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Aug 08, 2021

Will I Go to Jail for a DUI?

Getting charged with a DUI in California can have many wide-ranging effects on your life. Along with facing various criminal charges, you will also have to deal with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and you could lose your freedom of mobility. Above all else, you’re worried about if you’ll have to go to jail should you get a DUI.

However, right now, you’re taking a good first step and learning about the consequences of a DUI in California. When you’ve done your research and you’re ready, you can contact Oakland DUI defense attorney Elliot Silver for further help.

What Is a DUI in California?

You’re wondering what the legal definition of a DUI is in the state of California, because sometimes you like to go out to the bar and have a beer after work before heading home. Is that going to land you behind bars?

Not exactly. The law states that in order to be charged with a DUI, you need to be driving a car (or operating a bike or scooter) under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher. However, if you’re a commercial driver, the BAC limit is only .04%, and if you’re a minor, you cannot have any alcohol in your system, since California is a zero tolerance state. If your BAC.01% or above and you are under 21 years of age, then you could potentially be charged with a DUI.

Remember that even if you’re driving under the influence of a legal drug like marijuana or prescription drugs like sleeping pills, painkillers, or amphetamines, you could also still be charged if it’s impeding how you’re driving. The law is so strict because it’s designed keep everyone safe on the road.

Going to Jail for a DUI

Whether this is your first, second, third, or additional DUI charge, you could absolutely go to jail for driving under the influence. The length of jail time is going to vary.

The first time around, your DUI will be a misdemeanor, and you could go to jail for 48 hours, or up to six months. Usually, though, the judge will put you on probation for three to five years instead of sending you to jail. Jails are already clogged, so judges may not want to make the situation worse by sending you to jail for this crime. Along with probation or jail, you will need to pay fines ranging from $390 to $1,000, as well as possible penalty assessments. You will also be required to attend DUI school for 30 hours, which takes three months, and if you had a high BAC of .20% or more, then you will be required to go through a nine-month program, which adds up to 60 hours of coursework.

You may think this is a lot, but unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. You could face a license suspension that will last up to six months. If you don’t do the BAC test after you’re arrested, that suspension could last up to one year. There is some leniency for first-time offenders, though. If you need your car to get to school or work, then you might just have to install an ignition interlock device in your car so you can drive without any further restrictions.

The second time you’re charged with a DUI, you could have to go to jail for 96 hours at the very least and up to one year at the most and be charged with a misdemeanor. You may be able to avoid jail time if you go on house arrest or participate in a jail-alternative work program instead. You may also have to go on probation for three to five years. Your fines will range from $390 to $1,000 (and penalty assessments) and you will need to attend DUI school for 18 or 30 months. Your license may be suspended for one year, but you could apply for a restricted license with the IID in your car.

Typically, a third DUI will still be classified as a misdemeanor. You could have to go to jail for 120 days at least and up to one year max. The fines are still $390 to $1,000 plus penalty assessments, and you could get probation for three to five years. Your DUI school will last 30 minutes, and your license will be suspended for three years. You could still get a restricted license with an IID in your car for two years at least.

You could get a felony charge for your fourth DUI in 10 years. Also, you could go to prison for 16 months at least to up to four years at most and pay fines ranging from $390 to $1,000 plus penalty assessments. If anyone gets hurt while you’re driving under the influence, then you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony and go to prison for 16 months to four years while paying fines of $390 to $5,000. And if anyone died because you were driving under the influence, then you could face second-degree murder or negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Your jail time could range from one year to 15 years to life at most.

What to Do If You’re Pulled Over for a DUI

If you get pulled over for a DUI, there are things you should and should not to do to guarantee the best possible outcome. Of course, always be respectful to the cops and listen to what they ask of you. This means handing over your license and registration when they ask. Don’t make any sudden moves unless they instruct you to. Always keep your hands on the wheel until you get out of the car or they ask you to move them.

If they ask you whether or not you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you can always remain silent because you’re exercising your Miranda rights. If you’re uncomfortable, just tell them, “I’m going to need to talk to my lawyer first before answering any questions.” You do not have to participate in any sobriety tests or undergo chemical testing until they arrest you. Then, once they do arrest you, you should agree to do these tests or else you could face further charges and consequences.

