Work Release as a DUI Sentence

Work release means you do physical work for the community instead of going to jail. It is sometimes used as a sentence for DUI convictions.

All California DUI convictions carry the possibility of jail time. In first-time DUIs, the judge sometimes waives the jail time (on condition of completing your probation) if no one was hurt. But many DUI drivers do end up serving time behind bars—unless they can negotiate an alternative. A work release program is one of the most common.

A work release means you do hard work on behalf of the community. Each day of work replaces one day of jail time, so if you complete the work release, you do not have to go to jail at all. It is similar to community service, but different because community service is a penalty in its own right, not a replacement for jail.

The kind of work you will do is usually physical. Typical examples include:

  • Cleaning up parks
  • Maintaining landscaping in public areas
  • Roadside work with CalTrans

Lately there has been a shift in the philosophy behind work release. Once it was seen as a way to punish a criminal with manual labor. Now, educational programs are also seen as a valid alternative to jail. In some cases, you may be able to count GED courses, vocational training or life skills classes as work for a work release program. Drug and alcohol treatment may also count. You should ask your lawyer for details.

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