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California takes driving under the influence seriously and imposes harsh penalties for DUI convictions.

The penalties increase substantially for each additional DUI conviction. If you have a 2nd or 3rd DUI charge, you may face jail time, heavy fines, and other sanctions. However, an experienced California criminal defense attorney will defend your interests and may be able to help negotiate a lesser punishment.

Penalties for a 2nd DUI

A conviction for a 2nd DUI in California carries harsh penalties.

Penalties for a 2nd DUI conviction include:

  • Mandatory jail time from 96 hours to one year,
  • Fines between $390 and $1,000.  However, special assessments that the courts add on frequently will increase a DUI fine to well over $2,000, 
  • Probation for three to five years,
  • DUI school for 18 months, and
  • A license suspension for one year.

If you are arrested for drunk driving, the DMV can suspend your license even if you are never convicted. Although 2nd DUI convictions carry mandatory jail sentences, a court will sometimes convert a jail sentence to house arrest or a work-release program.

Penalties for a 3rd DUI

Penalties for a 3rd DUI in California are even more severe.

Although a 3rd DUI is typically a misdemeanor (assuming there was no accident and no one was injured), penalties for a conviction include:

  • A mandatory jail sentence of 120 days to one year,
  • Fines between $390 and $1,000.  However, special assessments that the courts add on frequently will increase a DUI fine to well over $2,500, 
  • A three-year license suspension,
  • Probation for three to five years, and
  • DUI school for 30 months.

In addition, DUI convictions remain on your record for ten years and could potentially affect your housing, employment, and ability to access student loans.

How A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

Although 2nd and 3rd DUI convictions include mandatory jail sentences, judges may exercise discretion and substitute other sanctions for jail time. California law allows several programs to substitute for mandatory jail sentences. However, the court has discretion over which sentence to impose.

House Arrest

California law allows judges to substitute a house arrest program for a jail sentence.

Although confined to your house, you can serve your sentence from the comfort of your own home rather than in a jail cell. You must wear an ankle monitor that will notify law enforcement if you leave your house. If someone violates the terms of their house arrest, they may be arrested and required to finish their sentence in jail.


For 2nd and 3rd DUI convictions, a judge may allow a court-ordered rehabilitation program in lieu of jail time.

Rehabilitation programs provide support and a multi-step program to help individuals deal with their addictions. Most programs provide counseling, classes, and workshops designed to help support your path to recovery.

However, convincing a judge to grant rehab instead of jail will require the defendant to demonstrate a willingness and commitment to recovering and changing behavior. An attorney can help argue your case and present a compelling argument that rehabilitation is the best option.

Obtaining an alternative sentence in lieu of jail time is a difficult process.

It will require:

  • Negotiating with the prosecutor,
  • Presenting a compelling argument, and
  • Convincing the judge to allow an alternative form of punishment.

Individuals who represent themselves have a lower chance of avoiding jail time for a 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney will negotiate on your behalf, help you craft a strong legal defense, and work toward the best outcome for your case. 

Contact A Qualified San Diego DUI Defense Attorney Today

If you have a 2nd or 3rd DUI charge, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to assess your options. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have extensive courtroom experience defending their clients’ interests.

Our award-winning attorneys have in-depth familiarity with the California legal system and will provide you hands-on, personalized legal services. We care deeply about our clients and put their interests first.

Our dedicated staff will answer your questions and support you every step of the way. For a free consultation, call our offices at 619-900-6902 or fill out an online form today. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys. In 2017, he was also selected for the Super Lawyers Top 50 in San Diego list. In 2014, he was selected as a Top Attorney by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong was also named as a Top Attorney by the San Diego Business Journal in 2014.

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