The best way to stay out of jail is, obviously, don’t drink then drive. People do make mistakes and errors in judgment however, and the courts will certainly be more lenient with a first time offender than a second or third time offender. Anyone can make a mistake and have just a little too much after celebrating a new job, a raise, or a big win for your soccer or softball team, but when the court sees you are back before the judge for the second, third, fourth or more time, it no longer seems like an error in judgment, it seems like a chronic problem. Judges are more than likely going to be sending you to jail if they feel you have left them no other alternative, and multiple convictions leave them with few alternatives than to simply lock you up. But more important than the jail time, it’s a known fact that drunk driving can be deadly, for you, your passengers, and other motorists.
Chances are, if you know you have an alcohol problem, you realize that this is an issue that requires support. Get the support you need by getting in touch with a treatment program and deal with it head on, before you’re facing a car head on, behind the wheel intoxicated. There are many wonderful treatment programs available to you; every state has them. Get the help you need to turn things around and you’ll be glad you did.
Fortunately for DUI offenders who reside in California, the state typically allows first-time offenders a reprieve, in that most do not go to jail. However, this is not always the case. There are many types of aggravating factors that could land a first-time DUI offender in jail, such as when the DUI offender causes an accident, or if they were excessively speeding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if their blood alcohol level is extremely high, etc.
If you’ve been convicted of a DUI offense you obviously want to stay out of jail regardless of whether this is your first conviction, second, third, or more, and you’ve probably hired an attorney to help you, which will increase your chances of serving no time or reduced time, significantly. If you’re a first-time offender, as mentioned above, your chances of staying out of jail are fairly high, so you may simply be tasked by the court to perform a certain amount of community service hours. But whatever your additional offenses, in addition to your DUI conviction, you should remember a few important principles that might help you prove to the court that you are taking matters seriously, which could help you to avoid jail.
Always be compliant with any requests of the court. If the court suggests a treatment program, volunteering, community service, whatever, enthusiastically accept the opportunity. And it is truly an opportunity and you should see it as such, because if the court is offering you anything in the way of support programs or treatment, etc., how you decide to respond to that will most certainly influence how the court views you as a productive member of society. When you demonstrate that you understand the consequences of your actions and take your conviction seriously, and you show that you are contrite and ready to turn things around, you’ll be showing the court that you are deserving of some leniency.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI and are awaiting your court date, be proactive. Take the initiative, and get yourself into a drug or alcohol treatment/counseling program and get to work on your issues before your court date. This way your attorney can report to the court that you have already committed to a drug or alcohol program of your own volition. This will show the court that you are trying to be a responsible person and deal with your drug or alcohol problem head on. Most judges will respect you more for taking the initiative on your own before being asked to do so, and may decide to give you some leniency, possibly allowing you to engage in further programs, such as a residential rehabilitation program.
On occasion, some judges may agree to a work-release program. If you have dependents and you are the principal provider, a judge may weigh your offenses against the needs of your family, and could possibly allow you to enter into a work-release program.
There are many types of work-release programs, some that allow an offender to maintain the job they already had before their arrest, and some that are more community-improvement based, while others may offer opportunities for self improvement (education, job training, etc.)
Thankfully, the days of the ‘chain gang’ are long gone, and today work-release can offer not only an opportunity for one to avoid jail or decrease actual incarceration time, but also an opportunity to enrich themselves, learn new skills, and prepare to be a more productive member of society. Although this is not always the case, you may get a work-release opportunity that requires long days working outside improving the community in some manner. But whatever you are offered, most would agree it is better than being in jail, even if it is only during the days, or parts of the week.
Since 2012, an amendment to the California Penal Code has reconfigured how some people serve their sentences. The relatively new amendment allows a participant “to receive work release credit for documented participation in educational programs, vocational programs, substance abuse programs, life skills programs, or parenting programs. Participation in these programs shall be considered in lieu of performing labor in a work release program, with eight work-related hours to equal to one day of custody credit.”