Drivers convicted of DUI can face a wide range of consequences including jail time, license suspension, fines, and any number of collateral consequences that come with having a permanent criminal record. However, DUI offenders may be able to avoid jail time by pursuing alternative sentencing options. Alternative sentencing is more rehabilitative in nature in that it allows people to maintain their employment and attend treatment. In most cases, alternative sentencing is accomplished through plea agreements. It is important that you consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer who fully understands the San Diego DUI sentencing alternatives that may be available.

Types of San Diego DUI Sentencing Alternatives

Alternative sentencing options can vary by county and are largely left to the judge’s discretion. Alternative sentencing is not attainable in every case and judges will take a number of factors into consideration in deciding whether any of these options are appropriate. Some of the key considerations will be:

  • The specific circumstances of your case
  • Whether you are a potential risk to yourself or others
  • Prior probation or parole violations
  • Your criminal history


Probation allows DUI offenders to avoid jail time contingent upon their agreement to fulfill certain conditions for a fixed period of time. The probation requirement can either be supervised, which requires you to regularly report to a probation officer, or summary, which does not require you to regularly report to a probation officer. Typical probation conditions include:

  • Not driving with a measurable amount of alcohol in your blood
  • Not committing another criminal offense
  • Agreeing to submit to a chemical test if arrested on a new DUI charge
  • Paying fines

Probation may also include any combination of the types of alternative sentences described below.

Community Service

This option is normally sentenced in addition to other types of alternatives and is very common for first-time DUI offenders. Generally, the court will designate the organization for community service. Regardless of the organization, you will have to log your hours so that you can provide documentation to the court that community service has been completed. The community service requirement will have to be completed within a specified period of time.

Substance Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation

If your DUI charge is the result of a more serious drug or alcohol problem, or you have been convicted of multiple DUIs within a certain timeframe, the judge may require you to attend an outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation program. There are a multitude of treatment programs offered throughout California, and the length of the court-ordered program can vary depending on the individual needs of the DUI offender and whether he or she has been convicted of multiple DUIs.

Electronic Monitoring Program or House Arrest

An electronic tracking device is used to monitor the movements of a DUI offender and is typically used for those sentenced to house arrest. A person under house arrest is only permitted to go to locations approved by the court, which is normally work and/or school. The terms and conditions of the house arrest may also entail random drug testing and curfew restrictions. Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) devices measure blood alcohol and is usually limited to more severe cases where the DUI offender is believed to be addicted to alcohol. SCRAM devices can be used in situations where the person has not been sentenced to house arrest.

Work Furlough and Work Release Programs

While the specifics of the program depend on the court or jurisdiction, work furlough allows you to continue working at your existing job during the day, but requires that you report to a dormitory-like facility at night. Work release programs usually involve physical labor at a facility designated by the court such as roadside cleanup. Unlike with work furlough programs, participants are allowed to go home until they are required to report to work the following day.

Contact a San Diego DUI Defense Lawyer

Depending on the facts of your case, there may be several alternatives to serving jail time. If you are facing DUI charges, you should contact San Diego DUI defense lawyer Jessica McElfresh right away to discuss your legal options. McElfresh can review your case and determine if you are eligible for alternative sentencing. With her experience on both sides of the criminal process — prosecution and defense — she understands how to negotiate with prosecutors and has successfully obtained alternative sentencing for many of her clients. She will fight aggressively to keep you out of jail and work to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

To learn more about how we can help, call McElfresh Law Inc today at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a free consultation.

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