California DUI Laws become more complex and difficult to mitigate the more offenses a person has committed. For instance, a first offense DUI may not require any more time in jail than the time spent upon arrest. The harshest penalties assessed as a result of a first offense DUI usually deal with monetary fines and a suspension of a person's drivers license. On the other hand, a second offense DUI requires the Court to give at least a four day jail sentence or work release. The fine is increased as is the time for suspension of drivers license.
A third offense DUI requires at least four months of jail time, house arrest or rehabilitation. DUI school will also likely be required in addition to the penalties faced under a second offense DUI. Each of the first three offenses is generally deemed a misdemeanor unless there are Enhanced DUI Penalties which merit a felony charge.
A fourth offense DUI in California usually brings felony charges with it. Penalties include a three year prison sentence and license being permanently revoked.
As a practical matter, you should always consult a DUI attorney if you are charged with DUI in any state. Most prosecuting attorneys would rather work with a DUI attorney they know than someone they don't. Most prosecuting attorneys are also overburdened with heavy caseloads and the opportunity to get a case off his or her desk without spending a ton of time on it is welcomed. DUI attorneys generally know this and can use it to a client's benefit.