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When Will You Go to Jail for a DUI?

Sabah Khalaf
6 minute read

All DUIs carry jail time—even your first offense can carry up to one year in jail. That being said, you probably won’t end up behind bars for a first offense. Most DUI cases receive a plea offer from the State that will give you probation instead of jail time. However, that doesn’t mean that you will never go to jail for a DUI. Below are some cases that can lead to jail time.

First-Degree Manslaughter

Often called vehicular manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, this charge is defined as a death arising out of a DUI accident. First-degree manslaughter can be simplified as a negligent act that results in the death of another. To be convicted of first-degree manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that: (1) a person died; (2) you were the cause of that death; (3) the incident occurred while you were committing a misdemeanor.

If you are convicted of first-degree manslaughter, you can spend up to life in prison. There are many factors that can affect your sentence and you may be offered a plea deal with a shorter prison sentence. Regardless, you can expect to spend some time in jail.

Repeat DUIs

While your first DUI carries up to a year in jail, it is unlikely that you will serve any jail time. Your first DUI sentence typically comprises probation and classes. However, a DUI is a predicate offense. This means your punishment gets worse each time you get a subsequent DUI. While your first DUI is a misdemeanor, your second becomes a felony and the potential prison sentence increases. You most likely won’t receive any jail time for your second DUI; if you do, it won’t be lengthy and usually is split with some probation. Your third DUI carries up to 10 years in prison and you can expect to spend some time in jail.

Great Bodily Injury

If you are driving under the influence and cause an accident that leads to great bodily injury, you will probably spend some time in jail. Bodily injury is defined as that which “...creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

Unlike a general DUI, a DUI with great bodily injury is a felony even if it is your first criminal charge and carries between 4 and 20 years in prison. The plea offer you receive from the State will vary greatly depending on how intoxicated you were, your criminal history, and the extent of the victim’s injuries.

Child Endangerment

If you are driving under the influence with a child in the car, you will not only be charged with a DUI, but also with felony child endangerment. Additionally, if you allow your child to get into the vehicle with a driver you know is intoxicated, you can be charged with child endangerment. A child endangerment charge carries up to 4 years in prison.

You most likely will not receive jail time for your first charge of child endangerment, but the facts of your case will always affect the plea deal you are offered. If you were extremely intoxicated and drove with a toddler in the car to purchase more alcohol, you may receive some jail time. Conversely, if you were only slightly under the influence and had to drive your 15-year-old to the hospital for an emergency, you most likely won’t receive jail time.

Probation Violation

You can expect to get some jail time if you are on a suspended sentence and violate your probation. There are two types of probation: a deferred sentence and a suspended sentence. A deferred sentence is often lengthier and ends with an automatic partial expungement if you successfully complete your probation. Typically, if you violate your probation while on a deferred sentence, you will be “accelerated” to a suspended sentence. Your probation requirements will not change while you are on the suspended sentence, but the State may restart the clock on your probation.

A violation of probation while on a suspended sentence is a completely different story. Unlike with a deferred sentence, you won’t be given the opportunity for more probation. A suspended sentence is designed to be a jail term that is “suspended” to probation and is contingent upon your compliance. If you violate your probation, the State “revokes” your “suspension” and places you in custody.

Many times, you don’t intend to violate your probation and are simply unaware of some of the requirements. Below is a list of probation requirements you must comply with:

  • Do not get any new criminal charges (this includes out of county and out of state)
  • Complete all class requirements (drug and alcohol assessment, Victim’s Impact Panel, ADSAC DUI class, etc.)
  • Attend your DA supervision check ins (varies from county to county, can be in person or over the phone
  • Obtain all urine analysis checks (if applicable)
  • Make all required DA supervision payments
  • Make all required court clerk payments
  • Do not leave the state
  • Maintain any in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation (if required)
  • Complete all community service hours

One of the best ways to ensure you are in compliance with your probation is to maintain contact with the DA supervision office. Speak with them regularly about your requirements and what you need to do to stay out of custody.

The Bottom Line

While you typically will not go to jail for a DUI, there are many extenuating circumstances that could lead to jail time. Don’t let a DUI take you from your family; make sure you hire an attorney who understands the legal system and the plea deals that will keep you at home.

If you have been charged with a DUI and are worried that you could end up serving jail time, contact us for a free consultation.