DUI charges can be fought and won. However, every case is different, and in the event of a California felony DUI conviction there are several alternatives to jail that should be explored if a DUI conviction is inevitable. These alternative sentencing options include:
- Community Service
- Cal-Trans or Graffiti Removal
- Work Furlough
- Private or City Jail
- In-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation per California Penal Code section 2900.5
Community service is fairly light labor, such as working in a county-run thrift store or performing light work in a park, church, or other approved place. Community service hours here are usually the most flexible of all the alternative sentencing options. Depending on the needs of the work site, it may be possible to chip away at the obligation in blocks of four hours or even less.
Cal Trans or Graffiti Removal tends to be much heavier work; these are the folks that you might see wearing orange jumpsuits and picking up trash by the roadway, or working on an organized anti-graffiti project by painting over walls that have been tagged by graffiti artists. The workdays are usually ten-hour days; there is far less flexibility with Cal-Trans than there is with community service, and the work is far more physically arduous. That said, it is usually in the outdoors, and may be preferable to the confinement and danger associated with being in formal custody.
Work furlough programs usually involve staying in a dormitory-like environment, where “inmates” are released to go to work for up to 12 hours a day, five (or more) days per week, and returning to the dorm to sleep each night. In order to be accepted into a work furlough program, the applicant is typically screened to ensure they are a low-risk for creating a dangerous environment. Those with lengthy criminal histories are often excluded from this option. There may be some other requirements, such as a minimum sentence of 30 days. Work furlough is not usually an option for short sentences.
Private or City Jail, also sometimes called “pay to stay” jail, is another sentencing alternative to be considered. The options here will vary, but generally it is paying for each day of staying at a police or sheriff’s station. The benefits here are many: it usually means a private cell, the ability to wear one’s own clothes, and some private or city jails allow inmates to bring in their own food, laptop computers, and other personal items. It may even be possible to have a private jail option that allows release up to 12 hours a day to go to work. The downside is that there is a cost associated with this option, and it will vary, but could be $50 per day or even more.
People arrested for DUI generally have one of two problems: either a bad luck problem, or an alcohol or drug addiction problem Because it is not infrequent that a DUI arrest and conviction is a wake-up call for someone suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction issues, it may be possible to get credit for time spent in a rehabilitation center in lieu of jail time, pursuant to California Penal Code section 2900.5. However, this is a very nuanced area and there are many requirements to ensure it is done properly. First, it must be a residential environment. Outpatient treatment, while helpful to many, will not suffice. Next, it must be done prior to being sentenced, and the person is then given credit under Penal Code 2900.5 at the time of sentencing. It would be improper to sentence someone into rehab prospectively. This may seem like a bit like a distinction without a difference, but woe unto the lawyer who does not understand this. It can mean the difference between avoiding jail, or not. In these kinds of cases, it is also extremely helpful to work with a recognized substance abuse expert, someone that can help advocate for alternative sentencing.