HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT I WILL GO TO JAIL IF I AM ARRESTED FOR DUI?
Even a first-time DUI carries a potential sentence in California of up to six months in county jail but such a sentence is rarely, if ever, handed down. A driver who is arrested for a first-time DUI may end up in the “drunk tank” after booking but that is usually the only time he or she will spend behind bars for the offense. Most often, a driver convicted on a first-time DUI (within a ten year period) will be sentenced to a period of probation and ordered to attend DUI classes. Some counties in California will also sentence a first-time DUI offender to complete community service. But a jail sentence? In 99.9% of the cases, the offender will not receive a jail sentence.
However, spending time between three walls and the fourth wall of bars becomes increasingly likely with subsequent DUI convictions (if the convictions occurred within a ten-year period of time). In fact, a third DUI carries mandatory minimum jail time of 120 days although some counties will allow the offender to serve the sentence under a work-release program or house arrest, or sometimes even by serving the sentence by “volunteering” in a community service program.
If the DUI is “enhanced” by other factors, such as an excessive blood alcohol level (over .15%), DUI while a child under the age of 14 is in the vehicle, causing an accident or injury to another person, or driving at a high rate of speed/ driving recklessly, the penalties are enhanced. The penalties vary but any one of these aggravating factors can result in a jail sentence, even for the first time DUI offender. Furthermore, the aggravating factors can lead to charges in addition to the DUI, which expose the offender to additional penalties beyond the enhanced DUI penalty.
For example, if a DUI driver has a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle, not only will the driver be charged with an enhanced DUI that carries a mandatory sentence of 48 continuous hours in county jail for the first-time offender (more for second-and third-time offenders) but the driver may also be charged with the separate criminal offense of child endangerment. If convicted, this offense can be charged as a felony and can result in a sentence of up to six years imprisonment!
The majority of DUI offenders never see the inside of a jail cell, at least, not for their DUI offense. It is rare that a first- or second-time offender will be ordered by the court to spend any time in jail. Still, a DUI is not a minor matter and the consequences of a DUI conviction are more than a mere inconvenience, even if the threat of a jail sentence is remote. DUIs are cumulative for sentencing purposes and if for only that reason, it is important to defend the charge. If you were arrested for a DUI, even a first-time DUI, consulting an experienced DUI attorney right away is crucial to your defense.