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Which Type of DUI Cases Typically End with Jail Time?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Sep 13, 2021

Most of the time in Los Angeles County, if a Vehicle Code 23152 VC driving under the influence case is the first offense, you can avoid jail time. However, there are circumstances where you're looking at jail time. 

If you get into some accident and there's an injury, they're typically going to want to put you in jail. They're going to charge you with a felony, and it's usually a 90-day minimum jail sentence for any DUI that involves a serious enough injury.

Another real obvious situation that you'll be looking at, not only jail time but prison time, is if you cause great bodily injury during a DUI case. 

Great bodily injury is defined as a significant injury that is more than just bruises and bumps. 

It's going to have to be some broken bone or a laceration, something significant and severe, but that GBI in a DUI case is serious because it causes you to go to prison. 

It also causes you to have a strike on your record, a violent felony, and you serve 85% of whatever time you get.

Another circumstance where you could be floating with prison or jail time is if you're going fast during a DUI and then an accident results.  Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers will review the various laws below:

Felony DUI Causing Injuries to a Victim

California prosecutors seeking felony DUI charges because the crime caused an injury will use Vehicle Code 23153 VC, which states the following:

Which Type of California DUI Cases Typically End with Jail Time?
  • “while under the influence and driving to drive a vehicle doing any act forbidden by law, or neglect a duty imposed by law in driving, which neglect causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”

In this scenario, the driver will be arrested and charged with the following:

  • Vehicle Code 23153(a), driving under the influence causing injury,
  • Vehicle Code 23153(b), driving with a BAC of .08% or higher, causing injury.

To be intoxicated means a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher, unless it's a commercial vehicle or passenger for hire, which is only a blood alcohol content of .04 or more.

California Vehicle Code 23153 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime (wobbler). The prosecutor's decision is typically based on the extent of injuries to the victim, the severity of the accident, and the defendant's prior record.

Felony DUI Causing Death of Another Person

Prosecutors seeking felony driving under the influence charges because the crime caused the death of another person will often use Penal Code 191.5 PC.

Subsection (a) covers gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and Penal Code 191.5(b) covers ordinary vehicular manslaughter.

Gross vehicular manslaughter adds the crucial element of the crime of gross negligence to the ordinary vehicular manslaughter crime.

Either way, a felony DUI causing death case means the prosecutors have specific factors they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • “while they were intoxicated, killed a human being without malice aforethought while driving a vehicle, or driving in violation of Vehicle Code 23153, or 23153 and the killing was the result of the committing an unlawful act or a lawful act that might produce death, unlawfully.”

Further, prosecutors might decide to seek a felony DUI crime causing death under California Penal Code 187 PC, a murder charge.

This statute is commonly known as a second-degree Watson murder after the California Supreme Court case of the same name.

In that case, the ruling Watson held that drunk driving with a prior driving conviction could be considered “malice aforethought,” which is required to support a Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder conviction.

Put simply; the prosecution will file felony DUI causing death charges defined under Penal Code 187 PC in a situation where a defendant has at least one prior driving under the influence conviction.

The specific statute used by prosecutors will always depend on your case's particular details and prior criminal history.

Felony DUI with Multiple Prior DUI Convictions

California Vehicle Code 23550.5 VC increases a standard misdemeanor DUI to a felony in a situation where the defendant has three or more prior driving under the influence convictions within ten years of the new offense.  

The prosecutor can count combinations of any California DUI-related crimes, including a wet reckless, an equivalent DWI, OUI, or similar type conviction in another state that would be considered a DUI here in California.

As noted, the prosecution can also use a wet reckless conviction, which is usually used as a plea-bargain conviction of reckless driving defined under Vehicle Code 23103 VC, when a defendant was under the influence of intoxicants.

Felony DUI Due to Prior Felony DUI Conviction

California Vehicle Code 23550.5 further increases a regular misdemeanor DUI offense to a felony in a situation where a defendant has a prior felony DUI conviction.

Put simply, a defendant is not required to have committed three or more prior driving under the influence cases to sustain a felony DUI conviction.

If they have just one prior DUI felony conviction, the new DUI offense will be increased to a felony.  

An example includes a situation where your prior DUI conviction was causing injury or death and filed as a felony, or it was filed as a felony for having multiple DUI convictions.

Danger to Public Safety

In other words, you start to get the idea that really what they're looking at is how dangerous you are to public safety and others on the road. The more complex, the more likely they will want to punish you with jail or prison time.

Anytime you get a 4th time DUI, that's going to be a felony, and you're going to be looking at prison time or jail time.

Danger to Public Safety in California DUI Cases

Also, even 2nd and 3rd-time DUIs result in jail time.  A 2nd time DUI carries a mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail, and believe it or not, on the 3rd time DUI, there's a mandatory minimum of 120 days in prison.

California is one of the most authoritarian states when it comes to DUIs. Los Angeles is no different. There are a lot of DUI cases here.

It's a huge metropolis, and the prosecutors -- both the City Attorneys and District Attorneys will punish with jail or prison time under the appropriate circumstances.

If you have a clean record, you don't get in an accident and don't hurt anybody; you have a perfect chance of staying out of jail.

One last area that I think would be a fair area where there would be jail time would be a very high blood alcohol level. 

The higher your blood alcohol level is, the more dangerous you are on the road and the more likely you are to get a jail or prison sentence.

Contact Us for Help 

I think it's crucial if you've got a DUI to contact an attorney who can do many things. Don't get a weak attorney or somebody who's new. 

Don't get somebody making a bunch of claims but doesn't have a good track record. 

You want somebody who has experience in the court where your case is pending. You want somebody who's got good reviews. Check out my videos.

I've been doing this for a long time.  You feel for the attorney when you see how they speak and feel comfortable with them because that attorney will be representing you with the prosecutor and the judge.

Pick up the phone.  Make the call now.  Take the first step towards doing everything to stay out of custody if you're being charged with a DUI.

Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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