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Criminal Defense

Can I Avoid Jail Time on a First DUI?

6 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

In most states, you can avoid jail time if the DUI (driving under the influence) is your first offense. But it depends on the circumstances under which the DUI occurred. Here’s what you need to know. 

Whether you will need to spend time in jail when convicted of a DUI depends on several factors. The two main considerations are the number of previous similar offenses and the circumstances of your current DUI.

In most states, jail time for a DUI conviction is not mandatory if no injuries occurred. And even in states where jail time for a DUI is mandatory, you can often avoid it, and the judge will replace it with house arrest or community service. 

It’s a good idea to consult a DUI lawyer who can plead with the judge on your behalf and get you a lighter sentence. 

We can connect you to a local unbundled attorney in your area to discuss your case.

What Affects Your Sentence in a DUI Case?

The judge will consider many factors in a DUI case. 

One of the main factors is whether this is your first such offense. Usually, the judge will be more understanding if you don’t have prior DUI convictions. Here, your chances of avoiding jail time are very high. If you have a prior DUI conviction, avoiding jail time may be harder.

Besides prior convictions, other factors may increase the probability of jail time for a DUI.

If anyone sustained injuries or was killed as a result of your accident, it’s likely you will be charged with a felony and have to do jail time. This considers third-party participants of your traffic accident and the passengers in your vehicle.

Having children in your vehicle at the time of the offense will also aggravate the situation and, most likely, lead to harsher punishment. If you had your child or children in the car with you at the time of the accident, it will also affect your current child custody and visitation arrangements, if such are in place.

Causing substantial property damage is another factor that will influence the judge’s decision. They will also consider your criminal record, whether you are expressing remorse, your conduct during the arrest (for instance, the refusal to take a breathalyzer test), and more.

In some states, the level of alcohol in your blood will also be a factor affecting the judge’s decision. So, a blood alcohol level that is higher than the impairment standard of 0.8% will lead to a stricter sentence for your DUI. 

Examples of DUI Sentencing Alternatives

If your lawyer convinces the judge you don’t deserve a jail sentence, he may impose one of these sentences: 

Probation. This is definitely a better option than jail time, as they will release you from police custody and you may return to your normal life. However, they will assign a probation officer who will closely monitor your behavior. During the probation period, any offense your commit will have serious consequences and may even result in a new jail sentence. 

House arrest. Judges sometimes impose house arrest as an alternative to a jail sentence. During the house arrest period, you can’t leave your property and must wear a monitoring device around your ankle. This device alerts the authorities if you leave your home. The device may also come with Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) that will detect and measure the alcohol content in your sweat. This means you will need to watch your alcohol use during the time of your house arrest. Failure to observe the required rules may put the jail sentence back on the table. 

Community service. Another sentence alternative is community service. This may involve several activities such as picking up trash on the side of the road, collecting food for a local food bank, volunteering for charities, and more. Court-ordered community service can include up to 500 hours of work. The type of work you will do depends on the availability of work in your community. The type of work they will assign you to do depends on your abilities and your life situation. The only requirement is that the work you do must benefit the community. 

Alcohol rehabilitation center. If you have a history of alcohol abuse, the judge may assign you to undergo alcohol rehabilitation. Here, you will need to spend a specific amount of time in a designated rehabilitation facility instead of spending time in jail. The intent is to battle your alcohol dependency and ensure that you won’t become a repeat offender.

Attending a DUI school. In some states (for instance, California), the court may also assign you to attend a DUI school. A DUI school is a court-approved program on alcohol awareness. There are different ‌DUI courses available, and how long you will need to attend one depends on the severity of your offense. Sobriety is generally required while you attend the program.

Will I Need a Lawyer’s Assistance in a DUI case?

Usually, it is best to have a lawyer guide you through the legal proceedings of your DUI. A professional attorney will give you a realistic evaluation of your case and help you negotiate a lighter sentence. There are many factors considered during your DUI sentencing, and you may not be aware of some of the attenuating circumstances that might help your case. Different jurisdictions have different laws and sentencing practices for DUI cases—a lawyer will help you understand the legal framework of your case and will advise you on your best options.

How Expensive Is a DUI Lawyer?

In most situations, a DUI lawyer charges you a flat fee to take on your case. This will include a full set of services, from researching the circumstance of your offense to attending court hearings. The cost of such services may vary from $1,000 to $8,000, depending on the complexity of your case. Note that if there is any additional work that the lawyer will do on your case, they may charge you an additional per hour fee of $300 to $500. And if your situation is ‌difficult, you may pay upwards of $10,000. 

How To Avoid Expensive Lawyer Fees with Unbundled Legal Services?

As you can see, managing a DUI conviction can get expensive. Fortunately, there is a way to reduce your legal costs by using Unbundled Legal Help and unbundled legal services. You don’t have to pay a flat fee for a set of services. Instead, you can hire a lawyer for a specific task and pay just for this task. For instance, you may only need a lawyer’s help when attending your court hearing. As you will only pay for one or several services instead of a full package of services, you may save thousands of dollars in legal fees. 

Paying for a few select services is a great way to save money. But it will not be the best option for every case. If you are dealing with a ‌serious DUI offense, you will most likely require full legal representation. You can still turn to a lawyer from our network for full representation. We work with several independent attorneys and smaller law firms and you may find their flat fee for full representation more affordable.

We can connect you with a DUI attorney in your area today.

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