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DUI Misdemeanor Law & Defense

VC 23152(a) & VC 23152(b)

Information on the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is found at California vehicle code sections 23140, 23152 and 23153.

With few exceptions, misdemeanor DUI charges are usually charged under VC 23152 and felony DUI charges are usually charged under VC 23153. This article is a summary of the law, punishments, and the defenses related to misdemeanor DUI Charges (VC 23152). For information on felony DUI charges, please see Felony DUI.

Misdemeanor DUI Laws

VC 23152(a): It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug to drive a vehicle. 'Under the influence of alcohol or drugs' means that the defendant's ability to drive safely is impaired. It does not matter what the defendant's actual blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is at the time of driving so long as whatever that level is it impaired the driver's ability to drive safely (Abbrev.). Misdemeanor VC 23152(a) punishment includes: Jail up to 180 for first offense and up to 1 year for multiple offenses within 10 years of each offense; license suspension or restriction; mandatory DUI classes (3-10 months for a first offense and 18 months for multiple DUI offense within ten years of each offense); two points on the driver's DMV record; fines and court fess, mandatory SR-22 insurance, possible vehicle impound, possible installation of interlock ignition device (IID) on vehicle; possible immigration and professional licensing consequences, and more.

VC 23152(b): It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood, to drive a vehicle. When the defendant's BAC level is 0.08% or more, the law presumes that the driver's ability to drive safety is impaired (Abbrev.). Punishment is similar to VC 23152(a).

VC 23152(e): driving under the influence of drugs is called DUI drugs. If any amount of legal or illegal drugs have caused the defendant to become intoxicated, and thereby impairs the driver's ability to drive safely, he is guilty of DUI drugs (Abbrev.). Punishment for VC 23152(e) are similar to VC 23152(a).

VC 23140: underage driving under the influence of alcohol. The BAC limit at the criminal court for underage drivers (under 21) is 0.05% and 0.005% at the DMV hearing (zero tolerance [Abbrev.]). VC 23140 can be charged as an infraction or as a misdemeanor. Infraction DUI carries very little penalties, but misdemeanor VC 23140 carries penalties similar to VC 23152(a).

VC 23154: DUI by person on probation for DUI. The BAC limit is 0.01% while on probation for a prior DUI (Abbrev.). If found guilty of VC 23154, the defendant will be charged with a violation of probation in addition to any new crimes that served as a violation of probation (For example, if the defendant is on probation for DUI and he is arrested for another DUI, then he will be charged with the violation of probation and the DUI charge simultaneously.

VC 23103.5(a): wet reckless. A wet reckless is similar to a DUI but carries less penalties. A wet reckless is a reduction of a DUI offense after a plea bargain between the defendant and the district attorney; wet reckless it is not a charged offense. Penalties, fines, and DUI classes are reduced compared to DUI convictions; however, a wet reckless is similar to a DUI in that both carry two points on the driver's DMV record and both crimes serve as a prior DUI if the defendant is arrested for a subsequent DUI. For more information on wet reckless pleas, see Wet Reckless.

VC 23152(d): DUI for commercial drivers. The BAC limit is 0.04% for class A commercial drivers when driving a commercial vehicle. Penalties are otherwise similar to VC 23152(a). For further information on commercial drivers and DUI, see DUI Commercial Driver.

VC 23578: Enhancement to DUI charges. There are enhanced penalties for drivers who have a very high BAC or refuse to submit to a DUI chemical test. See DUI Chemical Tests & Enhanced Penalties in Criminal Law.

Note: According to California DUI law, a vehicle includes golf carts, off-road vehicles, and motorized scooters. 

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision in lieu of jail. Probation sentences are allowed in misdemeanor DUI offense, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not a probation sentence is granted after a DUI conviction depends largely on the fat facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, especially criminal history that includes prior DUI crimes.

Work Release: Work release and house arrest (electronic monitoring) are common alternatives to a jail sentence in a misdemeanor DUI case. Work release is manual labor that usually includes picking up trash around jails and highway, but it can include any type of work, such as working at an animal shelter or a morgue. Some types of electronic monitoring includes measuring the defendant's BAC through a SCRAM bracelet (Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring). For further information see Work Release & House Arrest

Probation sentences, if granted in a DUI case, have minimum jail sentence requirements (usually served alternatively on work release or house arrest). The minimum jail for a first offense VC 23152(a) conviction is 48 hours, A second conviction of VC 23152(a) carries a minimum jail sentence of 96 hours, and a third conviction of VC 23152(a) carries a minimum jail sentence or 120 days.

Note: The same minimum jail sentence after a grant of probation is similar in all misdemeanor DUI crimes, including VC 23152(b), 23152(d), 23152(e), and 23140.

Misdemeanor DUI Defense

There are literally dozens of defenses that might apply to a DUI charge. Every DUI is different and therefore the defense to every DUI is different. With that said, common defenses to DUI charges include, but are not limited to: illegal stop, improper field sobriety test (FST) that render the evidence unreliable, improper handling of blood or breathalyzer evidence and and analysis results (either by police or lab techs), improper use of equipment to detect DUI (or lack of recent calibration needed to provide accurate readings), loss or destruction of DUI evidence, inconsistent statements for alleged witnesses (to prove driving, drinking, or sobriety), and more.


WARNING: You have only ten days from the date of citation or arrest in which to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to schedule a DMV hearing for DUI crimes concerning your continued privilege to drive

Our DUI lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of DUI charges and DMV hearings. We have a strong and proven success rate with all misdemeanor and felony DUI crimes, including VC 23152(a), 23152(b), 23152(d) [commercial class A DUI], 23152(e) (DUI Drugs), and 23140 (Underage DUI) crimes. Call today for your private DUI case evaluation. There is no fee for the consultation. Call today!


Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI)

Code: VC 23152(a) (CalCrim No. 2110 & 2111)

Wobbler: Yes. VC 23152(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that VC 23152(a) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony VC 23152(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 180 days (First DUI Offense), or 1 year (Multiple Offender within 10 years).

Probation: Probation may be available in VC 23152(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. Felony VC 23152(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

Strike: VC 23152(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: VC 23152(a) is not a crime involving moral turpitude.


Firearms: Felony VC 23152(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm. 

DL Issues: If convicted of VC 23153(a)) the defendant may have his or her driver's license suspended and be required to install an interlock ignition device (IID) ​ on any and all vehicles the driver intends to drive. 

Bail: $5,000 (Misdemeanor) $25,000 (Felony) (San Bernardino)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. This info is created for that purpose only; accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney/client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested or charged with a crime contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. 

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