One thing that constantly flashes in people's minds when police pull them over and ultimately arrest them for a DUI is whether or not they may do any jail time?
Other people don't even realize that a DUI is a misdemeanor crime, and a first offense could get you up to six months in jail, and a second offense could get you up to a year in jail. Also, people don't realize there are mandatory minimums when you get your second and third offenses for DUIs.
First and foremost, in my opinion, the way you avoid jail is to hire the best attorney you can find because that attorney will be able to come up with alternatives to jail if that is something you're looking at.
I've been doing this now for 30 years in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, all the surrounding counties of LA – Orange County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernardino, Riverside; you name it, I've handled thousands of DUIs – so I have a pretty good feel for when somebody is going to go to jail and when somebody is not going to go to jail.
Typically, in LA county, on a first offense, you're not going to go to jail unless you hurt somebody or have some crazy high blood alcohol level. Even then, a good attorney might be able to keep you out of jail. So, the best way to avoid jail is to hire a good attorney.
The second thing is that it depends on your case's circumstances and where you got your DUI. When we're talking about circumstances, I'm talking about:
- how fast were you going?
- did you get involved in an accident?
- how high was your blood alcohol level?
- do you have prior DUIs?
These are the types of things the prosecutors and judges are looking at when deciding whether or not to send you to jail. Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers will review this topic in more detail below.
What is at Stake in a Drunk Driving Case?
I've handled thousands of DUI cases, and many things are at stake. Your freedom is at stake, depending on what happened. You could typically do up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor case and three years in prison for a felony case. If you cause a great bodily injury to someone, that's an additional three years on top of the three years for the felony DUI.
There is a lot at stake. Your California driver's license is also at stake, meaning it could be suspended for many months -- even years -- depending on whether it's your first, second, third, or fourth DUI. Prosecutors use two main DUI statutes to file charges against somebody driving under the Influence.
California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC makes it a crime to drive under the influence of alcohol, and Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC makes it a crime to go with a BAC of .08% or higher. Most people are typically charged with both statutes.
Most drunk driving cases in California are prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Still, they can be filed as a felony under certain circumstances, such as if you have DUIs on your record and if someone was injured.
You have to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of your arrest and request a DMV hearing. If you don't, you will forfeit your right to a hearing. Your driver's license will automatically go into suspension after 30 days. A lawyer could request the DMV hearing on your behalf and represent you during the call.
If convicted of VC 23152 driving under the influence, the penalties will depend on different factors. Some DUI convictions will result in the judge imposing jail time. Usually, you can still drive your vehicle but might be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID).
See related: Will I Do Jail Time If I Blew a 0.20?
DUI Causing an Injury – VC 23153
The more serious crime of DUI causing injury is defined under California Vehicle Code 23153 VC. It's described as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing physical harm to somebody.
VC 23153 is a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as a misdemeanor or felony crime. DUI causing injury is the more serious form of a traditional VC 23152 driving under the influence charge.
To be found guilty of violating VC 23153(a), a prosecutor must prove (CALCRIM 2100) that you could not drive with the ordinary caution of a sober driver. A misdemeanor prosecution for DUI causing injury can result in the following penalties:
- Up to one year in county jail,
- A fine of up to $5,000,
- Alcohol or drug program,
- Driver's license suspension,
In a VC 23153 felony prosecution, the penalties include the following:
- Up to four years in state prison,
- A fine of up to $5,000,
- DUI school,
- Driver's license revocation,
- Habitual traffic offender,
- Victim restitution.
If the victim sustained a great bodily injury, there is a consecutive three to a six-year prison sentence.
Evaluating the Best Defense Strategy in a DUI Case
So, you need your attorney, and you need to assess the case itself, and that's what your attorney is going to do. What I have you do is have you come into my office. We go over the case. We go over your past and get a game plan together to try to avoid jail truly.
If the jail is inevitable for you, there are programs like house arrest and other programs inside the county jail, work release, for example. Sometimes we're able to get the person to private jail, where they don't end up going into county jail; they're able to serve their time in local jails, depending on exactly what they end up pleading guilty to and whether or not they're eligible to get some of these alternative programs.
So, if you've got a DUI in LA county or any of the surrounding counties, you've come to the right place. You've got an attorney who's worked in the district attorney's office early in my career. Then I worked for a superior court judge right after that, so I could really get a feel for the judicial system, and finally, in the early 1990s, I opened my criminal defense practice and have been handling DUIs ever since.
So, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I've got staff who have been working with me for over 20 years who can answer a lot of your questions, and of course, I'll be available to meet with you, whether it be over the phone or in-person and we can get the ball moving in the right direction.
The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and offers people a free case review by phone, or you can fill out our contact form.