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Will I Have to go to Jail for a DUI in California?

For anyone who has never been arrested before, the possibility of jail time can be the most frightening aspect of DUI penalties in California. Fighting to get DUI charges dropped, reduced, or getting a “not guilty” verdict are ways to avoid jail time after a DUI arrest. Depending on which court you will be appearing in, there are generally alternatives to actual jail time.  

If you have any questions about jail sentencing, alternatives to jail, or how to fight criminal DUI charges after an arrest, contact the experienced East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

Do all California DUI convictions require jail time?

All DUI offenses in California carry the possibility of jail time. This includes both a minimum and maximum sentence. The maximum and minimum jail sentence is based on the criminal charge, with higher penalties for multiple DUIs and DUIs involving injury. The possible jail time for DUIs in California include the following:

DUI Offense

Minimum Jail Time

Maximum Jail Sentence

1st DUI

48 hours

6 months

2nd DUI (within 10 years)

10 days

Up to 1 year

3rd DUI (within 10 years)

120 days

Up to 1 year

4th (or more) DUI (within 10 years)

180 days

Up to 3 years

Can I avoid jail time if I plead guilty to a California DUI?

There are often ways to avoid jail time if convicted of a DUI in California. One of the most common ways to avoid jail time is to participate in jail alternative programs.

Probation is generally available for 1st time offenders with no aggravating factors. The judge may offer probation (generally for 36 months), and require the individual to follow the conditions of probation, which can include:

  • DUI school
  • No drug or alcohol use
  • No other arrests
  • Substance abuse treatment/education
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) installation on all vehicles

However, violating the terms of probation can result in sentencing for up to the maximum amount of jail time.

Even without probation, in some cases, the judge will credit an individual with time served after an arrest. For example, if a driver spent 2 days in jail after a DUI arrest, the judge may credit that time served against the 48 hour minimum jail sentence to avoid having to go back to jail.

Will a second or third DUI require mandatory jail time in California?

Jail time on a second DUI can generally be done through jail alternative/community service. Third, or subsequent DUI may require a minimum amount of jail time in California. Electronic monitoring can often be ordered as an alternative to jail with multiple offenders.  Entering into a residential treatment program can sometimes be credited against actual jail time. Judges are less willing to be lenient after multiple DUIs.

What aggravating factors will increase the chances of getting jail time after a DUI?

There are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of getting jail time as part of a DUI conviction. These are generally known as “aggravating factors,” and can include:

Some of these factors can result in additional criminal charges. When facing multiple criminal charges, the prosecutor may use these multiple charges as a way to get the defendant to agree to a plea bargain, to admit guilt in exchange for dropping lesser charges.

What else determines if I will have to go to jail after DUI sentencing?

There are a number of factors that can determine if the defendant will face jail time as part of DUI sentencing. In addition to the maximum and minimum sentences available under California state law, a lot of sentencing may depend on the county, courthouse, and individual judge.

Certain judges have a reputation for being harder on DUI drivers. This is where having an experienced, local DUI defense lawyer can make a big difference. Experienced DUI defense attorneys understand the local courthouse rules, reputations for certain judges, and have handled many cases involving the same police officers and prosecutors.

Experienced East Bay DUI Attorney

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of DUI experience in Contra Costa County and Alameda County and understands how important it is for clients to avoid jail time after a DUI arrest in California. Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, local police officers, and state prosecutors involved in East Bay DUI cases. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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