Understanding a Third DUI Offense in California 

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Despite stricter laws, increased law enforcement, and greater public awareness, drunk driving remains a problem on US roadways.

As such, California courts have tough criminal and administrative penalties for those convicted of a third DUI offense.

In addition to jail time, license suspensions, and financial penalties, DUI convictions can have a myriad of collateral consequences. Those arrested, charged, or convicted of a third DUI in California should consult with an experienced attorney. 

Below, the DUI lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC go over the details of being charges with a third DUI in California. If you have any questions, please contact us today.

California’s DUI Laws 

In California, you can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) if you were driving under the following conditions:

  • With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, or
  • While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination. 

Under the law, a person can be convicted based on their BAC or actual impairment. 

3rd DUI Conviction

The courts consider it a third DUI offense if you have two prior DUI convictions in the past 10 years. Prior DUIs include the following: 

  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol,
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs,
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol,
  • Commercial Vehicle DUI,
  • Lyft DUI or Uber DUI,
  • DUI involving injuries, and
  • “Wet reckless” charges.

A “wet reckless” is a reckless driving charge accompanied by some alcohol consumption, but not necessarily enough to warrant a DUI conviction.

It is also important to note that prior DUIs also include impaired or drunk driving offenses in other states. 

For a Third Conviction of DUI, What Is the Penalty?

California categorizes a third DUI offense as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a third DUI include the following:

  • Probation for 3 to 5 years,
  • County jail for 120 days to one year,
  • Fines of $2,500 to 3,000,
  • Ignition interlock device for 2 years, 
  • Thirty-month DUI education program, and
  • Driver’s license revocation for 3 years. 

Probation for a third DUI offense in California includes the following conditions:

  • Driving with no detectable amount of alcohol in one’s blood,
  • Agreeing to submit to a chemical test for any further DUI arrests, and
  • Committing no additional criminal offenses while on probation. 

Sometimes, the court may order the accused to pay restitution, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or participate in a Victim Impact Panel. Further, the penalties may be harsher if certain aggravating circumstances exist.

For example, in some counties, there may be additional penalties if the driver had a BAC of .15% or higher or if they had children under 14 in the car with them. 

Can You Avoid Jail Time After a Third DUI?

While the penalties for a third DUI in California often include jail time, an experienced attorney might compel a court to look at sentencing alternatives.

Some alternatives to a jail sentence after a third DUI include the following:

  • House arrest,
  • Work-furlough program, or
  • Live-in drug treatment program.

However, the only way to get a driver’s license back early after a third DUI is to beat the criminal case and the administrative hearing through the DMV. 

Defenses to a Third DUI in California 

Sentencing alternatives exist after a third DUI conviction, and the best way to avoid jail time is by hiring an experienced attorney.

A California DUI attorney can help get charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed by asserting a viable defense. These defenses often involve arguing the following:

  • You were not intoxicated;
  • Your driving was not impaired; or
  • The arresting officer failed to abide by proper procedures.

The appropriate defense and likelihood of success depend on the unique facts and circumstances of the case. 

Are You Facing a Third DUI Arrest?

If you were recently arrested and charged with a third DUI offense, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced California DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our dedicated team of criminal defense lawyers are committed to ensuring the best possible result in each of our client’s cases, no matter how bad the facts appear at first glance.

To schedule a free consultation with a California criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, give us a call at 619-304-2058.

You can also connect with us through our online contact form.

Author Photo

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.

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