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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

How to Avoid Jail Time for 2nd DUI in California | All Factors to Consider

Driving under the influence is, sadly, more common than people would like to admit. In 2021, approximately 31% of fatal crashes in the United States involved drunk drivers. Additionally, about one in 10 arrests involve DUIs.

It's no surprise that many states take DUIs so seriously, and California isn't the exception. The DUI penalties for a first offense are severe enough, and they only get worse if the person does it again.

One of the most severe penalties someone can face after a DUI arrest is getting a jail sentence. Not only is jail time scary and overwhelming for some, but it can also lead to other life consequences for the offender.

With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, though, the person may be able to fight the prosecution's case and get a reduced sentence. In other cases, the lawyer could negotiate an alternative to the mandatory jail time their client must serve.

This page covers all factors surrounding a second DUI conviction, including whether it's possible to avoid a jail sentence and what alternatives are available.

What Are the Penalties for a Second DUI Conviction in California?

What Are the Penalties for a Second DUI Conviction in California?

This question doesn't have a clear answer, as not all DUI offenses involve the same factors. Generally, it depends on the circumstances surrounding the person's arrest.

If the driver gets arrested for a second DUI within the past 10 years of receiving the first one, the penalties can get worse. California Vehicle Code, Section 23540, outlines the following penalties for a second DUI offense:

  • Minimum time of 96 hours in county jail. The person can't get sentenced for over one year.

  • A fine between $390-$1,000 (plus penalty assessments, which could be over five times the initial amount). The fines will likely be higher than the ones from the first DUI conviction.

  • Installation of an "Ignition Interlock Device" for approximately a year.

  • Three-five years of summary probation.

  • Mandatory 18- or 30-month attendance to a court-approved California DUI school.

  • A one- or two-year license suspension. Depending on the circumstances, the suspension can get converted to a restricted license.

Finally, getting a second DUI conviction can affect the driver in other areas of their life. Here are some potential consequences of getting convicted:

  • Getting points on the driver's Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS).

  • Getting rejected from colleges or universities.

  • Getting rejected to serve in the armed forces.

  • Difficulty getting a loan.

  • Driving with a restricted license (if it doesn't get permanently suspended).

Many circumstances can affect a driver's conviction in California, which is why hiring a DUI lawyer to review the case is always the best option to consider.

What Factors Can Affect the Severity of the DUI Charge?

The severity of a DUI in California can change depending on the circumstances of the "event."

Besides the initial penalties, a driver can get "aggravating factors," which are extra charges that affect the severity of the DUI charge. Some of these aggravating factors include:

  • Causing an auto accident

  • Driving on a suspended license

  • Refusing to take a chemical test

  • Having a minor or child in the car while driving

  • Causing a hit-and-run

  • Speeding

  • Having a blood-alcohol content of 0.15% or higher

Another factor that often affects a DUI in California is the driver's criminal history. Considering this would be the second offense the driver is getting, the consequences are likely to be worse. However, if there are other offenses in the person's history, the case could be more complicated to handle.

In any case, there may be room to fight a second DUI in California with the help of a professional lawyer. These experts will gather as much evidence as possible and use it on their client's behalf, increasing the chances of reduced penalties.

Is It Possible to Lose a Driver's License After a Second DUI Offense?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is the state agency responsible for suspending or revoking licenses. There are two scenarios where the DMV can suspend a driver's license:

  • Getting convicted for a DUI.

  • Failing to ask for a DMV hearing within 10 days of the person's arrest. The driver could also get their license suspended if they lose their DMV hearing.

If the driver had their second DUI within 10 years of getting a first offense DUI or wet reckless conviction, they could face a two-year license suspension/revocation.

Drivers who willingly took a chemical test and installed an ignition interlock device can get a restricted license. They can show proof of installation after 90 days from their license suspension, which can allow them to drive anywhere they want as long as the vehicle has the ID.

Those who refused to take a chemical test, however, may not be entitled to a restricted license, meaning they will have to face the full two years of their DUI conviction.

To summarize, a driver can temporarily lose their driver's license, but if they complied with the law, they may be entitled to a restricted one after the first 90 days of the suspension.

Can the Offender Get a Permanent Criminal Record?

A driver could get their DUI record expunged under certain circumstances, meaning that their charge may not be permanent.

As long as the person was placed on probation and completed it successfully, they can file a petition with the court and get it reviewed. If the request gets approved, the driver can withdraw their previous plea and re-enter a "Not Guilty" one.

Can People Avoid Jail Time for a Second Offense DUI Conviction?

Certain drivers can avoid jail time for their second DUI in California. The best way of increasing the person's chance of avoiding jail is to hire a DUI lawyer, as they can come up with the most appropriate defense for the case. Goss Law can also explain how to avoid jail time for 3rd DUI in California.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the DUI arrest, a lawyer can argue the following:

  • The driver wasn't driving under the influence.

  • The driver's blood-alcohol content test was mis-administered or the officers responsible for administering the test didn't follow the correct procedures.

  • The driver got stopped without due cause.

If the lawyer is successful in defending their client, they could avoid harsher penalties like jail time, even if they had a prior DUI conviction. In other cases, the driver could serve time in other programs as a replacement for jail time.

California's Penal Code, Section 2900.5, mentions the following alternatives:


The driver (and their lawyer) could argue that they have alcoholism problems and are willing to change. If the judge approves this argument, they could put the driver in a rehabilitation program instead of jail.

Rehab facilities are more "friendly" in the sense that they offer care, counseling, and other solutions that can help the driver overcome their alcohol addiction.

House Arrest

Even though house arrest is "similar" to serving time, it's considered a privilege in comparison to jail. Here, the driver needs to remain home for a certain period, and they're not allowed to leave without permission.

Leaving home without a justified reason can lead to mandatory jail time and even harsher penalties. Most states require the driver to wear an ankle monitor to ensure they stay home and don't leave for any reason. If the person steps out of the monitor's range, local law enforcement will get a notification.

How Can a DUI Defense Lawyer Help?

How Can a DUI Defense Lawyer Help?

A second DUI involves more penalties besides jail time. In most cases, the law won't be on the driver's side, and it will likely be harsh with penalties unless they have an experienced DUI attorney in Sacramento on their side.

The professionals at Goss Law are committed to helping drivers navigate their second DUI case and come up with the best kind of defense. Sometimes, the right strategy could help the driver avoid jail time and other penalties too.

A professional lawyer will help with the following:

  • Reviewing the case and investigating the driver's charges.

  • Gathering as much evidence as possible that could help fight the prosecution.

  • Helping the driver settle their case before it goes to trial.

Doing legal research and gathering evidence is too overwhelming for one person to handle alone, especially if they have no idea of what to do. Navigating a second offense DUI is scary, and without proper defense, the person could face severe penalties even if the circumstances of the arrest worked in their favor.

A lawyer will take all the hard work that comes from building a DUI case and use that to get their client a more appropriate outcome (that may sometimes involve the removal of jail time). They can help give information on how to avoid jail time for first DUI in California. It's important to remember that all DUI cases are different, so even if this is the driver's second offense, they may be able to get help.

Bottom Line - Why Getting Legal Help Is the Best Course of Action

Drunk driving is a serious offense that California doesn't take lightly. A second offense DUI will always involve harsher penalties than the first one, so the best way to avoid them is to drive responsibly at all times.

However, if anyone is facing severe DUI penalties and want a professional to review their case first, they can contact a DUI attorney from Goss Law today and get help.


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