DUI alternatives to jail
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Traffic Safety Facts for 2014,” twenty-seven people die each day in the United States as a result of drunken driving accidents. Facts such as this, as well as the increased pressures from powerful lobbying groups such as Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have increased the focus on finding solutions to reduce the dangers of intoxicated driving.
Although jail terms for first time offenders, as well as extended prison terms for multiple DUI offenders is generally an option in most states, legislatures have been increasingly creative in finding ways to eliminate drunken driving. Below we will discuss some of the most common alternatives to a jail sentence.
Penalties for a driving under the influence charge
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
An increasing number of states have decided to force drivers convicted of DUI to install ignition interlock devices on their cars. This device requires drivers to blow into the machine to start their cars. Drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a specified limit will not be able to start their own cars. In many states, ignition interlock installation is a condition of getting a license reinstatement or a hardship license.
Although proponents love this requirement, opponents claim the costs can be punitive or excessive for a certain percentage of drivers.
Probation for a DUI charge is similar to any other charge. Some drivers may be able to avoid a jail sentence by serving a certain amount of time on probation. Probationary requirements can include attending school, getting and maintaining a job, not drinking or doing drugs, checking in with a probation officer, and staying within a specific geographical area.
- Fines and penalties
Every state will assess fines and monetary penalties for a DUI offense. In fact, some states, such as the State of Texas, also have annual fees ($1,000 or $2,000) that they will charge drivers to retain their driver’s license for up to three years following the DUI offense.
Additionally, other states will have court costs and other penalties that will have to be paid either after the DUI conviction or to reinstate a driver’s license.
- Drug and alcohol treatment programs
Some drivers convicted of DUI may also have to attend a drug and alcohol treatment program. Program time limits and requirements vary substantially by state. For example, some states will require an alcohol assessment and treatment program, while other states may insist that drivers also participate in a victim’s impact panel.
- License Suspension
Most states will suspend a driver’s license after they are arrested and convicted for DUI or the driver will automatically have their license suspended through an administrative license suspension process which is separate from the criminal proceedings.
For example, drivers in most states will face an automatic license suspension if they refuse to take a chemical test following a DUI arrest or if they submit to the test and their blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit of 0.08%.
- Impoundment of the driver’s vehicle
Some states will require drivers to submit their vehicle to the state for a specified period of time following a DUI conviction. Impoundment periods vary by state and by offense.
- Community Service
Finally, many states also will require drivers convicted of DUI to serve time performing some type of community service. In some states, community service may be available in lieu of jail time, while other states make it a mandatory requirement following release from jail or prison.
Due to the devastating impact of DUI, states have implemented a wide range of penalties in addition or in lieu of a jail sentence.