A fourth offense DUI must be taken more seriously than other DUI charges because of the consequences of a potential felony record. After reviewing this information, if you have any other questions or want immediate help, contact our firm right away at (831) 204-0773.

California 4th Offense DUI Laws Under California Vehicle Code Section 23540:

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23550, there are increased penalties if someone is convicted of a DUI within 10 years of 3 or more separate violations of any of the following offenses: 

  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (Vehicle Code 23152)
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (Vehicle Code 23152(f))
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol (Vehicle Code 23152(g))
  • Commercial Vehicle DUI (Vehicle Code 23152(d))
  • Injury DUI (Vehicle Code 23153)
  • Wet Reckless (Vehicle Code 23103.5).


Most DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, with a maximum jail time of up to one year in county jail. However, a 4th offense DUI (virtually always charged as a felony) conviction could result in prison time, including:

  • 16 months, or 2 or 3 years in prison; and
  • Fine of up to $1,000 plus fees and assessments

The amount of custody time is one of the most significant differences between a 3rd DUI and 4th DUI. Spending months or years in prison will take most people away from their families and jobs, and make it difficult to get back to normal after being released from prison. Talk to a Santa Cruz defense lawyer about options for avoiding jail time after a 4th DUI. 

When Does a DUI Count as a 4th DUI? 

Not all DUIs are counted as prior offenses. In California, there is a “look-back period” or “washout period,” for prior DUIs. Under California Vehicle Code 23622, a priorable offense includes any DUI arrest (resulting in conviction) that occurred within 10 years of the 4th offense. Prior DUIs also include drunk driving offenses in other states and wet reckless plea deals. 

Consequences of a Felony Record:

The biggest difference for a 4th DUI may be the designation as a felon after a conviction. As a felon, the defendant is placed in the same category as drug traffickers, money launderers, kidnappers, burglars, or other serious criminals. A felony record will also follow you for the rest of your life, making it more difficult or impossible to: 

  • Get a job
  • Get an apartment
  • Own or possess a gun
  • Pursue certain professions
  • Hold public office
  • Serve on a jury

Driving Restrictions After a 4th DUI Conviction:

If convicted of a 4th DUI, the defendant will also be designated as a “habitual traffic offender for a period of 3 years after to the conviction.  The defendant's driver's license will be revoked by the DMV and has to be surrendered to the court. There may be limited options for getting a restricted license until the license revocation period is over. 

However, individuals convicted of a 4th DUI may be able to get a restricted license under California's expanded ignition interlock device IID program. An IID is installed in the driver's vehicle, requiring alcohol-free breaths to start and drive the vehicle. A breath that shows a measurable level of alcohol will not start the car and will be logged and reported to the court. 

Drivers with an IID restricted license may be able to drive if they keep the IID installed and do not violate the terms of probation. After the end of the license suspension or revocation, the driver may apply to get their regular license reinstated. But, the court still has discretion to disallow a restricted IID license if the court determines that the person would present a traffic safety or public safety risk. 

DUI School After a 4th DUI:

DUI school after a 4th DUI is pretty much the same as DUI school after a 3rd DUI. A 4th DUI conviction requires completion of a 30-month alcohol and drug education and counseling program. Program requirements include 78 hours of group counseling; 12 hours of alcohol and drug education and regular individual interviews.  

Probation After a 4th DUI Conviction:

If the court grants probation, the court may order as a condition of probation a number of restrictions. DUI probation is three years in Santa Cruz County.  Any probation violations may result in additional penalties, jail time, or extended probation. Some of the terms of probation include: 

  • No driving with any measurable alcohol (0.01% or higher) 
  • Requirement to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test during a traffic stop
  • Not commit any criminal offense
  • Participate in AA meetings

DUI Defenses for 4th DUI Santa Cruz Drivers:

A fourth offense drunk driving conviction can impair your ability to get a job, get an apartment, and to possess a firearm. Call an experienced Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyer before accepting a plea deal. You may have a stronger case than you realize. 

Santa Cruz DUI defense attorney Phillip Crawford has over ten years of experience winning DUI cases.  He knows the DUI laws and the science. Representing individuals in Santa Cruz County, he is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact Phillip Crawford for a free consultation today at (831) 204-0773