Will I Go to Jail or Prison for a DUI?



You’ve been pulled over and charged with drinking and driving – now what? If this is your first time getting into trouble, you’re probably freaking out right now and thinking that in addition to paying a lot of money, you’re also going to do some time in jail or prison.

In California, a person arrested for DUI faces the possibility of jail time whether it’s a 1st or 4th DUI offense. In some cases, this means that you could also serve time in state prison. The sentencing of a California DUI is highly regulated and many conviction penalties are mandatory and hard to negotiate on your own.

With the help of an experienced attorney, it’s rare to do any jail time for a 1st offense.  For a 2nd offense, Don Hammond Law can generally get a deal for 96 hours.  On a 3rd offense, you’re realistically looking at 120 days in county jail.  A 4th offense is going to be filed as a felony, and it will be difficult to get less than a year in jail.

Many factors play into the severity of your sentencing.

  • Under 21 Years of Age

  • Number of Previous DUI Offense

  • Ability to Keep your Job

  • History of Violent Offenses

  • High Blood Alcohol Concentration

  • Caused an Accident

  • Caused an Injury or Death

  • Additional Moving Vehicle Offenses

  • Refusal of Breath, Blood, or Urine Test (after arrest)

A wide range of other penalties besides jail and prison time exist.

  • Driver’s License Suspension or Loss (6 months+)

  • Attending DUI Program Classes (6-18 months)

  • Years of Probation

  • Fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars

  • Installation of a car ignition interlock device

  • Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings (2 per week while the case is pending)

  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel

  • Hospital and Morgue (HAM) Program

There are good factors on your side.

  • Most DUI cases are prosecuted as misdemeanors.

  • The majority of DUI offenders are not given the maximum sentence for a 1st time offense.

  • The county jail system is overcrowded, so judges are motivated to find alternatives for low-risk, non-violent offenders who need to keep their jobs.

Jail alternatives can be negotiated by your attorney.

  • House Arrest

  • Community Service

  • Extended Probation

  • Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs

  • CalTrans (Cleaning Freeways)

Below is a chart of general DUI sentencing in California.

Estimation of Your Risk of Going to Jail

There is not an exact calculation tool to see the percentage likelihood of you going to jail for your particular DUI case; however, the information provided in this article can help you estimate your risk of serving time in jail.

Regardless of risk level, hiring a skilled attorney will in the long run save you time, money, and heartache. The very best thing you can do now to avoid jail time is to contact Don Hammond or a reputable DUI attorney who can help you lower or eliminate your sentence in court. An attorney will do everything in his power to resolve your case without a trial and negotiate a minimum charge. By gathering evidence that weakens the prosecutor’s case, an attorney can reduce the severity of the charges, have the charges dropped, or negotiate a plea bargain.

You can request to meet with the attorney before committing to using their services. Most attorneys offer a free consultation. Make sure to select a competent attorney who has positive reviews and a good idea on how to handle your case to lower or eliminate your sentence.


The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


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