April 20, 2006 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Any tips for serving a 2 day sentence in a Sonoma County, California jail?

A retirement age guy friend of mine got a DUI (due to a bad mix to prescription drugs, if it matters). It looks like he's going to get a fine and a couple days of jail time.

Anyway- he hasn't been to jail in 35 years and is wondering what to expect. Does anyone here have recent experience?

posted by small_ruminant to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My little brother (early 20s) just did a night in jail for a DUI in AZ. Other than general unpleasantness, he complained about being treated like a "real criminal." Meaning, the guards were intentionally being assholes to just about everyone (all there DUIs), especially those that seemed to look like normal, upright citizens. Nothing physical, but lots of cursing, threatening abuse and more jail-time, and general verbal hazing. But this is under the watch of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is rather infamous, so I don't know if this is what should be expected elsewhere.

Oh, and the food available in the vending machines was inedible.
posted by mullacc at 5:15 PM on April 20, 2006

I have a friend that was just in jail in Chicago for about a day. He said the older guys in there were a lot nicer than the younger ones, so maybe your friend will be a little better off.

Also, no one wanted to eat the baloney sandwiches, but everyone wanted the juice.
posted by penchant at 5:32 PM on April 20, 2006

Also, no one wanted to eat the baloney sandwiches, but everyone wanted the juice.

I do not understand this metaphor.
posted by aubilenon at 5:46 PM on April 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: heh. Well, I will warn about verbal harassment. I'm guessing if he gets going he can hold his own, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2006

It's not a metaphor. Pass on the food as much as you can, if you're in a holding cell, you just don't want to be going to the bathroom in front of everyone. If he's moved to general population, I don't have any advice.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:04 PM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: He does look like a normal upright citizen, but without his shirt he has a lot of tattoos. No gangs or anything, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:04 PM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: Hmm. I'll mention the bathroom, too, but he doesn't eat a lot anyway. He's got dietary restrictions due to Hep C- do you suppose they'll adapt for that?
posted by small_ruminant at 6:05 PM on April 20, 2006

No, they won't. Expect a Bologna slice between white bread. Even for vegans/Jews/Muslims/whomever, at least if you're not in gen pop.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2006

Holding cells (the drunk tank) are way different, from what I understand, than the regular jail. I've seen the holding cells in Sacramento many years ago (8), and it really wasn't that bad -- they were crowded as fuck, but the cons in there (and they were cons -- most of them were in there as the result of a parole violation sweep) were really nice to me (surprisingly enough). I was "OR"ed in about 24 hours.

I've heard regular jail time is a little more intense, but I haven't been there, so I can't speak to that.

IANAL, but I think your friend is unlikely to do *any* jail time, if this is a first offense -- usually with DUIs they let you do community service instead of jail time. I'm not sure if this is the case in his situation, obviously, but it's worth looking into.
posted by fishfucker at 4:27 PM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: Apparently there is a new get-tough-on-first-offenders thing going on in Sonoma County- thus the jail time. He'll probably get a couple thousand dollar fine, too.

I have heard that Sonoma Co.'s DA is anxious to show everyone what a hardass she is. For instance, I have heard that she tries to up every misdemeanor into a felony where possible. That isn't relevant in this case, but it shows the mindset.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:48 PM on April 20, 2006

I do not understand this metaphor.
posted by aubilenon at 7:46 PM CST on April 20 [!]

What allen.spaulding said: I didn't mean it to be a metaphor.

Just to clarify that.
posted by penchant at 5:36 PM on April 20, 2006

From what my dad told me about his stay -- get prepared to play cards, keep your head down and shut up unless talked to.

Two days is too short to get on anyone's radar.

Don't be a smart-ass, do as your told and just stay out of the way.
posted by Gucky at 6:20 PM on April 20, 2006

I've done several 2-3 day stays as a result of various activism projects. All were punishment for "contempt of cop", none were prosecuted. See note at end.

Contra Costa county jail in Martinez was by far the most pleasant. The jailors and prisoners were actually polite to each other. There very little cursing and a lot of please, thank you, yes sir, no sir. I remember one heated exchange where a prisoner and a jailor both threatened to file formal complaints. It was a bit surreal.

