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California May Offer Alternatives to Jail for Some DUI Offenses

(Update September 9th, 2012: AB 2127 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown)

On June 14, 2012, the California Senate approved AB 2127, a bill that would change the state's work release program. Under the changes the bill proposes, people convicted of low-level misdemeanors such as DUI offenses would have a greater opportunity to prepare for life after incarceration with new programs to be offered that would count as alternatives to actual custody, or in addition thereto. The Assembly already passed a version of the bill, and now the bill returns to the Assembly for approval of the Senate amendments.

Current Work Release Law

California law already allows defendants to participate in work release programs, providing for custody credits where they receive credit for time spent working as if they had been in a correctional facility. People involved in work release must perform manual labor for a full day, and in turn receive credit for a day of custody.

Participants must agree to show up at the appointed work site and perform the work assigned to them in order to receive credit. Failure to comply with all rules and regulations can result in immediate incarceration.

Proposed Changes to the Law

Some of the changes proposed in AB 2127 include:

  • Making life skills and parenting class participation an alternative to manual labor for work release
  • Clarifying that participation in education programs, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, life skills programs and parenting programs is the equivalent to one day in custody, similar to eight hours of labor
  • Allow a participant's regular employment to count for work release credit, rather than performing manual labor

Even though the bill does not specifically mention DUI offenses, proponents of the measure believe that it will help reduce the number of repeat DUI offenses by giving people an incentive to seek treatment rather than spending time in jail. Supporters also note that allowing people to get credit for a variety of life skills programming will put them in better positions when they re-enter society after being in jail and help give them skills they need cope with life after prison.

Talk to a Lawyer

Proposed changes to the state's work release program do not mean that California authorities take DUI charges less seriously, but budget cuts and proactive programming are moving away from simple warehousing concepts. If you are facing DUI or any criminal charges, seek a qualified defense attorney who can protect your rights.


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