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Jail Time For DUI in California

Can DUI result in imprisonment?

Under the Vehicle Code of California, it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle. Driving under the influence (DUI) is an offense punishable under California law.

Like any offense, DUI also has its manifestations. It may be committed under a variety of circumstances, which can both aggravate and mitigate the gravity of the offense. The content of such circumstances compose of the following factors:

  • The reasons for the offense;
  • The degree of intoxication;
  • The multiplicity of the offense;
  • The possible or real consequences of the offense;
  • The time and place of the offense;
  • Other relevant factors.

Depending upon the above-mentioned circumstances the DUI can be characterized as a felony. However, the following factors are indispensable for launching criminal proceedings:

  1. While under the influence, the driver committed a traffic violation;
  2. An injury is caused third-party;
  3. There is a causal link between the DUI and an injury;
  4. The driver has one or multiple prior DUI convictions.

Jail time

Obviously, if a felony is attributed to the person, he/she will face a stricter penalty as compared with the other ones in the range of penalties envisaged for the particular offense. In this regard, DUI is not an exemption, and it has such harsh penalties as imprisonment in the county jail for a certain period.

Almost all DUI offenses may entail a jail sentence in California. Jail time varies upon the nature, frequency, and gravity of the offense. Jail time has its lower and upper limits. According to the Vehicle Code and court practice of California, based on the frequency of the offense jail time for DUIs constitutes as follows:

Frequency Minimum Jail Time Maximum Jail Time
1st DUI 48 hours 6 months
2nd DUI (within 10 years) 10 days Up to 1 year
3rd DUI (within 10 years) 120 days Up to 1 year
4th (or more) DUI (within 10 years) 180 days Up to 3 years


The court can credit the convicted with the time he/she served after an arrest. For example, if a driver spent 2 days in jail after a DUI arrest, and further he/she is sentenced to 22 days. His final jail time will be 20 days.

Some circumstances can increase the likelihood of applying jail time by the judge while considering the type of penalty. Such circumstances are known as “aggravating circumstances.”  These include:

  • Involvement in an accident;
  • High concentrations of alcohol;
  • Presence of children in the vehicle;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Driving at a high speed;
  • Using a fake ID;
  • Resisting arrest.

Alternatives to jail time

Due to the overcrowding in California prisons, the courts are more prone to apply other measures of liability as an alternative to jail time. Also, it may happen in cases when the offense is nonviolent or the defendant is a first offender. Possible alternatives for jail time are:

  • Probation period (set of certain oblations and restrictions of certain rights, including DUI school; no drug or alcohol use; community service, IID installation on all vehicles, etc.);
  • House arrest;
  • Work furlough (allowing to continue to work but to go home immediately after the working hours);
  • inpatient drug/alcohol rehabilitation;
  • Other



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