprepared in a moment of chaos. Your friends will thank you for helping them, too!

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