A DUI conviction in California means facing a variety of severe penalties. Even on a first conviction, you can be fined for thousands of dollars, have your license suspended for 6 months, and be forced to attend costly DUI classes. It is also a good possibility that a first time DUI offender could go to jail.
If you’re facing your first DUI charge, you should know that your odds of avoiding jail can improve greatly with the right DUI lawyer. A skilled DUI lawyer may be able to help you avoid spending any time behind bars. Call (310) 896-2724 to speak with a representative about scheduling your free consultation with a leading Los Angeles DUI lawyer.
Jail Time for a First DUI Offense
In many cases, a first DUI offense is treated as a misdemeanor offense. While DUIs are “priorable” offenses with increasing penalties for repeat violations, individuals who have a clean record for 10 years will typically be charged as if they were first-time offenders.
As a misdemeanor offense, a person facing a DUI conviction for the first time will be looking at a jail sentence between two days and six months. How long you serve in jail will depend on the facts of your case, the mood of the judge, and how well you are represented in court.
Sentence Enhancements for First Time DUI Offenses
A sentence enhancement is given if there is an aggravating factor in a case that will result in harsher penalties for the convicted individual. While the usual sentence enhancement for DUI offenses stems from prior DUI convictions, first-time offenders can face sentence enhancements for things like:
- Reckless driving
- Driving while intoxicated with a minor (aged 14 or younger) passenger
- Excessive speeding
- Refusing a chemical test after an arrest
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.15% or higher
Any of these sentence enhancements may add months on to your jail sentence, even if you have no prior DUI convictions. Additionally, localities in California may consider other aggravating factors as worthy of enhancing your sentence.
A DUI Is Handled Differently if Someone Was Injured
If someone is injured as a result of your alleged DUI, you are facing more serious charges than your standard first-time DUI offense. Causing injuries while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be considered a sentence enhancement, but the criminal penalties you face are typically much more severe. The more severely someone was injured or the more people who were injured, the harsher the penalties you face.
A first time DUI that causes injuries can be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony. While the misdemeanor charge carries more significant penalties than a “simple” DUI, the felony version can result in substantial prison time. You can face:
- Up to three years in state prison on the charge alone
- One additional year per injured victim
- Between three and six additional years per victim if the court deems their suffering as resulting from “great bodily injuries”
When you are convicted of a DUI felony, you are most likely being sent to state prison rather than your local jail. This means that you will be facing harsher conditions, a less safe environment, and a greater distance between you and your loved ones.
Injuries Resulting in a Death
If the injuries suffered by any of the other parties involved in the incident lead to someone’s death, you will face harsher penalties. You can be looking at manslaughter or murder charges, even if this is your first DUI offense.
A DUI manslaughter offense, if charged as a felony, comes with a prison sentence ranging between four and 10 years. It is also possible for individuals with 2 or more DUI convictions to receive a life sentence for a DUI manslaughter charge.
While first-time offenders are unlikely to be charged with DUI murder, it is possible. A conviction for a DUI murder requires that the driver knew that the DUI could result in someone’s death or showed extreme recklessness in his or her decision to drive. A conviction for a DUI murder can result in a 15 year to a life sentence.
First Time Offenders Do Well with the Right Counsel
While you may be sentenced to jail for a first time DUI offense, it is possible to avoid it. If you can successfully argue your case in court or strike a bargain with the prosecution, first-time offenders may be able to opt for probation in lieu of jail time. Of course, beating the charge entirely would also result in missing time behind bars.
If you want to build the strongest defense against your first time DUI offense, call