Most people are aware that a California DUI charge can have various negative consequences including
- Driver’s license suspension (though it may be possible to continue driving with an ignition interlock device (IID) installed);
- Mandatory alcohol program;
However, the possibility of serving jail time is likely the scariest consequence of a DUI conviction or DUI probation violation.
It is not always clear when a DUI can land you in jail.
In order to help you better understand what circumstances under which a DUI conviction or DUI probation violation can land you in jail and jail sentences for different DUI offenses, our California DUI defense lawyers1 will explain the following
Any sort of conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, may result in a jail sentence. These include
- Vehicle Code 23152(a) and Vehicle Code 23152(b);
- California DUI of drugs;
- California DUI causing injury;
- California vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated offense; and
- California DUI second-degree murder
In addition, even lower offenses as part of DUI plea bargains may result in the imposition of a jail sentence. These offenses include
- California wet reckless offense;
- California dry reckless offense; and
- California exhibition of speed offense
DUI’s are considered “priorable” offenses. This means the punishment may increase with each successive drunk driving conviction that occurs within a 10-year window.2
Thus, the potential jail time imposed for DUI conviction increases with each successive DUI conviction.
Below are the possible jail sentences for certain DUI and alcohol-related offenses in California.
However it is important to note that, certain aggravating factors may increase the DUI jail sentences listed below. These include
- having a blood alcohol content (BAC or blood alcohol concentration) of 0.15 % or higher;
- refusing to submit to a chemical test;
- causing an accident;
- driving at excessive speeds;
- having children under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of the offense; and/or
- being under the age of 21 at the time of the offense
Note that there are also a number of jail alternatives in DUI cases.
If you are convicted of a first-time misdemeanor DUI offense you face up to a maximum of 6 months in county jail.3
When no aggravating factors exist, the Los Angeles City Attorney commonly offers plea deals to first-time misdemeanor DUI offenders that do not involve jail time.
However, different counties may set different sentencing standards for a DUI conviction. For example, Ventura county DUI penalties are known to be particularly harsh.
A first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 48 hours jail time (or 5 days work release) in Ventura County.
A first-time DUI conviction in Riverside County usually triggers between 6 and 10 days jail time.
Even if you are sentenced to serve jail time for your DUI conviction, it is possible to receive credit for time already served.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Example: Joan is arrested for a DUI at 11:00 pm on a Friday night and taken into jail. She is released at 6:00 am the next morning.
Joan subsequently is convicted of her first misdemeanor DUI offense and is sentenced to serve the mandatory minimum 48 hours in county jail. It is possible the court may allow Joan to credit the 2 calendar days (Friday and Saturday) she was held in custody to satisfy her jail sentence.
A conviction of a second-time misdemeanor DUI offense within 10 years results in a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 96-= hours in the county jail to a maximum of one year in county jail.4
If a person is sentenced to the minimum jail time of 96 hours, he or she may serve the sentence in two 48-hour increments.5 These two increments can also be served non-consecutively.6
Many counties, as a matter of policy, impose substantially more jail time than the statutory minimum. San Bernardino County, for example, generally imposes 45 days of San Bernardino County Jail for a second DUI. However, offenders are usually allowed to convert this to a work release rather than serving straight jail time.
A person convicted of a third misdemeanor DUI offense within 10 years generally faces a minimum of 120 days and a maximum of one year in county jail.7
However, as discussed above, sentencing may differ from county to county. Some counties in California require a 210 day minimum sentence in county jail for a third DUI offense within 10 years.
A fourth DUI or wet reckless offense within 10 years is considered a wobbler in California law, and generally filed as a felony. Thus, you will likely face much harsher penalties. A fourth conviction in 10 years will likely result in a minimum sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in either California state prison or county jail.8
The specific duration of the sentence will depend on the circumstances of your particular conviction and criminal history.
Jail sentences for convictions of DUI of drugs are usually the same as those for alcohol-related DUI. Much like alcohol related DUI, the penalties can increase tremendously if it is your second, third, or even fourth DUI of drugs offense.
The sentence for a first time DUI of drugs is a maximum of six months. However, as with alcohol-related DUI’s, little to no for first-time offenders without the presence of aggravating circumstances.9
If you injure another person while driving under the influence, you may face additional jail time. A DUI causing injury is considered a wobbler. This means it may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the arrest and your criminal history.
A first time misdemeanor DUI with injury offense will result in a minimum county jail sentence of 5 days and a maximum sentence of one year.10
If convicted of a first-time felony DUI with injury offense, you face sixteen months to ten years in California State Prison 11 and an additional and consecutive one to six year prison sentence, depending on (1) how many people you injured 12, and (2) how seriously they were injured.13
If you commit a DUI at the time another person is killed in an accident, that the prosecutor believes was your fault, you may be charged with California Penal Code 191.5 (b).14 Penal Code 191.5 (b) is also wobbler offense.
