Can I Get Jail Time for a First Misdemeanor DUI Conviction?

Answer: By definition, a misdemeanor refers to a crime for which the penalty is up to one-year jail time. That doesn't mean that your state prescribes jail time for certain misdemeanors. And in addition, it does not mean you will be sentenced to jail time for your first misdemeanor DUI conviction. That depends on several different factors:

(Read more about the types of traffic offenses, such as misdemeanors and felonies.)

State DUI Laws

Laws that govern DUI penalties are different in every state, and sometimes even different by county. There are a variety of penalties that can be imposed on a person convicted of their first misdemeanor DUI, and in many state can include mandatory minimum jail time. Check your state's laws for first time DUI offenses.

  • In California and Connecticut there is a 48 hour mandatory minimum jail time for a first DUI conviction, but in Florida the minimum is only 8 hours.
  • In Arizona, the minimum is 10 days but up to 9 of them can be suspended.

Driving Record

Your driving history, particularly the number of previous alcohol related arrests may influence the determination. For example, in Ohio, you can be sentenced to jail time if you accumulate too many points on your license in too short a period of time. If you already had points on your license, a first DUI conviction could put you over the top and make jail time more likely in your case.

Aggravating Factors

Certain factors may influence decisions about incarceration these typically include whether minors were present in the vehicle, the speed of the driver, how excessive the BAC, and whether the driver resisted arrest.


It's possible that you or your attorney can negotiate for an alternative to jail time -- typically community service. For example, California has a 48 mandatory minimum jail sentence, it can be converted to community service.

  • In Connecticut, the mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail can be negotiated to 100 hours of community service in some cases.
  • In Ohio, the 3 day minimum jail time for a first DUI can be waived in favor or attendance at a driver intervention program that is combined with a period of probation.

An attorney will know the law in your state, and will know how to negotiate the best possible outcome for your situation.

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