Do you have to go to jail after a DUI in California?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

State governments take numerous steps to curb any rise in DUIs. Though California shows promising numbers in a decrease of alcohol-involved crash fatalities, drug-involved and DUI-involved fatalities saw some recent spikes.

The unpleasant prospect of jail time is one motivator that discourages driving under the influence. Is jail time a requirement in every DUI case?

Varying penalties for a DUI

As with most crimes, DUI sentences differ according to the circumstances. A DUI involves any substance that can impair a driver, including over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. The blood-alcohol content is not necessarily the determining factor in a conviction.

A first offense requires 96 hours in the county jail, of which 48 hours must be continuous. A judge may schedule the time around a defendant’s work schedule.

A person also faces the following charges:

  • Fines up to $3,600
  • License suspension of four months or longer
  • Three months of DUI school
  • Up to five years of DUI probation

Defendants must remember that the 96 hours of jail time is a minimum, and a judge could impose a sentence of up to six months for first-time offenders. The maximum sentence increases for additional offenses or if circumstances raise the charge to a felony.

Ways to minimize jail time

Judges have considerable authority and could waive jail time on the condition of probation and education. Other times, the judge could offer the option of house arrest or time in an alcohol treatment facility.

Judges are not apt to offer such options voluntarily. The defendant usually needs to persuade the court toward this alternative.

Law enforcement leaves little room for a defendant to escape jail time for a DUI. However, options may permit a person to keep a sentence to the minimum or find an alternative to a stay behind bars.