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What is California's three-strike DUI policy?

California does indeed have what you might call a three-strike policy when it comes to DUIs: Minimum penalties increase with subsequent judgments. You could eventually go to jail for a significant period of time under certain circumstances of repeat offense.

It is important to note that this law does not apply to your arrests. It would only start to affect you after your first conviction. Therefore, because the consequences of drunk driving increase with the number of offenses, it would probably be a high priority to avoid your first or any subsequent DUI convictions. The ramifications of an adverse court decision could follow you for many years. It usually takes 10 years for the strike count to reset.

The increasing minimum sentences are part of a legislative attempt to increase penalties for repeat offenders. The California Vehicle Code even has specific language stating the idea behind the three-strike policy. This explanation is in the section that states you would get strikes regardless of the order in which you received your convictions.

Depending on your situation, there could be some hope to avoid a ruling against you. While it is generally easiest to avoid a DUI conviction on your first arrest, conditions surrounding subsequent events could also persuade the prosecution to either drop the case or reduce the charges. 

California legislators, law enforcement departments and court systems would probably not afford you many considerations during DUI proceedings. The tough penalty scheme could start off with you losing your license and end up with you incarcerated. A strong defense from the moment of your arrest is often the best strategy. However, each situation is different, so this is in no way to be construed as legal advice. It is only background information.

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John M. Kucera Attorney at Law

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