After The Press-Enterprise published a Feb. 6 report stating that most drunk drivers are cited and released if pulled over by officers from the Riverside Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department made a point Thursday of clarifying its protocol: “99 percent of all DUI arrestees [are booked] into jails.”
Although the sheriff’s department sends offenders to county jail, “typically DUI arrestees are only held in … custody until sober and then given court dates so they do not impact our overcrowding crisis. The jails do not release intoxicated subjects back onto the street,” said Sgt. Lisa McConnell of the sheriff’s department.
With the exception of Murrieta and part of Hemet, all Southwest Riverside County cities contract for law enforcement services through the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
The DUI/jail issue became front and center for the Riverside PD after the Feb. 3 arrest of the department’s Lt. Larry Gonzalez. According to the Feb. 6 Press-Enterprise report, Gonzalez struck a mailbox and retaining wall while allegedly driving under the influence in the city in an unmarked police vehicle. Officers from the Riverside Police Department arrested and cited him on suspicion of driving under the influence before driving him home, The Press-Enterprise reported.
McConnell said the sheriff’s department has a different policy.
“It has been the position of the Sheriff, since taking office, that members of the department arrested by our deputies for DUI are booked into our jails, just like other arrestees,” she explained.
But even if a suspected drunk driver is placed into custody and later convicted, chances are jail time will be minimal. Driving under the influence of alcohol in California is a misdemeanor crime provided there are no additional circumstances. First-time offenders (and often second- and third-time offenders) will lose their license, pay a fine, have their vehicle impounded, and be placed on probation, but extended jail time is unlikely. (See attached 2013 California Judges Benchguides.)
A conviction on a fourth DUI, and/or crashing a vehicle and/or causing injury while driving under the influence are generally considered felony crimes in the state and penalties are higher.
Click here to review the state’s DUI laws.