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DUI Court: Is It Right for You?

There has been a recent trend in the criminal justice system for those people charged with drug and alcohol related crimes who have substance abuse issues to use treatment as an alternative to incarceration or jail time. While this is good for helping those who need help and want to get it, it is important to know the benefits and costs of a DUI (or drug) court.

The first thing to understand about entering DUI Court is that it requires pleading guilty to DUI. If you want to challenge the evidence in your case or go to trial, it is probably not the right option. There are some situations where a Judge will sentence someone to DUI Court-like conditions after trial, but that is rare. DUI Court is typically offered to those who are charged with a 2nd DUI offense in a 5 or 10 year period, or a 3rd (or more) lifetime DUI.

One benefit to DUI Court is that the sentence cuts back substantially on jail time as opposed to a normal plea offer or sentence after trial. There are still statutory requirements for jail time, but the minimums are typically applied. However, If one fails to comply with the conditions of DUI court during the probation period, jail time is a common penalty.

Another benefit is that DUI Court is treatment intensive and designed to break the addiction cycle. Whether it works for each individual is up to that person, but it requires a lot of meetings at the courthouse, AA or similar meetings, and frequent alcohol/drug testing at random. The treatment and meetings can also be credited towards the required community service hours.

DUI Courts can be expensive and time consuming for those who are on a limited budget or work full time. You must be able to go to meetings during weekdays and the cost is typically $75-100 per week.

DUI Courts require at least 2 misdemeanor charges so that the probation period can run for 2 years. While the program can be successfully completed in less than 2 years, it typically takes at least about 14 months.

Finally, DUI court must be available in the county of your residence. If your case was prosecuted in a different county, the probation will be handled in the county of your residence. Most large metro-area counties around Atlanta have DUI court programs, but smaller counties do not have the quantity of cases to justify the costs of the program.

If you are charged with DUI and have questions about DUI Court, please contact me.