An alternative sentence gives you a way to complete your criminal sentence without serving jail time. If you fail to complete the alternative, you will have to go to jail.
All California DUIs now include minimum jail sentences—even if it was your first time and no one was hurt. But in practice, many people convicted of DUI serve no jail time at all, and complete their sentence without seeing the inside of a cell. This is because judges recognize that most DUI offenders are not violent criminals and will not benefit from being locked up. State law has given judges the power to offer alternative sentences where they deem it appropriate.
An alternative sentence lets you carry out some other requirement, such as attending a DUI deterrent program, in lieu of jail time. If you are given an alternative sentence, the judge will explain that your jail sentence is stayed on condition that you complete the alternative. If you complete it within the given time frame, you will never have to serve jail time for your DUI. If you fail to complete it, however, you will be brought back before the judge and likely sent to jail.
What alternatives does Los Angeles offer for DUI?
Judges have a wide discretion in how they assign alternative sentences, and to whom. For the most part, however, there are only a handful of alternatives that judges use for DUI cases. In California, the most common ones are:
- Alcohol or drug treatment. If the judge believes your DUI is related to an addiction, they may feel that alcohol treatment or drug addiction treatment are better for you than jail would be. They can order you to attend twelve step programs or even check into rehab. In extreme cases you may have to go to a sober living environment.
- DUI deterrent programs. For first time offenders who do not seem to have an addiction problem, deterrent programs are a common alternative to jail.
- Community service. You may be given a set number of hours of community service which could be served cleaning up parks, helping a DUI victims’ group, or volunteering for charity.
- Roadside work. Many DUI convictions result in time doing roadside work for CalTrans. This is considered one of the harder alternative sentences, with long hours of hard work.
- Work furlough. If you have a steady job and you are not seen as a safety risk, you may be allowed to go to your job during the day and spend evenings in a dormitory setting rather than jail. This is known as a work furlough.
- Work release. A work release can mean doing work similar to community service above, but in some cases you can also get days spent on educational programs to count as work release days, making it a much better prospect for some defendants.
- House arrest. In rare cases you may be allowed to serve house arrest or wear a SCRAM bracelet instead of going to jail.
Who gets alternative sentences in a Los Angeles DUI case?
It’s up to the judge. While there is no strict criterion a judge follows, there are situations where you’re more likely to be offered an alternative sentence. These include:
- It was your first DUI
- Your BAC was close to the legal limit
- You seem truly sorry for what you did
- You have already taken proactive steps to change, such as enrolling in AA
- You have a DUI lawyer representing you
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.