DUI penalties in California can be harsh, as the state wants to discourage unsafe driving practices. All DUI offenses include the possibility of jail time. Even if you have a clean record, a first DUI can still result in jail time.
While jail time is always a possibility, having the right representation can make a significant difference in the length of the sentence. However, that means speaking with a DUI lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. Call (310) 896-2724 to schedule your free consultation if you’ve been arrested for a DUI.
Jail Time Is (Usually) Mandatory for DUIs
For a first time DUI offender, jail time sentencing is typically handled under California Vehicle Code Section 23536. Under this statute, a person convicted of a DUI is required to serve time in the county jail. That jail time is to be for no less 96 hours and no more than six months.
While the letter of the law is clear, the reality is that many factors can affect how much time you end up serving. Having a good set of facts and the right lawyer can mean that you don’t serve much, if any, time behind bars. On the other hand, aggravating factors can increase both the likelihood and length of time you end up sentenced to jail.
How Aggravating Factors Influence Jail Time
The range of jail time mentioned in the section above assumes that your DUI arrest was “simple.” In this context, a “simple” DUI refers to any DUI that comes without any aggravating circumstances. With aggravating factors, you may end up facing additional months or even years on top of the sentence you would receive for a “simple” DUI.
Aggravating factors that can affect how much jail time you are likely to receive with a DUI include:
- Reckless driving
- Exhibition of speed
- Refusing a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine)
- Driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle
- Excessive blood alcohol content (BAC)
- Driving on a suspended license
- Injuring another person
In all these cases, the aggravating factors can result in substantial increases to your jail time. This is additional to enhancing the other penalties you face for a DUI, including any fines and license suspensions that could be issued against you.
DUI With Injuries
A first time DUI that results in injuries to another person or to other people can substantially increase the penalties you face. Depending on the sorts of injuries, you can face the following charges, even if it is your first DUI arrest:
- Felony DUI causing an injury
- Felony DUI manslaughter
- Felony DUI murder
In each of these cases, you face more than a year of incarceration. Additionally, rather than being sent to county jail, you will spend your sentence at a state jail. Taken together, a DUI with injury means a substantially longer sentence at a more distant, less pleasant facility.
How a DUI Lawyer Reduces Your Likelihood of Jail Time
Under the right circumstances, you may be able to have your mandatory jail sentence traded for a period of probation. This probation period typically lasts for three to five years. If granted this probation, the only jail time you face is the period you spend behind bars between your arrest and your arraignment.
This sort of arrangement relies heavily on the facts of your case and how much the prosecution is willing to negotiate. If you are facing a “simple” first time DUI and your BAC was close to the legal limit of 0.08%, you are in a good bargaining position. If you want leverage negotiating with the prosecutor, having a DUI lawyer speaking on your behalf can drastically improve your hand.
Hiring a DUI lawyer signals to the prosecution that the case against isn’t going to be easy. A skilled DUI lawyer will be evaluating the prosecutor’s case against you for any flaws. Problems with the chain of evidence, discrepancies with the lab’s handling of your blood work, or even the behavior of the arresting officer will be used by a DUI lawyer to reduce the penalties you face.
In many cases, a prosecutor will offer a favorable plea deal to a person with a DUI lawyer. These plea deals may include provisions to swap probation for jail time. Your lawyer can negotiate for this or can push for a lesser offense. Your lawyer may ask for a charge such as:
- Wet reckless
- Dry reckless
- Exhibition of speed
- Drunk in public
What the prosecutor is willing to give will depend on how well your lawyer negotiates for you and the facts of your case. Each of these lesser charges come with shorter jail sentences than a first DUI, which may include no jail time at all.
Reducing the likelihood of jail with a first DUI in Los Angeles or anywhere in California requires building a strong defense. Building a strong defense takes time. This makes it important to reach out to a DUI lawyer quickly after you’ve been arrested for a DUI. To schedule your free case evaluation with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer, call (310) 896-2724 or use the forms on this page.