If you are sent to jail, then make a phone call to a family member so they can find an Oakland DUI attorney for you. Or, if you already have an attorney, reach out to them and simply say you’ve been arrested for a DUI.

Try to remember everything that happened during your arrest as soon as you get home so you can write down all the details. These could help you with your case later on.

Defenses for a DUI in California

When you get in touch with an Oakland DUI attorney, they are going to help you determine if you have any defenses for your charges.

The cops may have pulled you over and conducted an illegal search, for instance. Maybe you had a rising BAC, which means that when you first started driving, it was under .08%, but as you drove, it rose higher. The chemical testing or Breathalyzer test might have been erroneous, or perhaps your BAC was so high because you have GERD, diabetes, or acid reflux.

The walk-and-turn test could have been difficult for you because you have bad balance, or you could have just been tired because you were driving late at night. Keep in mind that not all field sobriety tests are standardized and recognized by recognized by NHTSA (the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) and the federal government. These tests are too flimsy and prone to error to demonstrate impairment.

Additionally, maybe you were sitting in your car with the engine running when the cops came up to you and demanded that they test you for impairment. If you were not driving, and you didn’t plan to drive, then this could be a defense for your DUI.

Why Hire an Oakland DUI Defense Attorney?

You may be wondering why you need an Oakland DUI defense attorney for your DUI charges, especially when you believe you could represent yourself for free or use the free court-appointed lawyer. Additionally, you think there is no way out of these charges, so you might as well go to jail, pay the fines, and deal with the other consequences.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. A skilled Oakland DUI defense attorney will be able to help you defend yourself against these charges, which may not even be valid. If they are, then your attorney can possibly get these charges reduced. For instance, they may be able to strike a plea bargain – which is what happens in most criminal defense cases – so that you won’t have to go to trial and face a jury, which could end up being a much worse situation for you. Instead, you may have to pay some fines and serve less time in jail, but it’s better than the alternative.

When you representative yourself or use the court-appointed lawyer, you’re taking a huge gamble with your future. Court-appointed lawyers are overwhelmed with cases and will not be able to give your case the attention it deserves. This could end up costing you big time when it comes to how you’ll move forward with your life. You could end up having to go to jail for an extended period of time, paying huge fines, not being able to secure a place to live, or have trouble finding a job because employers don’t want to hire ex-convicts.

An Oakland criminal defense attorney will work hard on your case so that you have the best chance possible of achieving a favorable outcome. They may also be able to expunge the DUI from your record as long as you aren’t dealing with other criminal charges and you have served your penalties including probation. The only caveat is that you cannot have gone to state prison to be eligible for expungement. However, going to jail could still qualify you for expungement.

Protecting Yourself From a DUI

To avoid having to contend with DUI charges, it’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel when drinking or under the influence of drugs. You can always use a BAC calculator to figure out what your BAC level may be before driving. For instance, if a 150-pound male drinks three beers with an ABV of 5% in one hour, then his BAC is going to be .09%, which is over the limit. When you plan on going out drinking, you could use Uber or Lyft to get home, or rely on a friend to take you home, instead of worrying about your BAC. And if you go out to a bar or party, never leave your drink unattended, just in case somebody spikes it and you end up with a higher BAC.

If you take prescription drugs that make you impaired or use marijuana, it’s best to stay at home or in a safe place and not get behind the wheel, just in case these drugs affect your ability to drive.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry not only for your sake, but for the sake of everyone out on the road as well.

Contacting Oakland DUI Defense Attorney Elliot Silver

DUI Attorney Elliot Silver has handled a number of DUI cases for clients.

When a nurse anesthetist came to Elliot Silver because they were charged with driving under the influence, he obtained a total dismissal of the DUI. This nurse anesthetist didn’t face criminal charges or have their professional license taken away. This could have ended up causing irrevocable harm to their personal and professional life, but with Elliot Silver’s help, they were able to avoid this fate.

If you’re anxious because you’ve been charged with a DUI and you want to make sure you don’t go to jail or face other consequences, there is hope. You can always reach out to Oakland DUI defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at He is standing by and eager to help you with your DUI case.

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