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When Will You Go to Jail in a DUI Situation in California?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Nov 09, 2022

This question is interesting.  First, if you get arrested for driving under the influence of DUI, you go to jail immediately. They usually keep you for several hours. 

But I'm talking about when you go to court, and now you have to deal with your DUI case, and part of your punishment involves jail time. 

Maybe you're a first-time offender charged under Vehicle Code 23152 VC, you're looking at up to six months, or perhaps you're looking at a year.  Or, maybe you have a felony DUI, and you're looking at up to three years of prison time. Perhaps you caused great bodily injury.  Then you're looking at up to six years in prison.

When Will You Go to Jail in a DUI Situation in California?

They take these DUI cases very seriously.  When you go to jail is an important question for most people.  When you come in and meet with me, I put my 30 years of experience to work for you, and we discuss whether you might go to jail.

Sometimes we have a circumstance where I feel pretty confident you're not going to go to jail, and of course, I'm going to let you know, and I'm going to explain to you why I don't think you're going to go to jail.

Then there are other situations where I do think you're going to go to jail because of the circumstances you find yourself in.  If you're a third-time DUI, and these guys can convict you of a third-time DUI, you're facing a minimum of 120 days in the county jail. 

That's what the law says.  So, in that case, you're going to go to jail.  We may want to try to keep you out of a lengthy jail sentence or even prison if you end up being charged with a felony. Let's review this topic further below.

Review of Your Criminal Record

They're going to look at your criminal record.  They're going to look at whether you have prior DUIs.  They will look at whether you caused any injuries in the case. 

These things determine whether or not you go to jail, specifically. 

In general, they're looking at whether or not you were a danger to the community while driving under the influence of some substance that affected your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.  With that in mind, you want to get an attorney.

DUI Causing Injuries to a Victim – VC 23153

California prosecutors could seek felony DUI charges because the offense caused an injury. They will file Vehicle Code 23153 VC, which states the following:

  • while under the influence and driving a vehicle doing any act forbidden by law, or neglect a duty imposed by law, which neglect causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”

In this example, a driver will be arrested and charged with the following crimes:

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

Under the law, to be intoxicated means a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher unless it's a commercial vehicle or passenger for hire that only requires a blood alcohol content of .04 or more.

California Vehicle Code 23153 VC can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime, called a “wobbler.” The prosecutor's decision is usually based on the level of injuries to the victim, and the defendant's prior record.

DUI Causing Death - Vehicular Manslaughter or Watson Murder

Prosecutors who seek felony driving under the influence charges because the crime caused the death of someone will often use Penal Code 191.5 PC.

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

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

A felony DUI causing death case means the prosecutors have factors called the elements of the crime; they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • “while intoxicated, they 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.”

Prosecutors could decide to seek a felony DUI causing death under California Penal Code 187 PC, a murder charge known as a second-degree Watson murder after the California Supreme Court case of the same name.

The ruling in 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.

In other words, the prosecution will file felony DUI causing death charges defined under Penal Code 187 PC when a defendant has at least one prior driving under the influence conviction.

How Can A DUI Defense Professional Help You?

Sometimes it's not clear whether you should go to jail.  Of course, those are the most critical circumstances to get an attorney.

DUI Defense Professional in Los Angeles

But even if it is clear you're going to go to jail, you want to minimize that jail time and get the least amount of jail time, and that's where an attorney like me, who's been doing this for 30 years, who has worked for the district attorney and has worked for a superior court judge and who has defended people just like you since the early 1990s keeping them out of jail.

I aim to keep my clients out of custody because I know how traumatic that can be.  It's scary going to jail.  It can mess up your business.

It can mess up your family life, and it can mess up your head, realizing you're going to end up going to jail, where all of the hardened criminals go.  Everyone goes to the same jail.  They don't segregate DUI people into different parts of the jail.

So, if you need the best, you've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. 

Let's start to structure what we can do to keep you out of jail, and if we can't, minimize your jail time and put you in the best position possible. The Los Angeles DUI lawyers at the Hedding Law Firm provide a free case evaluation via phone or use the contact form.

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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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about DUI law issues in California and throughout the United States.

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