I'm not certain why my cell bock was so civilized, but here are some possible reasons:

  • Prisoners underwent a 24 hour observation period before they were assigned to a cell block. Unruly prisoners and the mentally ill were sent elsewhere. The absence of shit-flinging encouraged a more laid-back atmosphere. [Note: "shit-flinging" not used as a metaphor.]

  • Many prisoners were serving longer sentences. I presume they understood the system and wished to avoid transfer to less friendly facilities.

  • A shelf of books. I'd rather serve five days with books than three days without. (I've done both.)

    Based on this experience, I'd try to serve at North County rather than the MADF. But either would be better than some city jail. You can probably make this request during sentencing.

    On Preview: Follow Gucky's advice.

    ObGoogle: My arrests were due to overzealous and often illegal police actions. I have won more than one civil lawsuit arising from these abuses. Additionally, I've never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.

  • posted by ryanrs at 6:32 PM on April 20, 2006 [3 favorites]

    tiamat: That's why I put the words "real criminals" in quotes. Those were his words, not mine. And furthermore, whether you like it or not, people who commit DUIs and are otherwise law-abiding citizens with white-collar lifestyles do not view themselves as real criminals - to them, real criminals are rapists and gang-banging stick-up kids. So they get huffy about being treated roughly while in jail. I think my quotes did a fine job of evincing that sentiment without going into a derail. So as someone who also drivers sober and actually tried to provide some insight into the jail experience, I say fuck off with your sanctimonious bullshit.
    posted by mullacc at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2006

    Re. dietary restriction: In Berkeley, insist you are vegan. Not only are the vegan meals non-disgusting, you also get a lot more food. Since they only stock one vegan entree, you get three dinner-size meals a day. It's a mix of brown rice, tofu, peas, carrots, and other some other veggies. It even comes with a packet of soy sauce. [circa 2000]
    posted by ryanrs at 6:45 PM on April 20, 2006

    Not to derail too much (I hope), but I have a question for ryanrs: I've heard that you have to have special permission to visit Canada if you've ever been arrested in the US (even if you were never convicted). Do you know whether that's true or not (or whether it applies to countries besides Canada)?
    posted by Marla Singer at 7:32 PM on April 20, 2006

    If you were only arrested, there is no record of that attached to you anywhere federally (or even at the state level?), is there?
    posted by devilsbrigade at 8:25 PM on April 20, 2006

    Fingerprints would be on file. Other than that, I don't know.
    posted by Marla Singer at 8:29 PM on April 20, 2006

    I did 30 days last year for possession of pot in Shelby County, AL. I also did 15 days for DUI some years ago (I deserved it, and I learned my lesson), but that was in a tiny little city jail where I spent the time washing police cars and reading bad fantasy novels. I don't know what the rules are in CA, but down heah the DUI people doing weekend time aren't tossed in gen pop, they get their own little pod far away from us dangerous potheads.

    I was in with rapists, robbers, dealers, grifters, kidnappers, and murderers, and all anybody could talk about was Jesus and football. At least I'm a football fan. You'll play a lot of cards, you'll get hassled if you snore, and if they pod you (ie, place you in gen pop) you'll get yelled at and threatened the instant you walk in, but that's just the guys shaking you down and seeing what you're made of. The best way to handle it is to smile and flip everyone off.

    Don't start shit. When people try to start shit, walk away. Don't be everyone's friend, and don't be anyone's enemy. Never give anyone food from your tray -- you'll be branded a sissy, even if you really weren't planning to eat the lime Jell-O. Barter with them instead. I found a guy who loved Jell-O and he kept me supplied with Snickers bars, which is crazy, because he could have gotten all the free Jell-O he wanted if he'd just hoarded his cornbread.

    Don't talk to the guards, They are just looking to bust you down for something else.

    Hell, it's only 48 hours. You could do that standing on your head.

