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Which Type of DUI Cases Typically End with Jail Time?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Sep 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

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

If you get into some sort of an 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 during a DUI case, you cause great bodily injury. 

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

It's going to have to be some sort of a broken bone or a laceration, something significant and serious, 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 definitely be floating with prison or jail time is if you're going really 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, it 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, severity of the accident, and defendant's prior record.

Felony DUI Causing Death of Another Person

Prosecutors seeking felony driving under the influence charges because the crime caused a 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 while intoxicated.

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 has 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 result of the committing an unlawful act, or a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner.”

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 can 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 all the specific details of your case and on prior criminal history.

Felony DUI with Multiple Prior DUI Convictions

California Vehicle Code 23550.5 VC increases a normal 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 type of California DUI related crimes, including a wet reckless, or an equivalent DWI, OUI, or similar type conviction in another state that would be considered a DUI here in California.

As noted, prosecution can also use a wet reckless conviction, which is normally used 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 as a prior felony DUI conviction.

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

If they have just one prior DUI felony conviction, then 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 to others on the road. The more dangerous, the more likely they're going to 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 DUI's result in jail time.  A 2nd time DUI carries a mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail, and believe it or not, on a 3rd time DUI there's a mandatory minimum 120 days in jail.

California is one of the most tough 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 you don't hurt anybody, you have a really good 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 if you have a very high blood alcohol level. 

Obviously, the higher you 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 get an attorney, who can do do a lot of things. Don't get a weak attorney or somebody who's new. 

Don't get somebody who's 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 a long time.  You get a feel for the attorney when you see how they speak, and if you feel comfortable with them, because that attorney is going to be representing you with the prosecutor and with the judge.

Pick up the phone.  Make the call now.  Take the first step towards doing everything you can 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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