Is It Ever Possible to Have a DUI Dismissed?

Being charged with a DUI (driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is a serious matter in California which, if convicted, can have severe consequences, including jail time, fines, and having your driver’s license suspended. However, there are many situations in which it’s possible to have the charges dismissed altogether. Once someone has been charged, the opportunities for dismissal can appear at any point in the process, from right after the arrest through to the trial.

However, it’s not necessarily simple to have those charges dismissed. If someone has been charged with DUI, it’s best if they work with an experienced DUI attorney who understands California’s laws and what circumstances might allow for dismissal.

What Are Some Reasons DUI Charges May Be Dismissed?

Often, a DUI is dismissed for procedural or constitutional reasons. For example, the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause to pull the driver over or neglected to read the driver their Miranda rights when arresting them. In other cases, the charges may be dropped because there’s insufficient evidence to prove the DUI.

When breathalyzers or blood tests are used to diagnose a DUI, it’s sometimes possible to challenge those results and have the charges dismissed. In other cases, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUIs may be able to negotiate a plea deal or dismissal.

While some DUIs can be dismissed, the more likely outcome is having the charges reduced. This is especially true if the person charged is not a first-time offender or presents an especially severe case, such as having had a blood alcohol content (BAC) more than double the legal limit of .08.

What Are the Potential Consequences if Convicted of a DUI?

The consequences vary according to the specifics of each case, with factors including whether or not this was a first-time offense, how intoxicated the driver was, whether other vehicles or people were injured in an accident caused by the DUI driver, and the age of the driver (for drivers under 21, California has a zero-tolerance policy). Some charges will be the lesser charges of misdemeanors, while others will be the more serious felony-level charges. Consider the following guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules for what could happen if someone is convicted of a DUI.


First DUI

A first-time DUI usually won’t lead to jail time unless there are complications, such as an unusually high BAC or someone else was injured or killed in the accident. But jail time is a possibility. More likely are fines of up to $1,000 with additional court costs and fees, up to 10 months of a suspended license, DUI education, and a period of probation. In more aggravated cases, an ignition interlock device (IID) may be required, which is a device that forces a driver to do a BAC test before being allowed to start their car.

Second DUI

A second conviction could result in up to a year in jail, fines of up to $1,000 plus court costs and fees, a maximum of two years of suspended license, and DUI education. An IID may also be required.

Third DUI

A third conviction could result in up to a year in jail, fines of up to $1,000 plus court costs and fees, and a maximum of three years of suspended license. DUI education and an IID may also be required.


Fourth DUI

Fourth DUIs are usually charged as felonies with harsher consequences. These can include up to three years in state prison or county jail, fines of up to $1,000 plus court costs and fees, and a revoked license with required DUI training to be completed before the court will consider returning the driving privileges. An IID will likely be required.

DUI Involving Death or Injury

Suppose a DUI driver gets involved in an accident that injures or kills another person. In that case, the consequences are most severe: Up to 25 years in prison, permanent license revocation, up to $5,000 in fines plus court costs and fees, and restitution to the injured party or the survivors of the person killed.

Again, these are only guidelines. It’s important to understand that there are times when an alternate sentence can be negotiated with the court. That could mean that someone convicted of a DUI wouldn’t go to jail or prison but end up with house arrest, community service, serving on a weekend work crew, being placed in a live-in sober-living program, or submitting to electronic monitoring. Every case is unique and has different outcomes.

What Could Cause the Consequences for DUI Charges to be Increased and Less Likely Eligible for Dismissal?

There are several.

  • The driver is under the legal drinking age of 21.
  • The BAC was over .15.
  • There was a child under 14 in the vehicle with the driver.
  • The driver refused to submit to chemical testing.
  • The driver was at least partly at fault for an accident involving other vehicles.

What Should I Do if I Need Help with a DUI Charge?

Call the SoCal Law Network at 949-305-7995 to set up a free consultation. We can look at the specifics of your case and see what the possibility of dismissal might be. In cases where dismissal may not be an option, we may be able to help you get the charges reduced so the outcomes aren’t as severe as they would be otherwise.