One of the penalties for a DUI conviction in California is a jail sentence. Even a first time offender can receive 6 months of jail time. In 2010, 74.5% of all DUI offenders in California served some jail time. Many people see jail sentences as a way to keep dangerous drivers away from the public and to teach them a lesson about making poor decisions. In fact, some even believe that repeat DUI offenders should face lifetime jail sentences.
What these people fail to see is that the California prison system is already overcrowded and inmates are often released early due to overcrowding. Not only does jailing DUI offenders cost taxpayers money, it is preventing them from contributing to society. Offenders usually lose their jobs and even their housing situations when they have to serve substantial jail time. Instead of jailing violators, California should look to alternative sentencing methods that allow offenders to work and live in society but not without limits.
One method California is trying out is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) pilot program. Currently four counties in California are using a program where all DUI convictions result in the mandatory installation of an IID system in order for them to get their license reinstated. An IID is a device that requires a breath sample before it allows the operator to start the vehicle. They are small and can be installed in any vehicle except motorcycles. Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare Counties are currently using this program. If it is successful in reducing the number of repeat DUI offenders, it may be adopted by other counties as well.
The positives of an IID device is that it allows the offender to still commute to work and take care of their family but will ensure that the driver does not consume alcohol before driving. Programs like this, along with substance abuse treatment and DUI education may prove to be the future of DUI sentencing.