How Much Is a DUI Charge in California?

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Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are serious in California, and the penalties can be severe. But how much can a DUI in California end up costing you?

The cost can vary depending on your circumstances, but somewhere around $13,500 is a reasonable estimate. Costs include fines, court fees, attorney’s fees, and DMV fees, among others.

If you live in or visit the state, it’s important to know the financial and legal costs of DUI in California and why it is essential to hire an experienced DUI lawyer who can help protect your rights.


The fines associated with a DUI conviction in California vary depending on the severity of the offense and your prior criminal record. Here’s a breakdown of the penalties for each type of DUI conviction:

California heavily fines DUI offenders. This is because driving under the influence can cause serious injuries or death.

Court Costs

In addition to the fine, you will also have to pay court costs, which can range from $1,000 to $2,000. Court costs include fees for booking and fingerprinting you.

Costs Associated with Bail

Bail for a DUI charge is decided on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, first-time offenders may get their bail reduced. But if your DUI caused a death or serious injury, your bail could be over $100,000.

People who have been convicted of DUI before or who have other aggravating circumstances may have even higher bail amounts.

DUI School Fees

DUI education classes are required by California law for people convicted of DUI. These classes are designed to help people understand their habits, make positive changes in their lives, and reduce or stop drinking alcohol or using drugs.

How long you are required to take classes depends on the circumstances of your case. You are responsible for the cost of DUI school, which ranges from $750 to $2,000.

Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Fees

If you are convicted of DUI, your driver’s license could be suspended. The DMV will charge you a fee for this.

To get your license back, you’ll need to pay a fee of $125 for a first-time DUI conviction. You may also need to find other means of transportation, which, depending on what you use, can cost up to $1,000.

Ignition Interlock Device Installation and Maintenance Fees

Depending on where you live in California and what county you commit the DUI in, you may have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car if you are charged with a DUI. You will also need to install an IID if you have more than two DUI convictions.

An IID is a device that prevents you from starting your car if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a certain level. In California, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

An IID comes with installation and maintenance costs, which can range from $70 to $100 a month.

Increased Vehicle Insurance Rates

Auto insurance companies charge more for drivers convicted of DUI because they are at a higher risk of getting into an accident.

If you are convicted of DUI in California, your auto insurance rates will likely increase significantly and can stay high for up to three years after a DUI conviction. On average, your rates can increase up to 147%.

You may also be required to buy SR-22 insurance, which is a special type of insurance that shows that you meet the state’s minimum financial responsibility requirements.

Attorney Fees

If you choose to hire your own lawyer instead of using a public defender, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 up to $7,500 for a first-time DUI.

For subsequent DUIs or those that involve injuries, the cost can exceed $20,000. The actual cost of a lawyer will depend on how experienced they are, the details of your case, and whether you have been convicted of a DUI before. 

A Note About DMV Administrative Hearings.

In addition to going to court, you may also have to go to a DMV hearing called an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing.

This hearing is to decide if your driver’s license should be suspended or taken away after you were arrested for DUI. APS hearings happen within 10 days of your arrest, and you have the right to ask for a hearing before the DMV does anything to your license.

Public defenders cannot represent you at DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) hearings, so it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable DUI attorney before your hearing.

Why You Need a DUI Attorney

A DUI case can be expensive and complicated, and the consequences of a conviction can be serious. You could face probation, jail time, and damage to your reputation. This could lead to lost wages, problems getting a job or housing, and difficulty getting professional licenses.

An experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, point out any weaknesses in the case against you, challenge evidence, and negotiate with the prosecutor to try to get the charges reduced or dismissed. An attorney can also help you minimize the penalties you face.

Remember, the best way to avoid the financial and legal costs associated with a DUI is to never drive under the influence. 

Have You Been Arrested for DUI in California? We Can Help

Whether it’s your first, second, or tenth offense, we know that a DUI charge can be scary and confusing. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced DUI lawyer on your side.

At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our criminal defense lawyers have successfully defended thousands of clients against various criminal charges, including DUIs. As a nationally recognized defense law firm, we know the law, and we know how to fight for our clients’ rights.

Contact us online or call 619- 304-2058 today. We’ll work with you to build a solid defense to reduce your financial penalties and help you get the best possible outcome in your case.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.