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Multiple DUI Offenses and Residential Treatment

For defendants charged with a second, third or fourth DUI, Judges and Prosecutors are primarily interested in imposing jail or prison time as punishment. However, this does not address a defendant's underlying problem with alcohol and does not protect the public when that defendant is eventually released. Incarceration will do little good for a defendant suffering from alcoholism.

Some judges and prosecutors can be convinced that rehabilitation of a defendant is as important as punishment and may benefit society as well as the defendant in the long term. To this end, long term residential treatment programs can be an effective alternative to a lengthy jail term. The statutory authority for this is Penal Code Section 2900.5 which allows a court to give credit for time spent in a residential treatment facility against a jail sentence. DUI sentencing laws in California are complex and contain mandatory provisions. Some judges and prosecutors need to be educated about the Courts discretion to consider treatment in lieu of jail.

There are two types of residential treatment facilities: medical and non-medical. Medical programs are based in hospitals and generally last about a month. These programs are run by doctors and can be covered by medical insurance. Non-medical programs are staffed by drug and alcohol counsellors and are longer term. Generally, the defendant is required to stay for a longer period of between six months and a year. The first thirty days is typically a "lock down" period whereby the "patient" must focus on detoxification and is not allowed to leave or communicate with anyone outside the program. Thereafter, there is a program of daily counselling and treatment usually based on the twelve step program. Eventually, a patient is allowed to transition back to work while residing in the facility. The cost of these programs varies considerably, but averages around $20,000 to $30,000 for a six month stay. Medical insurance will not cover such a program. For those who cannot afford it, the Salvation Army runs a six month residential program. This program is free, but the "inmate" works full time for Salvation Army.

Great care must be taken in selecting a treatment program that will meet the requirements of the Court and anyone considering taking this step should consult with a DUI Defense Lawyer first.