If convicted of a misdemeanor Penal Code 191.5 (b) you face up to a year in county jail.15
If convicted of felony Penal code 191.5 (b) you face either 16 months, 2 years, or 4 years in state prison, depending on the facts of your case and any prior DUI convictions.16
If you commit a DUI at the time another person is killed in an accident, and the prosecutor believes you displayed gross negligence, you may be charged with California Penal Code 191.5 (a).17 Penal Code 191.5 (a) is felony.18
If convicted, you face
- 4, 6, or 10 years in California state prison; or
- Fifteen years to life in California state prison if you have a prior Penal Code 191.5 conviction or 2 more prior DUI convictions.19
If there are any surviving victims who suffered great bodily injury, you face an additional and consecutive 3 to 6 year state prison sentence.20
You can be prosecuted for second-degree murder in some cases where you committed a DUI and got into an accident that killed another person.
California DUI second-degree murder or “Watson Murder” occurs when a DUI is committed, an accident occurs that kills another person, and the person committing the DUI displays a ‘conscious disregard for human life.’ 21
This is the most serious DUI related offense, and thus carries the possibility of a long jail sentence. If convicted of DUI second-degree murder you face 15 years to life in state prison.
If you are convicted of any of the following DUI plea bargain offenses, you face a maximum 90 days in county jail.
- California wet reckless;
- California dry reckless; and
- California exhibition of speed
In reality, however, if the prosecutor agrees to reduce a DUI to one of these lesser offenses, it’s likely that no actual jail time will be imposed.
Contact Us with Any Questions
Did you or a loved one get a DUI arrest? We invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Our DUI lawyers can provide a free consultation in office or by phone.
We create attorney-client relationships throughout the state. Our DUI defense attorneys have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California. Call us, send a text message, or submit our contact form.
1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities. Please contact us at Shouse Law Group with any questions.
2California Vehicle Code 23622 — Violations of § 23152 or § 23153 within 10 years of specified offenses; effect upon sentencing.
3California Vehicle Code 23536 — DUI penalties. Conviction of first violation of § 23152; punishment.
4California Vehicle Code 23540 — DUI punishments. Second offense; punishment.
See also California Vehicle Code 23542 — DUI penalties. Conditions of probation for second offense.
5Vehicle Code 23542 — DUI penalties. Conditions of probation for second offense.
7California Vehicle Code 23546 — DUI punishments. Third offense; punishment.
See also California Vehicle Code 23548 — DUI penalties. Conditions of probation for third offense.
8California Vehicle Code 23550 — DUI penalties. Multiple offenses; punishment.
See also California Vehicle Code 23552 — DUI sentencing. Additional conditions of probation for multiple offenders.
9Vehicle Code 23536 VC — Conviction of first violation of § 23152; punishment.
See also Vehicle Code 23538 VC — Conditions of probation for first time offense.
10 California Vehicle Code 23556 — DUI sentencing. Conditions of probation for first offense.
11California Vehicle Code 23566 — DUI punishments. Three or more offenses; punishment.
12California Vehicle Code 23558 — Causing bodily injury or death to more than one victim while driving in violation of specified sections; felony convictions; enhancement of punishment.
13California Penal Code 12022.7 — Terms of imprisonment for persons inflicting great bodily injury while committing or attempting felony. (“(a) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years.”)
14Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction — CALCRIM 591 — Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. (“To prove that the defendant is guilty of vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence while intoxicated [othwise referred to as Penal Code 191.5(b) California’s “vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated” law], the People must prove that:  The defendant (drove under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/[or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug]/drove while having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher/ drove under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug] when under the age of 21/drove while having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or higher when under the age of 21/operated a vessel under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or a combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug]/operated a vessel while having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher);  While (driving that vehicle/operating that vessel) under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug], the defendant also committed (a/an) (misdemeanor[,]/ [or] infraction[,]] / [or] otherwise lawful act that might cause death);  The defendant committed the (misdemeanor[,]/ [or] infraction[,]] /[or] otherwise lawful act that might cause death) with ordinary negligence; AND  The defendant’s negligent conduct caused the death of another person.”)
15Penal Code 191.5(b) VC California’s “vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated” law. (“(c)(2) Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in violation of subdivision (b) is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or 2 or 4 years.”) The determination as to whether to file the misdemeanor or felony is primarily based on the facts of the case and on your history of prior DUI convictions.
17Penal Code 191.5(a) PC California’s gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated law.
20See Penal Code 12022.7 PC California’s great bodily injury law, endnote 16, above.
21 Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 520 — Murder With Malice Aforethought [used in connection with a California Watson murder charge]. (“The defendant acted with implied malice if:  (He/She) intentionally committed an act;  The natural and probable consequences of the act were dangerous to human life;  At the time (he/she) acted, (he/she) knew (his/her) act was dangerous to human life; AND  (He/She) deliberately acted with conscious disregard for (human/ [or] fetal) life.”)