Will I Have to Serve Jail Time for My DUI/DWI?

Factors that can come into play in determining whether you'll go to jail for a drunk driving conviction.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law
In many states, you can avoid jail time for a standard first DUI. But if you have prior DUI convictions or the current offense involves certain aggravating factors, the likelihood of spending at least some time in jail goes up.

Jail Time for a DUI Conviction

The amount of time, if any, a person will spend in jail for a DUI conviction depends on the number of prior DUI convictions and the circumstances of the current offense.

First-Offense DUIs and Jail

Whether a DUI conviction will lead to jail depends on a number of circumstances. In many states—including Florida and Pennsylvaniajail time isn't mandatory (though it is possible) for a standard first DUI conviction where no one was injured or killed.

Even in states where jail time is mandatory for a first DUI conviction, the offender can sometimes avoid having to actually serve the time in jail by doing house arrest, community service, or some other alternative sentencing option.

Jail Time for Repeat DUI Offenders

A number of states require one or more days jail for a second or subsequent DUI offense. For instance, New Hampshire doesn't mandate jail time for a first DUI but requires at least 17 days in jail for a second DUI conviction. And even in states where jail time isn't required by law for repeat offenders, judges almost always have the option, which they often exercise, of sentencing a motorist convicted of a second or subsequent DUI to serve time in jail.

The bottom line is that the likelihood of spending time in jail goes up substantially when you have prior DUI convictions.

DUI Aggravating Factors that Can Lead to Jail Time

Apart from prior convictions, lots of other factors can increase the likelihood of spending time behind bars for a DUI conviction. These factors might include accidents (especially when they involve injuries, death, or substantial property damage), a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and having minors in your vehicle at the time of a DUI offense.

Talk to a DUI Attorney

Whatever the circumstances of your case, it's a good idea to talk to an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. A qualified DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to your situation and help you decide on the best course of action.

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