When it comes to driving under the influence in Los Angeles, California, there's a whole myriad of different sentences that can be handed down by judges. Usually, a judge's authority in most of the Los Angeles courts is limited by what the prosecutor and the defense end up working out. In other words, technically when it comes to sentencing in a DUI, judges have the authority and the power. However, when it comes to charges, the prosecutors control what's charged, what's dismissed and what's filed.
Negotiating a Plea Bargain with Prosecutor
The reality is, the way the court systems are set up, the prosecutor and the defense attorney are typically discussing the case and negotiating any plea bargain that might be had in the case and the judge pretty much goes along with what is agreed upon between the defense attorney and the prosecutor. Of course, the criminal defendant in the case has to agree to it as well.
That said, there are certain circumstances where a judge could say they don't approve of the deal. Usually, when the don't approve it's against the defense and they think the prosecutors are being too light on the particular defendant and they could indicate that they would accept the deal and then they could impose certain terms and conditions that they felt were applicable under the circumstances of the case.
I've also seen circumstances where I've been trying to negotiate with the prosecutors and I felt the prosecutors weren't being reasonable regarding sentencing in a DUI case, so I went to the judge and asked the judge if I pled open to you, meaning, if we pled guilty to the charges, what would the judge give my client.
This is what the prosecutors are offering. This is what I think is a fair sentence in a case. Can you give me what we refer to as an “indicated sentence?” Meaning, if we were to plead guilty what would you indicate you would give the client and a lot of judges will do this.
A lot of judges who are weak will not do this and they pretty much just do what the prosecutors say. Which to me, doesn't make them much of a judge because they're not using their discretion.
They're not really playing in a system that says that a judge has discretion to look at things neutrally, but that is the reality in Los Angeles county and being a defense attorney, you have to know which judges might give you and indicated sentence and might undercut the prosecutors under the right circumstances and which judges just simply will not do that.
Misdemeanor Summary Probation for DUI
As far as sentencing goes, typically somebody who pleads guilty to a DUI is going to be put on probation for three years. If it's a misdemeanor it will be summary probation, meaning you don't have to report to a probation officer.
You just have to remain arrest free for that three-year period. If it's a felony probation, you have to report to a probation officer once a month and make sure that you're doing everything the right way and comply with whatever terms and conditions the court and the probation officer give you.
So, that three years is the usual probation, but sometimes I've seen it extended to five years for a serious DUI matter.
Alcohol Program for DUI
Another thing that everyone convicted of a DUI has to do is an alcohol program. There's a three-month program, a six-month, nine-month, eighteen month and a thirty-month program and that's all negotiable and depends on your criminal record and how good your defense attorney is in negotiating on your behalf.
You're also facing jail time. In a standard first-time misdemeanor you're looking at six months in jail. If you get a second or third offense, you're looking at up to a year in jail.
Then of course, if you're on probation, then you could even get more time than that depending on what the maximum sentence is for whatever crime you're on probation for. And that would also give the judge more authority when it comes to a sentence in a probation case.
The judge is the one who controls what that sentence ultimately is and he or she just listens to what the defense attorney and prosecutor say and then will make their final decision on what the sentence will be in a probation violation case.
Community Service and AA Meetings
There are other sentences that could be imposed, like community service, Cal Trans, AA meetings and a host of other things that could be imposed related to a DUI matter. As far as other alternatives, there are such things as diversion, but those are usually saved for very weak DUI cases in which prosecutors have some serious evidentiary proof.
So, if you're looking to find out what alternative sentence might be available to you in your DUI case, I suggest you pick up the phone; make the call. Set up a face-to-face meeting with me. I do this all the time and I think we can really do some things to help you.