There are six common sentencing alternatives to jail for driving under the influence (DUI). They are:
- drug or alcohol treatment or rehab,
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Program,
- community service,
- electronic monitoring with a SCRAM device,
- sober living, and
- DUI school.
Each of these alternative sentencing options can help defendants avoid jail time. Each of them is often used as a part of DUI probation. Probation is a type of community supervision. It lets law enforcement supervise and rehabilitate someone who has been convicted of a crime. However, that supervision happens in the community or a structured environment, rather than in jail.
If you use one of these alternative sentencing options to avoid jail, you have to complete the requirements. If you do not, you may be sent to jail.
1. Can I go to drug or alcohol rehab, instead?
Yes, drug or alcohol rehab is a common way to avoid jail after a DUI conviction.
Drug or alcohol treatment programs come in two basic forms. They are:
- inpatient treatment, and
- outpatient treatment.
Inpatient treatment requires you to stay at the facility throughout the program. It is more intensive. The structure is far more controlling, and relapsing is usually not as easy. It is also more expensive. However, the rehab program is usually over quicker.
Outpatient treatment can be done from home. Patients in this type of rehab meet for regular sessions or appointments. Because there is less oversight, relapsing is easier. However, outpatient treatment is far less expensive. It does take far longer to complete an outpatient treatment program, though.
In some cases, judges may require attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Offering to go to rehab shows a sentencing judge that you are serious about handling a substance abuse problem. It is especially important for DUI defendants with a prior conviction.
2. What is a MADD Victim Impact Panel?
A Victim Impact Panel with Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a seminar. People convicted for DUI go to the seminar to hear speakers talk about how DUI impacted their lives. These speakers include:
- family members of victims, and
- emergency responders.
They talk about loved ones who have suffered from a crash with a drunk driver, or what they have seen. The seminar lasts around 2.5 hours.
Judges in DUI cases often require defendants to go to one of these Victim Impact Panels. Judges tend to think that the Panels provide a sense of gravity to the offense. It is frequently used as a required element of DUI probation.
3. Can community service stand in for jail time?
Community service can be an alternative to both jail time as well as the fine from a DUI conviction.
Judges often require community service as a part of DUI probation. He or she will have to approve the community service program. In many cases, he or she will appoint a program for the defendant. They often require roadside work with Cal-Trans.
The amount of community service required will depend on the details of the conviction. Serious offenses will come with more community service. Minor ones, especially those that do not involve a crash, typically require fewer hours. It may not be an option at all for the most severe DUIs, or for those with prior convictions.
4. What about electronic monitoring?
Electronic monitoring is another way to stay out of jail after a DUI conviction. It allows law enforcement to supervise you without keeping you in jail.
In California, sentencing judges can require you to wear a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM). These are ankle monitors. They have to be worn against you skin. SCRAM devices detect alcohol in your sweat. They are programmed to notify police if you have been drinking. SCRAM devices also have heat sensors that can tell if they have been tampered with, removed, or covered.
Judges can you to wear a SCRAM device as a part of your probation. They tend to be used for repeat DUI offenders. If you drink and the SCRAM device detects it, you will violate the terms of your probation. You may violate probation and be sent to jail.
5. Can I live in a sober environment?
Another alternative to jail time after a DUI is sober living. This is a living situation that requires complete abstinence from drugs or alcohol. It is a long-term, full-time residential community. There are often other rehab services available, as well.
Sober living is similar to rehab in some ways. Both tend to be available to repeat DUI offenders who have substance abuse problems. Both offer rehab services that help addicts overcome their substance abuse.
However, sober housing is not rehab. It is a living situation, not a medical facility. This means medical help is further away. Patients have more responsibility in sober housing than in rehab. There are fewer people preventing them from drinking or using drugs.
Judges often make use of sober environments for DUI defendants who may not have a full-blown substance abuse issue, but who still need help and support.
6. Can I go to DUI school?
In California, you can avoid jail by attending DUI school. This is a court-approved course on alcohol awareness and education.
There are five different DUI school programs. Each is targeted at certain offenders. Longer and more intensive courses are for repeat offenders or serious offenses.
Sobriety is required throughout the entire course. Breaking this rule can violate probation and lead to a jail sentence.