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1st Time DUI School Alcohol Program

in California

AB541

If you have a DUI, you are most likely required to enroll in and complete an alcohol awareness program, either as a requirement for the court and/or the DMV. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) and whether the DUI is a first or second-time DUI which class or program to attend. This class can be the AB541, the AB762, the AB1353 or the SB38 class.

The AB-541 Program is an alcohol awareness class, for a duration of 3-months, which must be undertaken by first-offender driving under the influence. The program is aimed towards the education of those persons subjected to court discipline for alcohol-related violations of the California Vehicle Code, to reduce recidivism and to demonstrate the benefit of a life of sobriety.

An AB541 program (“AP”) is required of a person who has received their first DUI within a 10-year period, and that their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was below 0.20%.

Title 9 of the California Health and Safety Code provides for a minimum curriculum for this program. In general, an AP must include an enrollment session, two case management sessions, ten alcohol/drug awareness education classes (a total of 15 hours), ten group sessions (a total of 15 hours), and Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings. These classes are usually aimed at addressing drug abuse and drinking problems.

For first-time offenders, an AB541 class will have a duration of three-month outpatient program. On the other hand, people convicted of a second offense DUI will be ordered to complete the 18-month SB38 DUI school. It should be noted, however, that by reason of the pandemic, classes are now being conducted online.

Attendance for these types of classes and completion thereof is usually one of the conditions in a driver’s DUI probation. It is important to complete such classes because failure to do so will result to a violation of a probation condition.

As proof of completion, participants are issued certificate of completion and documentation, which in turn will be submitted to court of DMV.

When California AB541 program required?

After one enters into a plea bargain, is convicted at trial, or loses a DMV hearing for a DUI, one of the conditions imposed upon conviction will be a requirement to attend and complete one of four DUI programs that vary by their length and curriculum. If it is the driver’s first DUI within a 10-year period, and the driver’s BAC was below 0.20%, AB541 classes will be required.[1]

Charges wherein AB541 is required could either be a conviction for VC 23152(a), driving under the influence, or VC 23152(b), driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater. Persons convicted of DUI of alcohol and those convicted of DUI of drugs (DUID) are also included herein.

Purpose of AB541 class

The program is aimed towards the education of those persons subjected to court discipline for alcohol-related violations of the California Vehicle Code, to reduce recidivism and to demonstrate the benefit of a life of sobriety.

Enrollment for AB541 Program

Participant must enroll within 21 days from his last day in court. Enrollment refers to the initial intake session of an AB541 program wherein the offender meets with the organization that is providing the class.

What usually happens during enrollment is that the participant turns over his paperwork that he received from the court, or the DMV, which states he must attend the program, and receive a schedule on what class requirements he must complete.

AB541 will usually cost the offender around $850. The amount of payment as well as how payments may be made are also discussed during enrollment. Offenders in AP can either pay the full amount during enrollment or they can make arrangements to make weekly payments.

AB541 Curriculum

The minimum curriculum for AB541 program is found in Title 9 of the California Health and Safety Code . It states that AB 541 must include (at minimum) an enrollment session, two case management sessions, ten alcohol/drug awareness education classes (a total of 15 hours), ten group sessions (a total of 15 hours), and typically, AA meetings.

Counseling and education are included in AB541 Program. Counseling is usually done in groups, however, one-on-one interviews are also conducted from time to time.

Live lectures, videos and/or group discussions are the typical forms with which the program is carried out. The education program on California DUI laws are usually aimed at addressing drug abuse, and “problem” drinking by providing meaningful lectures.

Duration of AB541

An AB541 Program is an outpatient program that usually lasts for 90-day/three-month period.[2] By statute, the program must consist of at least 30 hours of program activities, including education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions within this 90 days period.

Failure to complete AB541 and its consequences

It should be recalled that attendance to Ab541 Program is a condition of the driver’s DUI probation. Therefore, If a driver is ordered into this class and fails to complete the program necessarily means that he has committed aviolation of this probation. In such cases, the violator will be required to attend a probation violation hearing.

Absences are not entirely prohibited. In fact, AB541 participants are allowed to have five absences. However, they must make these up before being issued a certificate of completion.[3] If a person exceeds five absences, he will be considered as having dropped out of AP, thus resulting in violation of conditions of probation.

Failure to attend is not the only reason which may render a participant to have dropped out of AB541 program. Other causes for dropout include being disruptive to the class, sleeping during class, or if the instructor believes the participant poses a threat to the instructor or any other student(s).[4]

Sobriety Required during Program

One of the main purposes of AB541 is to encourage participants to live a sober life. As such, for the entire duration of the 90-day outpatient period, participants are expected to maintain sobriety while participating in a court-ordered DUI education program.

If a participant is suspected of being under the influence in class, the program may require the participant to undergo a breathalyzer or other chemical screening, or expel the participant from the class and drop him/her from the program.[5]

Program completion

A certificate of completion and other documentation is issued in favor of the participant who has successfully attended AB541 program. This certificate of completion will then be submitted before the court or DMV as proof that he has complied with the condition of his probation and that he has not committed a violation thereof.


If you need assistance with a DUI charge, do not hesitate to contact us at ​​​​​​(626) 827-7222 to schedule your free consultation.


[1] California Vehicle Code 23538(b)(1) VC. This code section states: “The court shall refer a first offender whose blood-alcohol concentration was less than 0.20 percent, by weight, to participate for at least three months or longer, as ordered by the court, in a licensed program that consists of at least 30 hours of program activities, including education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions described in Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 11836) of Part 2 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.”

[2] California Vehicle Code 23538(b)(1) VC

[3] 9 CCR 9876(c) — DUI School Attendance

[4] 9 CCR 9874 — DUI Program Participant Sobriety and Behavior.

[5] CCR 9874 — DUI Program Participant Sobriety and Behavior.

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