    (I know it isn't "you" but rather "him" but I'm this far along and don't feel like replacing all of the pronouns.)
    posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:57 PM on April 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

    Marla Singer, email me for an answer to your question, or post another thread. Too much derailing here already.
    posted by tiamat at 4:28 AM on April 21, 2006

    Will he be serving time in the Santa Rosa county lock up? I'm from Sonoma county, and most of the law enforcement personnel I've met from there have been pretty cool for the most part. I had an uncle who was at the Santa Rosa facility for a couple days and it didnt seem like it was that big a deal to him - he said that he guards were okay but the food sucked (duh, like prison food is ever good.). As long as your friend doesnt go crazy broadway style I dont think he's in for an ass whipping within 48 hours or anything.
    posted by supercrayon at 6:21 AM on April 21, 2006

    Two days is too short to get on anyone's radar.

    Absolutely correct. Tell him to simply avoid making any enemies, and mind his manners, and it will be over before he knows it--and he'll probably come out with a few interesting stories to boot.

    I don't know much about how jails in Cali work, but where I'm from (Nebraska), if you're in for less than a week they will definitely not worry about moving you around. It's just not worth their time to actually insert you into any kind of prison or give you anything more than a temporary place to sleep.

    Also, get some visitors lined up. Makes time pass a lot easier.

    In my experience, a two day jail stay was a very, very interesting and rewarding experience in that it taught me a bit about myself. Nothing to be worried about.
    posted by dead_ at 7:33 AM on April 21, 2006

    Response by poster: Yes, supercrayon, I think he'll be at the Santa Rosa lock up. It looks like he'll get his own cell, too. I don't know how they negotiate that.

    He's still fighting it, though. He's looking for a wet reckless. He wasn't drinking, but all the language assumes alcohol. Not that he should have been driving, but drunk driving seems like a different circumstance than prescription-drug-interaction driving.

    He's on disability. I have no idea how they expect him to pay the $1800 fine when he pulls in $700 a month to live on. He says they'll garnish his check $25/month or something.

    He hasn't driven since he got pulled over in December and he sold his car, so insurance increases aren't a big deal, at least for now.

    ryanrs, I think it's great that Berkeley has a vegan option- go Berkeley! I will remember that in case I ever need it.

    He can talk Jesus with the best of them, but he probably shouldn't because he's bound to piss people off.

    I also suspect anyone could do 2 days standing on your head, but he's stressed out about it.

    Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it.
    posted by small_ruminant at 9:41 AM on April 21, 2006

    They'll make a payment plan for the fine. Another downer is going to be DUI school. You have to go once a week for something like .. 12 weeks? If you miss a class, they fine you $20. The class, btw, is ridiculously expensive, because most DUI schools have exclusive contracts set up with the counties -- no competition, so they gouge the hell of out you.

    The "class" itself is primarily about how to avoid another DUI, or, occasionally, they'll talk about how to curb problem drinking. Usually the "teacher" talks for a bit and then puts on a video. I doubt they'll say anything about prescription drugs.
    posted by fishfucker at 11:30 AM on April 21, 2006

    It's been a couple days since last comment. Seems like a fine time for a bit of a derail...

    Marla Singer wrote: I've heard that you have to have special permission to visit Canada if you've ever been arrested in the US (even if you were never convicted).

    This is not mentioned in either the U.S. State Department's Tips for Travelers to Canada or the Canadian Embassy's Persons who are inadmissible to Canada.

    Citizenship and Immigration Canada discusses arrests in its FAQ on Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility:
    Q: I was charged with a crime in the United States and found “not guilty.” Am I criminally inadmissible?

    A: No. When a court decides you are not guilty of committing a crime, you will not be considered criminally inadmissible.

    For those unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system, an arrest has little long-term legal significance. For most common crimes, this is the path to jail:
    1. Arrest. A police officer believes you've commited a crime.
    2. Indictment or criminal complaint. A lawyer employed by the state believes you've commited a crime.
    3. Conviction. A jury believes you've commited a crime.
    An arrest or indictment without a corresponding conviction is not an indication of guilt—rather the opposite. An arrest is particularly insignificant since police officers have relatively little training in criminal law.*

    * The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training develops minimum training and curriculum standards for many California police departments. Their Regular Basic Course includes 599 hours of instruction. About 13% of this time is devoted to recognizing the elements of misdemeanor and felony crimes. See: Regular Basic Course Training Specifications.
    posted by ryanrs at 9:13 PM on April 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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