How Long Is DUI Probation in California? | A Complete Overview
Getting a DUI conviction can be devastating for anyone. This is an offense that California takes seriously regardless of the circumstances. In most cases, though, the driver gets granted probation, which means they can avoid serving jail time as long as they comply with a set of rules.
Most of the time, a driver can face from three to five years of probation, although several factors affect how long the period is.
Every driver can get different DUI charges depending on the severity of the case. However, getting help from professional DUI lawyers can increase the person's chances of avoiding county jail (which is considered one of the most severe consequences of a DUI) and having an easier time during probation.
The following page covers how the average California DUI probation case works, including how long it can last and how prior DUI convictions can affect its severity.
How Long Can Someone Be in Probation After a DUI Conviction?
As mentioned in the introduction, a driver can face from three to five years of probation, depending on the case. On average, the driver can expect their DUI probation to last three years only unless they committed a severe felony or if this is their second or third offense.
However, if the person hires a professional lawyer, they could get their sentence reduced, which can lead to one or two years of probation instead.
Once the probation period ends, the driver has the right to file a petition to get the case dismissed and their record expunged. They must first prove they complied with all the terms and rules surrounding their probation, though.
How Does Probation from a DUI Conviction Work?
Drunk driving is a serious offense that can lead to many consequences. A person's sentence can vary depending on:
The court and judge overseeing the case.
The driver's level of intoxication and age.
The driver's behavior upon their arrest.
The driver's criminal history.
When someone is on probation, they may have to:
Drive with a restricted license (if they don't get their license suspended).
Stop drinking alcohol.
Pay fines and fees.
Take counseling sessions and drunk driving programs.
Agree to take a DUI breath/blood test if they're arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.
Avoid additional offenses.
Even though probation is already considered a harsh penalty, it's much easier to handle than jail time. There are two main types of "probation" someone can get:
A driver can get formal probation if they committed a felony or if this is their second or third DUI offense. Here, the person will get a probation officer assigned to their case, who will often check in with them to ensure they're not violating their terms.
Sometimes, a probation officer may do a surprise visitation to the driver and test their blood-alcohol content. If the person tests positive, they could face severe penalties.
Informal or summary probation is similar to the first option. The main difference here is that the driver won't have to report to a probation officer. Instead, they will have to appear in court at a specified date and show they've complied with all the probation terms they got.
Most of the time, people get summary probation if they committed a misdemeanor or if this is their first offense. Those who got a first-time DUI, for example, are more likely to get informal probation, although they may need help from a lawyer to build a stronger case that grants them that kind of program.
About California's Zero-Tolerance Law
According to California's Vehicle Code, Section 23600, people who are on DUI probation aren't allowed to drive with any amount of alcohol inside their system. This is also called "California's Zero-Tolerance Law."
Drivers who get caught driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in their bodies will get their probation revoked, which can lead to a driver's license suspension and even jail time. If the driver refuses to take chemical tests during probation, they could also get it revoked.
Can Someone Get Ordered to Install an Ignition Interlock Device?
In many cases, a judge will ask the driver to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle, which could last throughout the entire probation period. These devices prevent a car from starting unless the driver provides a breathalyzer sample that's free of alcohol.
Here are the most common cases where a judge will include an IID in the DUI probation requirements:
The driver was found with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15% or higher.
The driver refused to take a chemical or breath test.
The driver wants to keep driving during probation.
It's the person's second or third DUI conviction.
Typically, the IID will get asked to stay for longer depending on the number of convictions the driver already had, so if this is their second or third offense, the device could remain in the vehicle for up to four years. Moreover, the IID often comes at the defendant's expense.
Another factor that affects the period needed for the IID is whether the person was convicted of a standard DUI or a DUI that caused a personal injury.
It's important to note that people who drive with a suspended license or without valid auto insurance can get their probation revoked. Those who want to keep driving during probation must opt for a restricted license (if applicable).
What Are the Most Common Programs Found in Probation?
Many drivers facing DUI probation will get asked to attend special programs and classes as part of the rules. Some of the most common programs in California include:
California DUI School
This "school" provides five court-approved alcohol programs. The driver will get one of those five options assigned, depending on the severity of their conviction:
12-hour Program: It's often assigned to those with a first "wet" or "dry" reckless conviction.
Three-month Program: It's considered the standard program for a first-offense DUI.
Nine-month Program: It's meant for people who either got a high BAC on their first offense or are getting a second "wet/dry reckless" conviction. If the person already got a "wet/dry reckless" or DUI conviction within the past 10 years, they'll likely get this program.
18-month Program: It's often assigned to those convicted of their second DUI.
30-month Program: This last program is only offered in Los Angeles and Stanislaus counties. It applies to drivers who got a considerably high BAC in their second DUI or got convicted of their third DUI after completing the 18-month program.
People who get any of these programs can't consume alcohol or drugs. If a program representative/leader suspects the person is under the influence, they may get expelled, which will result in a probation violation.
Some drivers may get asked to attend AA meetings once or twice a week, even if they're not alcoholics. To ensure the person is going to the meetings, the court will send an attendance verification form to the meeting director, which they have to sign off each session.
Failing to attend these meetings will result in a probation violation.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving - "Victim Impact Panel"
Also known as the "MADD VIP" program, this is often offered to first-time offenders as a "scare tactic."
It's a class that may last about two and a half hours, and it consists of a person (or several) sharing their stories of how their life got affected by drunk driving. Depending on the county, the class may also include video presentations and slideshows.
Hospital and Morgue Program
This is a program primarily offered to first-time offenders in Los Angeles. Here, the person will go over three main components:
Alcohol Awareness Class
The program is meant to show offenders the consequences that driving under the influence can cause. It may also include video presentations and slideshows.
Some courts may ask the defendant to write an essay talking about their experience, which would be the fourth component of the program.
Even though those in Sacramento may not get asked to do this program, it's still worth mentioning so that they can understand the extent of the options offered to drunk drivers in the state.
What's Considered a Probation Violation?
Probation violations are simply the failure to follow its conditions. There are many ways someone can violate their DUI probation, which is why it's so important for drivers to get legal advice to know what they can and can't do.
Common probation violations include:
Missing probation meetings
Failing to pay fines
Driving with a suspended/revoked license
Failing alcohol tests or refusing to take them
Failing to maintain employment
Failing to complete community service or program attendance
Being associated with felons
Traveling outside state lines without permission
Committing a crime
What Happens In the Case of a Probation Violation in California?
If the violation is severe enough, the person could automatically go to jail.
Other sentences associated with a probation violation include:
Extended probation period
Loss of travel privileges
Depending on the case, the driver may not get any additional penalties, although it's uncommon. The court will make a decision based on the nature of the violation, the driver's behavior, and suggestions from the probation officer or the case prosecutor.
How Can a Lawyer Help the Defendant Handle Probation?
DUI probation can be overwhelming, especially when there are so many rules to follow. Thankfully, no one has to go through that process alone. Goss Law can give insight on how to avoid jail time for 4th DUI in California.
Hiring a professional lawyer from Goss Law helps defendants manage their probation period more effectively and even reduce their sentence if the conditions apply.
Those who are interested in what this law firm has to offer can schedule a free consultation and see what options are available.