Can I Avoid Jail for a DUI?
A question often asked by clients in connection with convictions and/or arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) is whether it is possible to avoid jail time. This is a question which depends largely upon each defendant’s individual case, i.e. the particular circumstances of his or her arrest. However, there are certain programs offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that offer alternatives to prisons, such as Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Diversion program, drug courts, or drug and/or alcohol treatment programs.
Pennsylvania’s ARD Program
If you are arrested for a DUI, and have no prior record (there are some exceptions), Pennsylvania’s Legislature passed laws which permit first time offenders to participate in Pennsylvania’s the Accelerated Rehabilitation Diversion (ARD) Program. (That legislation can be found here). Although the ARD program is offered in every county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the president judge of each county’s Court of Common Pleas directs the implementation of the program in his or her county. Thus, the program requirements vary from county to county in Pennsylvania.
Participation in Drug Court
Like many state judicial systems around the country, Pennsylvania has set up a system of drug courts for offenses that involve drugs or alcohol, such as driving under the influence. Pennsylvania’s drug courts, like its ARD program, vary from county to county. Nevertheless, in the words of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, drug courts “combine intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, treatment and incentives to help offenders with substance abuse problems break the cycle of addiction and crime.” (Further information regarding Pennsylvania’s drug courts can be found here and here). Therefore, you may be able to avoid prison for a DUI offense if you are willing to participate in drug treatment court.
Participation in a Drug or Alcohol Treatment Program
Unfortunately, if you have been convicted of a past criminal offense (usually higher than a traffic citation), you are ineligible to participate in Pennsylvania’s ARD program. However, this does not necessarily mean that you are out of luck with respect to avoiding a term of imprisonment if you have been convicted of multiple DUI offenses. Instead, if you are willing to participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program, then a sentencing judge may consider ordering you to participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program. Indeed, your attorney may be able to work out a deal with prosecutors before your sentencing that could further increase the chances of you participating in a drug or alcohol treatment program instead of going to prison. However, be advised that you will need to participate wholeheartedly in the drug or alcohol treatment program. Failure to comply with the terms of the drug or alcohol treatment program could result in a re-sentencing that will likely include a term of imprisonment.