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Does a DUI Mean I Have to Go to Jail?

A drunk or drugged driving offense is not a simple moving violation, it’s a criminal offense. Since DUI is a crime, it is possible to go to jail. If you were recently arrested for DUI and are wondering, “Will I have to go to jail?" the answer depends on a number of factors, such as your criminal record, and whether you injured or killed someone else.

Every DUI case is different. The charges are different, the aggravating circumstances are different, and the judges are different. Some judges are more inclined to sentence a DUI offender to probation than jail, while others are known for granting plea bargains that result in reduced sentences/charges.

Maximum Jail Time for California DUIs

California statutes set the maximum jail time for DUI offenses. The information below comes from the California Vehicle Code:

  • If this is your first DUI and there were no aggravating factors (e.g. causing injury to another), you could face up to six months in county jail.
  • If this is your second DUI and your prior DUI was less than 10 years ago, you face up to one year in county jail.
  • If this is your third DUI and the prior DUIs occurred less than 10 years ago, you face four months to one year in jail.
  • A fourth DUI within 10 years of the prior offenses can warrant up to five years in state prison, not county jail.

These statutes explain the amount of jail time the state can sentence you to for each DUI charge. However, just because the state can, it doesn't mean the state will. In many DUI cases, defendants receive little to no jail time because their DUI attorney negotiates a plea to a lesser charge, such as “wet reckless,” or they get the prosecutor to agree to probation in lieu of jail time.

This May Be Your Only Jail Time

When a person is stopped at a DUI checkpoint or during a routine traffic stop and the officer suspects intoxication, they ask the driver to submit to field sobriety tests. If the driver fails or refuses, they will be arrested and taken to jail for chemical testing to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

If you've been arrested for DUI, this may be the only jail time you see, especially with the right legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we fight so our clients get the most favorable result possible, which means fighting for no jail time, reduced sentences and even dismissed charges.

To learn how we could help you, call our Orange County DUI attorneys for a free case evaluation.