February 15, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Pennsylvania county using hotels to "jail" convicted drunk drivers
Article provided by Blanarik Law Offices
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Over the last several years, law enforcement departments throughout the United States have been working on developing creative ways to address drunk driving offenses. Most have focused on striking a balance between deterring future violations and ensuring that the corrections system has the resources and jail space to protect public safety by focusing on the most dangerous criminals.
Pennsylvania is no exception to this trend. One of the newer programs is the DUI Alternative Jail Program -- also known as the "DUI Hotel" -- in Allegheny County.
The program serves as a substitute to mandatory jail sentences for some first-time drunk drivers. It is generally offered to individuals who do not qualify for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.
Participants in the program spend three days and three nights in a hotel. There, they participate in mandatory evaluations, treatment sessions and alcohol-awareness programming. Participants are not in jail, exactly, but they also do not have the freedom to come and go as they please.
According to Allegheny County officials, 550 people completed the DUI Hotel program in 2011. As of the end of July, 295 people had completed the program so far in 2012.
Program not without controversy
Advocates of the DUI Hotel program say that it allows convicted drunk drivers to receive beneficial educational programming while ensuring that the county's jail cells are available to house more dangerous criminals.
The program's detractors, however, worry that a hotel stay is not sufficiently punitive to prevent repeat drunk driving offenses. Others worry that it sets up a class-based justice system, where individuals who can afford the program stay and a hotel and those who can't go to jail.
Allegheny County was the first in Pennsylvania to implement the program, though Westmoreland County is considering something similar. There is no word yet on whether convicted drunk drivers in Centre County will be able to serve their sentences in hotels any time soon.
Pennsylvania DUI penalties
Not all first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania have to serve time in jail. The penalties for a first DUI depend on the offender's blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest. Generally speaking, sentencing adheres to the following guidelines:
-0.08 to 0.099 BAC: up to six months of probation, a fine of up to $300 and participation in alcohol safety classes.
-0.10 to 0.155 BAC: one-year driver's license suspension, between 48 hours and six months in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and participation in alcohol safety classes.
-0.16 and higher BAC: one year driver's license suspension, between 72 hours and six months in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and participation in alcohol safety classes.
The penalties are increased for repeat offenses and for suspected drunk drivers who refuse chemical testing.
Because the penalties for Pennsylvania DUI offenses are so significant, it is important for suspected drunk drivers to seek the assistance of an experienced DUI defense attorney who can help protect their future.---
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