What is DUI Treatment Court in Philadelphia?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 03, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a person is arrested for a DUI charge in Philadelphia, there will be consequences.  Even if an aggressive defense is mounted and a person is found not guilty of driving under the influence, or has the charges dismissed or withdrawn, there will be consequences; for example, the burden of having to go through Philadelphia's criminal justice system, the concern about how a DUI case can affect a person and his or her family if it does not end in the person's favor, and countless other worries. 

These consequences can become that much more severe when a person is arrested for his or her second or third DUI case; these consequences will be compounded if the person was drinking heavily (and the Breathalyzer or blood test indicates as such) or if the person was using controlled substances; having marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or most other drugs (legal or illegal depending on the circumstances) in a driver's system will all make a DUI charge that much more serious.

For a second or third high-rate-of-alcohol and/or drug DUI offender, being sentenced to jail or prison for the length of potential time involved can literally destroy a person's life.  Going to jail for a weekend can be unpleasant enough for the average person, but when facing the prospect of 90 days in jail or one year in state prison, the stakes are that much higher.  At a minimum, a person could lose his or her job, fall behind on mortgage or rent payments, be asked to leave school in cases involving college or graduate students.

Because the stakes are so high for repeat DUI offenders in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Municipal Court has taken steps to address these concerns; specifically, Philadelphia Municipal Court has been visionary in its approach to embark on new ways of handling cases and social issues. 

Philadelphia DUI Treatment - Allowing Repeat DUI Offenders Another Chance to Turn Their Lives Around

One such initiative created by Philadelphia Municipal Court, in partnership with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, is DUI Treatment Court.  DUI Treatment Court is intended to promote public safety, to hold offenders accountable for their actions, and to help DUI offenders maintain sobriety and be responsible and productive members of Philadelphia.

The target group for DUI Treatment Court includes repeat DUI offenders who qualify and who are in need of alcohol and/or drug treatment.  DUI Treatment Court is dedicated to the treatment and adjudication of defendants with multiple DUI offenses.  Potential participants in the program can have no related history of violent crime or other legal complications.  Ultimately, program participants serve reduced jail or prison time by attending extensive dependency / substance abuse treatment in addition to other program requirements.

Will I Be Eligible for DUI Treatment Court in Philadelphia?

An important question for defendants facing DUI charges in Philadelphia is, "What are the eligibility requirements for Philadelphia DUI Treatment Court?"  The answer is, "People who are non-violent DUI offenders with no more than two previous lifetime convictions for DUI and who face a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail (for second offense Tier III DUI cases) or one year in state prison (for third offense Tier III DUI cases).

How does DUI Treatment Court work in Philadelphia?

To participate in DUI Treatment Court, defendants charged with driving under the influence in Philadelphia must plead guilty to be afforded consideration regarding their sentence.  In doing so, some of a defendant's mandatory jail or prison time is converted to house arrest. 

Specifically, defendants facing a 90-day mandatory minimum sentence serve ten days in Philadelphia County custody followed by 80 days of house arrest with a concurrent period of two years' probation.  Defendants facing a one year mandatory minimum state prison sentence serve six months in Philadelphia County custody followed by six months house arrest with a concurrent period of three years' probation. 

A "concurrent" probation sentence runs at the same time as a defendant's parole.  In contrast, a "consecutive" probation sentence would start after a defendant's parole ends.  In DUI Treatment Court cases, a defendant's probation would start at the time a defendant goes into custody.

Can I work while in DUI Treatment Court?

Defendants serving an 80 day house arrest sentence (Tier III second offense) may work and attend dependency / substance abuse treatment while on house arrest.  Defendants serving a six month house arrest sentence (Tier III third offense) may work and attend dependency / substance abuse treatment through work release while serving the initial six months in custody, and through house arrest while serving the six months of house arrest.

How long is DUI Treatment Court?

 DUI Treatment Court covers four phases over a twelve month period. 

  • "Phase 1" lasts one month and focuses on alcohol and/or drug treatment after the defendant completes a drug and alcohol evaluation.  This initial assessment determines the severity of the defendant's dependency / substance abuse issues.  The assessment also determines if the defendant is in need of inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, or standard outpatient treatment.  The goal for defendants participating in Phase 1 is to get clean and sober and to begin work on an individual treatment plan.
  • "Phase 2" lasts for two months, and the goal for defendants participating in Phase 2 is to remain clean and sober and complete the individual treatment plan.
  • "Phase 3" lasts for one month, and the goal for defendants participating in Phase 3 is to remain clean and sober and complete a sober support plan.
  • "Phase 4" lasts for eight months.  During the eight months of Phase 4, defendants must maintain 100% abstinence from alcohol and/or drugs.  Defendants are also encouraged to implement their treatment aftercare plan. 

DUI Treatment Court can be rigorous and defendants must recognize this reality before applying to the program.  Any missed treatment sessions or relapses will hinder the defendant's progression through the program requirements, which can in turn cause their participation in DUI Treatment Court to exceed the standard 12 month period.

What will take place during my time in DUI Treatment Court?

The four phases of DUI Treatment Court are intended to help defendants move forward towards sobriety.  During DUI Treatment Court, defendants will be expected to: submit to mandatory drug and alcohol treatment; undergo regular urine testing / drug screening; meet with DUI case managers; and attend monthly progress listings before the supervising judge.

What happens if I do not comply with DUI Treatment Court requirements?

When a defendant fails to do what is required of him or her in DUI Treatment Court, there will be consequences.  Infractions of the program will result in the defendant receiving one of the DUI Treatment Court's graduated sanctions.  Sanctions include writing essays regarding the noncompliance, increased reporting requirements, and short jail stays. 

If a defendant's noncompliance becomes unacceptable to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Philadelphia Court, defendants will be removed from DUI Treatment Court.  Because defendants plead guilty to enter the program, defendants who are terminated from DUI Treatment Court will be sentenced in accordance with the penalties they face if their DUI case was disposed of through standard means.

How do I complete DUI Treatment Court?

After completing all four phases of DUI Treatment Court, defendants will graduate from the program and their probation is terminated.  After being discharged from probation, a defendant will no longer be under the supervision of the Philadelphia Court (through the Philadelphia Probation Department, located at 1401 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102).  Once discharged, a defendant's case will be closed.  90% of DUI Treatment Court participants have completed the program since its inception.  Although graduates of DUI Treatment Court have largely been successful after completing the program, a limited number have had issues.  Approximately 37 of the 329 program graduates (11%) have been arrested and 21 program graduates have been convicted on new criminal charges. 

Despite these exceptions, DUI Treatment Court is an unequivocal success in giving second and third DUI offenders another chance by avoiding significant jail / prison sentences and by providing the resources needed to put dependency issues behind them once and for all.

Experienced Philadelphia DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, whether a first offense or a repeat offense, you should immediately consult with a knowledgeable defense attorney. Thankfully, due to the initiative of Philadelphia Municipal Court, there are alternatives to the prospect of a significant custodial sentence.  Ultimately, a legal professional can help you decide if DUI Treatment Court is most suitable for your Philadelphia DUI case, and if so, how to make an application to the program as strong as possible. Contact our Criminal Law Team today to learn how we can help.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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