5 Things You Didn’t Know About A 3rd DUI In California

So you had to take a breath test and police reports confirm you’ve been drunk driving. Now what? If you’re facing a third DUI arrest in California, you likely already know that it’s not good. And if you’ve been charged with a second or third DUI, then you know how much worse it can get. But what exactly does a third DUI charge mean? What are its penalties? And how do they compare to those of other charges when the prior conviction occurred?

Here’s everything you need to know about third-offense DUI penalties in California:

1. You Will Be Ordered to An Alcohol Treatment Program

As part of your sentence, you will be required to attend an alcohol treatment program. This is the first hurdle for a third DUI case. In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone who has just been arrested for the third time to be ordered into an alcohol treatment program within a few hours of being booked into jail.

This can be done at two different places:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA) or its equivalent
  • A state-approved facility that provides education and treatment

Lawyers, Attorneys working, researching, law, scales

2. You Will Have To Install an Ignition Interlock Device

An IID, or ignition interlock device, is a breathalyzer installed in the vehicle. Once alcohol has been detected from the driver, it prevents the vehicle from starting. California law requires people who have a third DUI in the state to install a mandatory ignition interlock device as a condition of their probation or parole. This means you will have to install this device on your vehicle, and it will be required for a period of time depending on whether you are taking part in DUI school or not. In most cases, you’ll be able to resume driving right away once the IID is installed.

The cost of installation varies depending on where you live and which company you choose. It could cost between $100-$300 per month per device. The maintenance fee is usually around $50-$100 per month, as well.

  • All drivers need to have the breath alcohol testing instrument installed within 30 days of their probation terminating (or 180 days after they pleaded guilty if they did not attend court-ordered treatment).
  • Drivers who take part in DUI school do not need to have this device installed until after six months from completion of classes (or 12 months if they were ordered by DMV).

3. Your Driving Privileges will be Revoked

Driver’s license revocation is pretty much guaranteed once your third conviction is on record. California DMV will automatically revoke your driving privileges for 3 years. However, this time can be extended if there are extenuating circumstances related to your BAC level or any other factor.

When deciding how long to revoke someone’s license after a third DUI conviction, the courts primarily consider two things: 1) whether they were over 21 years old at the time of their arrest (and thus legally able to purchase alcohol); 2) how high their blood alcohol content was when they were pulled over by police officers during their most recent offense (i.e., above .08%).

It should be noted, however, that this administrative suspension or license suspension is completely automatic as soon as you have a DUI arrest. Because of this, it is advised to fight this APS (Admin Per Se suspension), with the help of a good law firm. There are many good things that can come from fighting this and there are multiple things that need to have occurred in order for them to rule against you. Having an attorney can equip you with the tools necessary to potentially avoid license revocation. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to fight as long as you have an attorney on your side.

Restricted License

Another option may be a hardship reinstatement and/or a restricted license, which allows you to drive only to and from work and/or treatment, but it won’t come that easy. You would have to complete at least one year of your alcohol program prior to applying, have an ignition interlock device installed, pay a fine and have an SR-22 proof of insurance.

Red suspended stamp

4. You May Be Fined

If you have been charged with a third DUI in California, you may be facing some serious fines. In general, a first DUI offense will cost you up to $1,000 in fines and penalties. If you are convicted of a second DUI offense within ten years of your first, the fines can be up to $2,000. Finally, if convicted of a third DUI offense within ten years of the second offense (or less than ten if there is no previous conviction), your fines could be as much as $10,000!

The exact amount that you’ll pay will vary based on the specific circumstances surrounding your case and how much money has been brought into the state by way of traffic violations over time—this means that this amount could either go up or down depending on how things shake out for other offenders who were given similar punishments recently.

5. You May Be Sentenced to Prison

If you have three DUI convictions within ten years, you are guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor offense and have to serve a mandatory jail time of 120 days to one year.

If you also have an enhancement for causing injury or death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your sentence could range from two years in state prison and $10,000 fine (or both) if there was no injury or death; up to four years in state prison and $10,000 fine (or both) if there was injury; up to six years in state prison and $10,000 fine (or both) if there was great bodily injury; up to ten years in state prison for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence on a third offense within ten years of a prior conviction.

There are some other options that can help you avoid jail time, depending on the circumstances:

House Arrest Program

In order to be eligible for this program, you must meet certain qualifications, which include but are not limited to paying a daily fine, being sentenced to county jail instead of state prison, having a home phone, and agreeing to adhere to all rules set forth during your confinement.

Work Release Program

You may also be able to avoid jail by serving your time through a work release program where you work around the community, for example, picking up trash around public areas or cleaning up graffiti. This work does not include financial compensation or any paycheck, but rather your freedom from a jail cell. It can be full-time or part-time work. Part-time work will still allow you to work a regular job on other days in order to receive a paycheck.

One day of work in this program is equal to one day served of your sentence. In some cases, this program can even consist of completing a drug and alcohol treatment program.

Man getting arrested

A 3rd DUI in California Can Be a Felony Offense

A third DUI conviction in California is a felony offense instead of a misdemeanor in some cases. A DUI felony stays on your record indefinitely, unlike a misdemeanor DUI conviction.

A felony will also come with harsher penalties. The mandatory jail sentence will be longer and will be served at a state penitentiary, your right to bear arms will be completely revoked indefinitely, and you will be unable to vote while serving your jail time.

When can a 3rd DUI in California be considered a Felony DUI offense?

  • If you have prior DUI convictions within a ten-year period of the current charge
  • If your DUI caused serious injuries to other people.
  • If your DUI caused a fatality.


In addition to being charged with a misdemeanor felony DUI offense, there are other consequences that can affect your life for years to come: complete DUI school, vehicle impoundment, increase in minimum insurance coverage, substance abuse evaluation, and other harsh penalties can come from a DUI arrest.

If you have been charged with a third DUI offense in California, it is critical that you seek the best possible legal representation for a chance to avoid jail time or other harsh penalties. DUI laws change and there is a lot of gray area when it comes to the different circumstances surrounding everyone’s individual situation, so you want to find an experienced attorney who specializes in these criminal cases and who can build a great attorney-client relationship. Your future and your family’s well-being are at stake, so don’t underestimate the importance of having a good attorney or law firm on your side.