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This Isn’t My First DUI. Will I Really Go to Jail?

Jan. 29, 2021

A first-time DUI (driving under the influence) arrest in California will generally land you in jail for a night or two, after which you’ll be released with your promise to appear in court.

But what happens if you’re stopped again and you fail the BAC (blood alcohol content) breath test? Do the authorities throw you in a cell and leave you there?

Despite your fears, you can be released on a subsequent DUI if you post bail, but does the judge or jury then sentence you to time behind bars? It’s on the books, and they can.

However, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to get jail time reduced to electronic monitoring at home, house arrest, or even community service.

If you’re facing a DUI charge – first, second, or subsequent -- in or near Irvine, California, call Duffy Law. I, DUI Attorney William J. Duffy, have devoted my entire career to defending individuals facing DUI charges. I will investigate and develop the best possible legal strategy to either obtain a dismissal or minimize the penalties.

Penalties for DUIs in California

As one might expect, the penalties for driving under the influence escalate with each subsequent offense after the first DUI arrest. Here is what you’ll face if convicted:

  • FIRST OFFENSE: A fine between $390 and $1,000; up to six months in jail (generally converted to probation); a DUI program of three to nine months depending on your BAC; license suspension of six to ten months; three years of informal probation.

  • SECOND OFFENSE: Fine between $390 and $1,000; 96 hours to one year in jail; two-year driver’s license suspension; 18- or 30-month DUI school; three to five years of probation.

  • THIRD OFFENSE: Fine of $390 to $1,000; 120 days to one year in jail; 30 months in California DUI School; three years revoked license; three to five years’ probation.

All these offenses are considered misdemeanors, though they will stay on your criminal record forever unless you file for expungement and succeed. However, a DUI can rise to the felony level under certain circumstances.

A fourth DUI arrest within a 10-year period results in a felony charge, which carries a jail term of 16 months to four years. Aggravating circumstances can also elevate the charges and penalties. If you injure someone while driving intoxicated, you can be charged either with a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony charge raises the stakes to a maximum fine of $5,000 and comes with 16 months to four years in jail.

A DUI that involves a fatality can be charged under California’s vehicular manslaughter law, or even as a murder. Sentences can vary greatly from one year in jail up to 15 years in state prison.

Other aggravating factors that can increase your penalties include:

  • Having a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher (0.8 percent is the trigger level for a DUI)

  • Driving at excessive speeds: more than 30 mph over the limit on highways and 20 mph on a street

  • Having children under the age of 14 in the car

  • Being under 21 at the time of the offense (BAC of 0.1 percent for conviction)

  • Carrying passengers as a commercial driver (BAC of 0.4 percent)

Avoiding Jail Time

Jails are overcrowded in California, so DUI convictions that carry jail time are often converted to alternative means of detention in lieu of being behind bars. An experienced DUI attorney can fight to get your jail time reduced to one of the following:

  • House Arrest: Installing electronic monitoring devices in your home at your expense; you can continue working.

  • Work Furlough: Continue working but head straight home after work, or to a government-run dormitory facility, for which you will have to pay.

  • Community Service: Community service with Cal-Trans and/or alcohol rehab, which are often ordered as part of probation, can sometimes also be substituted for jail time.

Most courts will allow these alternatives for a second offense, but some balk when it comes to a third conviction. I will work with you, even on a third offense, to help you avoid jail time, either through plea bargaining or agreeing to a lesser charge.

Mandated Treatment Programs

A DUI conviction, especially for repeat offenders, will often come wrapped with a requirement that the defendant undergoes treatment for recovery from alcohol abuse. These treatment mandates can offset some of the harsher terms available as part of the conviction, including jail time.

In addition to being required to undergo on-site or off-site rehabilitation treatment, sober living is also an option. Sober living is a long-term residential community where you are expected to stay clean of drugs and alcohol, but it lacks the personnel of a rehab facility.

Also, you may be required to attend a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Victim Impact Panel, a seminar where victims and others speak about how drunk driving impacted their lives. Attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous may also be ordered.

All of these come on top of DUI schools, the attendance of which is mandated for each conviction.

How Duffy Law Can Help

A good DUI defense attorney can help you in many ways. In addition to plea bargaining and agreeing to a lesser crime, you may be able to avoid the charge entirely. The law enforcement officer who pulls you over can commit errors that lead to the charge being dropped in court. They can violate your Miranda Rights, administer the breath test in an incorrect way, pull you over for insufficient reasons, and otherwise abuse their authority.

I have been fighting for DUI arrestees’ rights my entire career. I possess both the experience and the expertise to help you develop and pursue the optimal legal strategy to minimize your penalties, including avoiding jail time for subsequent arrests. If you’re in Irvine or nearby in Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, or anywhere in Orange County, contact Duffy Law immediately for a free consultation.