Jail time for DUI – California Laws
- On a first time DUI, you do not face any jail time unless there is an aggravating circumstance.
- On a second DUI, the law requires that you go to jail (local county jail) for a minimum of 96 hours.
- On a third DUI within 10 years, the law requires that you go to jail for a minimum of 120 days.
- If you get a fourth DUI within 10 years, you face possible felony DUI charges and you can possibly be sentenced to state prison for a minimum of 16 months.
Jail time for first DUI
On a first-time misdemeanor DUI, you are not facing any jail time unless there were “aggravated circumstances” such as being involved in a bad accident with someone injured, driving over 100 mph, having little children in the car, being on probation for another case, etc.
Jail is not mandatory on a first-time DUI and even if there are aggravating circumstances such as an accident, etc., there are jail alternatives that often can be worked out to avoid going to jail.
Some unscrupulous attorneys tell people they are facing a maximum of 6 months in jail on a first time DUI, ostensibly in order to scare people into hiring them. Technically that is true (6 months is the maximum punishment) but in reality, most people do not face jail time on a first time DUI.
Jail time for second DUI
With a second DUI, jail time is mandatory and by law, you must spend a minimum of 96 hours in jail.
“Jail” refers to the local county jail. If you were arrested in Los Angeles County, “jail” is the local county jail in Los Angeles County run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. So for a second DUI, you are facing jail-time in the Los Angeles County Jail and not prison.
Mandatory jail time for DUI
Jail is not mandatory on a first DUI and even if there are aggravating circumstances such as an accident, etc., there are jail alternatives that often can be worked out to avoid going to jail.
However, jail time is mandatory for a second, third or fourth DUI within 10 years.
Prison vs county jail
Any misdemeanor jail-time would be spent in the local county jail (and not in prison).
For a felony, time would be usually be spent in a California State Prison although you could be sentenced to do time in the Los Angeles County Jail.
Jails are county facilities run by the local county Sheriff’s Department. County jails generally house inmates that are serving sentences of less than a year. County Jails also offer and manage alternatives to jail such as work release programs, and house arrest /electronic monitoring program.
California State Prisons, on the other hand, are federal facilities and are only for people convicted of a Felony. Someone arrested for a DUI does not face prison unless it is their 4th DUI or they are charged with a Felony DUI because someone was seriously injured in a DUI.
Private City Jails
If you are facing jail time for a DUI in the Los Angeles County Jail you can ask the Judge if you can serve your jail time in a private city jail instead of the Los Angeles County Jail.
Private City Jails are pay-to-stay jail facilities run by local Police Departments. This means you pay a daily fee to do your jail time in a much smaller and usually nicer jail facility located at a city police department. Local Police Departments such as the following offer pay to stay jail facilities:-
- Hermosa Beach Police Department
- Beverly Hills Police Department
- Redondo Beach Police Department
- Seal Beach Police Department
- Glendale Police Department
- Monterey Park Police Department
- Hawthorne Police Department
- Torrance Police Department
- Pasadena Police Department
- City of La Verne Police Department
In pay-to-stay jail facilities, the person convicted can often serve their sentences on weekends with the Judge’s permission so as not to miss work. Prices per day at private city jails can vary with the average rate about $100/day.
The Prosecutor normally makes the decision on how much jail time if any you are facing after he or she reviews the evidence and determines if you have any DUIs on your record or if you are on probation in another case. Requests for County Jail Alternatives can be made to both the Prosecutor and the Judge.
Alternatives to jail in Los Angeles County
Fortunately, there are alternatives to doing jail time for DUI in the Los Angeles County Jail.
- House arrest / Electronic Monitoring Program
- Work release
- Community Labor / CalTrans (cleaning freeways)
- Community service
- Private City Jail
- Alcohol rehabilitation programs