California Sentencing Alternatives

California counties - map view

California counties - map view

The following is a list of alternative sentencing schemes that are offered in various courts throughout California.

Take Note: NOT ALL OF THESE ALTERNATIVES ARE AVAILABLE IN EVERY COUNTY. There is much variation from county to county, and even within various courthouses within a given county. Therefore, it is critical that you contact DUI LAWS attorney that is familiar with the practices in the court where your case will be heard.

Private Jail

Private jail, also known as "city jail" is an opportunity for non-violent offenders to serve their time in a non-threatening environment, often a local police station or separate facility. Accommodations are much nicer than county jail, and often include private rooms instead of cells, the opportunity to bring books or laptop computers, and better food that the "inmates" sometimes cook themselves. The downside: cost. Most private jails or city jails charge at least $50.00 per night, and often more.

Also, most judges will not give "good time" credits for time spent in private jail. When someone is sentenced to county jail, they will typically serve 2/3 of their sentence, due to extra "good time" credits that are given. (There are some sentences that require as much as 85% of the sentence to be performed; this also does not take into account some early release programs due to jail overcrowding.) However, for city jail sentences, where, for example, 10 days of jail is ordered, the defendant will actually serve 10 days in jail.

Roadside Labor

Cal-Trans labor is a frequently assigned jail alternative in DUI or drunk driving sentence. It involves picking up trash on the side of the freeways, or other kinds of relatively hard labor duties. As with city jail, good time credits are not given.


Other Labor

Community Service or Graffiti Removal are two other kinds of alternative sentences in DUI cases. Community Service tends to be a much lighter and less arduous assignment than Cal-Trans. It may involve working at a county-run thrift shop, volunteering at a church or school, or other similar light work.

Work Release

Some counties, such as Ventura, have a work release program as an alternative to jail. It is similar to Cal-Trans work, although the labor is assigned based on physical ability. The good news: you get to go home at night and sleep in your own bed.

Work Furlough

Some counties, Ventura, for example, have a work furlough program. Typically, this program is only available to persons that receive a sentence of 30 days in jail or more. Work furlough is a dorm-like setting, where "inmates" are allowed to leave each day to go to work, and must return to the dorm each evening to spend the night.


Alcohol or Drug Rehabilitation

Sometimes, people are arrested for drunk driving because of bad luck, or as the result of exercising bad judgment on one particular, isolated occasion. However, other times people are arrested for drunk driving or some other DUI offense because they suffer from an alcohol or drug problem.

For these people, one effective sentencing alternative may be time spent in rehab. California Penal Code Section 2900.5 allows for time spent in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation center to count just like jail time. If the time spent in the rehab program exceeds the amount of jail that the court ordered, the extra time may be credited towards fines that are owed to the court. An alcohol or drug rehabilitation program will often be covered by health insurance. A typical program will last as long as 28 days, or more, depending on need.

Sober living environments

Like alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, Penal Code Section 2900.5 allows for time spent in sober living environments to count towards a jail sentence, or to count towards some of the fines and fees imposed by the court as the result of a DUI or drunk driving case.

Many people who enter into a formal rehabilitation program will transition into a sober living environment after completion of the rehab program. This is especially true if the sufferer requires a medically supervised "detox" program.

However, many individuals do not require such an intensive "detox" program, and can go directly into sober living. The chief benefit of sober living over rehab is that many sober living residents are allowed to leave to go to work during the day, returning to the sober living house at night for group meetings, or to attend 12-step meetings outside the house.


Electronic Monitoring

Some courts will allow electronic monitoring as an alternative to traditional jail sentences for people convicted of drunk driving. The monitoring is usually done through the probation department, or through an outside company which contracts with the probation department. People on electronic monitoring are fitted with an ankle-bracelet that electronically communicates with the communication center if the person leaves their home without permission. Often, people on electronic monitoring are allowed to leave to go to work, to do laundry, grocery shopping, or attend to other court-ordered programs or personal errands. Electronic monitoring is probably the least restrictive of the sentencing alternatives for those convicted of DUI or any kind of drunk driving offense.


Drunk driving defense is a specialized area. Let one of the qualified DUI LAWS attorneys find a solution to your legal problem if you, or someone you care about, has been arrested for DUI or DWI. Contact a DUI LAWS lawyer near you for a free consultation at 1.800.DUI.LAWS.

Please note: Laws change frequently and thus the information provided should not be relied upon as legal advice. To be certain, contact a criminal defense attorney for a legal assistance. is not liable for any misinformation that users obtain from using this site.

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