What is a DUI “Work Furlough” and How Does it Work in California?

Being convicted of driving under the influence in California does not always mean that you will serve jail time. Not all DUI sentences are meant to exclusively punish drunk drivers. Some sentences are meant to rehabilitate drunk drivers so they do not commit the same crime in the future. 

Therefore, even if you serve jail time, you could be granted a work furlough to keep your job. It is in the public interest for offenders to maintain employment during incarceration for DUI so they can return to society as gainfully employed individuals. However, there are several things you need to know about work furlough after a DUI conviction before agreeing to participate in a work furlough program. 

What is Meant by Work Furlough in a California DUI Case?

All DUI offenses in California have the potential for jail time. Any time spent in jail could result in job loss. However, sentencing all drunk drivers to jail time might not be in the best interest of the general public. 

Jail sentences are intended to punish offenders for criminal acts. Incarcerating offenders separates dangerous individuals from law-abiding citizens. However, many drunk drivers are not violent criminals. Other than being convicted of driving under the influence, they are law-abiding, taxpaying individuals with jobs and families.

Therefore, California offers alternatives to jail time for some DUI offenders. Work furlough allows a person convicted of drunk driving to continue working their job instead of sitting in jail all day. Each 8-hour day they work at an existing job counts toward one day in jail. The job can be anything, as long as you had the job when you were sentenced for a DUI offense.

Do You Stay in Jail During a Work Furlough Program?

No, you generally are not required to spend your nights in jail during work furlough. However, you are not free to spend your off-time hours wherever you please. Generally, most work furlough programs require individuals to reside in dormitory facilities when they are not at work. 

The dormitory facilities provide a place to sleep, eat, and bathe. Even though the state requires you to stay at the dormitory during a work furlough program, the state requires you to pay a fee for living at the facility. The court may discount the fee based on your income.

Additionally, the state requires you to provide transportation to and from your job. Therefore, if you lost your driving privileges because of the DUI charges, you must arrange for public transportation, rideshares, or other ways to get to and from your job from the dormitory facility. Taking public transportation is not an excuse for being late to work or returning to the dormitory facility.

What Are the Benefits of a Work Furlough Program for DUI Offenses?

The most obvious benefits for work furlough are avoiding spending time in jail and keeping your job while serving your DUI sentence. Missing even a few days or a month of time from work could result in job loss. The work furlough program avoids unemployment because of a DUI conviction.

Even though you must pay a fee for work furlough, you continue to earn a living while serving your DUI sentence. That means you can continue to pay your bills, which means you can keep your car and your home. Some DUI offenders face foreclosure, repossession, and debt collection actions because they served time in jail for a drunk driving conviction. 

How Do I Know if I Am Eligible for DUI Work Furlough?

Talk with an experienced California DUI defense lawyer about your case. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you will receive work furlough instead of jail time for a DUI conviction. However, having an experienced lawyer fighting for you can increase the chance of a favorable outcome. 

A work furlough could be a part of a negotiated plea agreement for a drunk driving offense. The prosecutor may agree to recommend work furlough in exchange for a guilty plea. The agreement benefits the public by punishing a criminal offender while helping you keep your job and get your life back on track after a DUI. 

How Does Work Furlough Differ from Work Release?

Work release is different from work furlough. Work release is a program that allows a convicted person to perform hard work to benefit the community instead of sitting in a jail cell. Today, work release may include hard labor, but it may also include work that improves the community. For example, work release may include cleaning garbage from roadsides and parks. 

However, work release may include other activities according to Assembly Bill 2127. Individuals may now receive credit for work release if they:

  • Attend an alcohol or drug treatment program
  • Complete life skills and training classes
  • Attending vocational training classes or programs
  • Complete education programs, such as GED courses

Under the current law, a full day working toward any of these activities counts as a full day in jail. Individuals must pay an administrative fee and provide their own transportation. Part-time work release may include weekend-only programs that allow you to continue working a full-time job during the week.

What Are the Punishments for a DUI Conviction in California?

A first-time DUI conviction can result in up to six months in jail. Additionally, you may pay fines and assessments totaling $1,500 and $2,000. The judge may also suspend driving privileges, order up to five years of summary probation, require DUI school, and require installation of an ignition interlock device for six months. 

The penalties increase if you have a prior DUI conviction within the past ten years or any felony DUI conviction. You face more time in jail, higher fines, and longer periods of driving suspension, DUI school, and alcohol treatment programs. 

Avoiding a DUI conviction begins with building a strong defense against drunk driving charges. A California DUI lawyer can help by investigating your DUI case and gathering evidence proving innocence, mitigating circumstances, or police misconduct.

Potential Defense to Driving Under the Influence in California 

California Vehicle Code §23152 prohibits a driver from:

  • Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher
  • Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage

The law assumes you cannot operate a motor vehicle safely once your BAC reaches .08%. However, driving with any alcohol in your system could result in DUI charges. The prosecution would then need to prove that the alcohol in your system impaired your ability to drive a vehicle safely even though the BAC was below the legal limit.

Therefore, a common defense to driving under the influence charges is that you were not impaired at the time of your DUI arrest. Your attorney may argue that a medical condition made you appear intoxicated when dealing with the police officer or taking the field sobriety tests. Another defense would be that a medical condition caused you to appear drunk, such as epilepsy, brain damage, or an extremely low sugar level from diabetes.

If your BAC was above the legal limit, there are still options for defending DUI charges. You may challenge the results of a breathalyzer or chemical test in several ways, including:

  • The machine malfunctioned because of a defect 
  • The device was not calibrated correctly
  • Police officers did not wait the specified time or monitor you for the specific time before conducting a chemical test
  • The results of a blood test are inaccurate because of blood fermentation
  • The use of contaminated samples and failure to maintain chain of custody
  • Motions challenging breath tests based on partition ratios
  • The lab technicians or police officers made critical mistakes that resulted in inaccurate results

In addition to challenging chemical tests and whether you were impaired, there are also DUI defenses related to violations of your civil rights. For example, if the police officer lacked probable cause for a DUI stop or DUI arrest, the judge could throw out evidence obtained by the officers because of an illegal search and seizure. Your attorney carefully analyzes all evidence against you and the circumstances of your case to determine the best defense strategy to use.

Pleading Guilty to DUI Charges in California 

In some situations, it might be in your best interest to negotiate a plea deal instead of going to trial on charges of driving under the influence. However, it is not wise to negotiate a plea agreement without a lawyer. 

The prosecutor is not a trusted source of legal advice. It is their job to obtain a conviction. Therefore, the prosecutor in your case will not tell you if the evidence against you is weak or if you have a valid defense against DUI charges. Instead, the prosecutor offers a plea deal that might result in harsher penalties than you deserve.

An experienced California DUI defense attorney emphasizes the problems with the case and mitigating circumstances that could go against the prosecution during a trial. The attorney uses this information to negotiate fair terms for a plea agreement. You have the right to legal counsel, and you should exercise that right if you are arrested for DUI in California.

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