It's your second DUI and the prosecution is seeking jail. You have hired a criminal defense lawyer and after a thorough investigation of your case, he tells you that it's time to consider a plea. You think to yourself that you cannot go to jail because jail is for violent criminals. "I just made a mistake." Unfortunately, every case is not winnable. You need to have a plan in the event that your case is unwinnable. The 11th hour before trial or a last-minute plea is not the time to look for alternatives to a jail sentence.
In Florida, there are mandatory minimum jail sentences for multiple DUI convictions. If you are convicted of a second offense DUI within 5 years of a prior DUI conviction, there is a 10-day minimum mandatory jail sentence. If you are convicted of a third offense within 10 years after the date of a prior conviction, you are required to spend a minimum mandatory 30 days in jail.
However, Florida Statutes give judges the discretion to allow a DUI defendant to serve all or a portion of a jail sentence in a residential alcoholism treatment program or a residential drug abuse treatment program. The law requires that if a defendant serves time in a residential treatment center, that the time spent in the treatment center be credited toward the jail sentence. It is possible to avoid long-term jail sentences with early negotiations involving residential treatment.
Additionally, if you have insurance, your plan may cover some or all of the treatment. If you are seeking treatment provided by a health care provider or a provider of health care services on referral by a health care provider, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be available to you. (Note: You should consult with an employment lawyer regarding your rights under FMLA).
Sarasota County has wonderful alcohol and drug residential treatment programs that have been recognized by the court as substitutes for extended jail sentences. Additionally, in 2008 the Honorable David Denkin, in coordination with the State Attorney's Office, the Public Defender, the County Commission, the Criminal Justice Commission, as well as various local substance abuse treatment providers created the Sarasota County DUI Court. The focus of DUI Court is to reduce the number of repeat DUI offenders by providing alternative community-based treatment.
While it is the goal of every attorney to have a DUI dismissed or reduced, it is always a good idea to have options available in case your DUI does not fall within the category of a "winnable" case. When talking to your lawyer, make sure you ask not only about the victories but also ask about how he/she has helped those where the facts and the law are not on their side. Remember that many of these programs have waiting lists due to their popularity. If you have a problem and the law is against you, early intervention is the key to a favorable outcome with your case.