Allegheny County recognizes that the only way to stop multiple DUI offenders from driving impaired again is to encourage behavioral changes. Your attitude and habits need to change in order for you to truly avoid getting behind the wheel while intoxicated for a second, third, or subsequent time. DUI court is a separate avenue within the criminal court system that focuses less on punishment and more on providing you the treatment you need, though you must still adhere to a number of statutory penalties.
Allegheny County DUI court is a post-disposition program. You agree to plead guilty in order to enter into the DUI court program. It is not deferred prosecution, during which your guilty plea is dismissed if you fulfill all of the requirements of the program. Going through DUI court will not help you avoid another conviction. However, it can still be your best option and help you avoid harsh punishments for a third or subsequent DUI conviction.
Eligibility for DUI Court in Allegheny County
First-time DUI offenders are not eligible for DUI court. If you are facing a DUI charge for the first time, contact our DUI defense lawyers about how to best defend yourself in court.
DUI court is intended for Allegheny County residents who have two or more DUI convictions on their record. You must be a Level 3 of 4 offender, which means you are facing a prison sentence for the offense.
You are not eligible if you are currently charged with or have been convicted of certain violent offenses within the previous 10 years. If you are interested in the DUI court program, you should speak with us about your eligibility.
Entering into the Allegheny County DUI Court Program
A prosecutor may identify your case as appropriate for DUI court, or you and your attorney may apply for this program. If you wish to pursue DUI court, then your attorney will fill out a “DUI Court Referral Form.” Next, your lawyer will schedule an interview with the district attorney’s office to verify your eligibility for the program. If the DA says you are eligible, then your case is transferred to the DUI Court Probation Team and a DUI Court Specialist. A plea date is also scheduled for your case.
Before your plea date, you will go through a DUI court/electric home monitoring (EHM) screening. This is where you are assessed by the DUI court specialist based on the Pennsylvania Client Placement Criteria (PCPC) and will learn many of the rules and regulations of the program. The PCPC is intended to identify your specific risks and needs pertaining to your alcohol and/or drug dependence. The DUI court team uses this information to guide your treatment options.
After all of this, you enter a guilty plea in exchange for participating in the DUI court program.
Allegheny County DUI Court Sentencing
If you are eligible to go through DUI court instead of the traditional criminal court system, you should know what to expect. You may be sentenced to:
- Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM)
- Drug and/or alcohol treatment
- Residential treatment program
- Intensive probation
- Up to six years of court supervision
- Community service
- Victim impact panel
- Gainful employment
You will benefit from the DUI court more if you are ready to take responsibility for your actions and seek help. The success of this program is largely based on your own rehabilitation and therapy efforts. The more proactive and successful you are in your treatment, the more benefits you will receive from the program.
DUI Court Requirements
You must complete five phases before the court will release you from the program.
Phase 1 – About Four Months
You may be sentenced to up to 18 months of EMH with 90 days of alcohol bracelet monitoring. During this time, you may be expected to go to treatment, school, and/or work. If you are not in school, you may be required to find and maintain full-time employment. If you are in school, you may be required to find a part-time job. In addition to alcohol and/or drug treatment, you may be required to attend at least three Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings each week and submit to random drug and/or alcohol testing. You must have weekly contact with your supervising probation officer and attend progress hearings. During Phase 1, you will also begin to make monthly payments toward your court costs, fines, and restitution.
To move from one phase to the next, you must obtain court approval. It is not up to you when a phase ends and another begins. It is also not up to your treatment provider or a physician. To better understand each phase’s requirements and how each phase ends, speak with an experienced DUI attorney from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC.
Phase 2 – About Four Months
During Phase 2, you will likely still be under EHM restrictions, except you may obtain permission to go to social outings and not just treatment, school, and work. You must continue with your alcohol and/or drug treatment, keep attending three or more AA or NA meetings each week, and submit to random drug/alcohol testing. You must maintain your employment throughout Phase 2. Also, you still have your weekly check-ins with your probation officer, progress hearings, and monthly payments.
If, at any point during the program, you are not compliant with all of the requirements, then you can experience additional penalties. You attend one or two progress hearings in court each month so that a judge can carefully track your progress. If you are non-compliant, your sentence can be extended. You can also be jailed for a period of time.
Phase 3 – About Four Months
Phase 3 is when you will begin to feel restrictions loosen their hold on you. After Phases 1 and 2 of EHM, you may now have less restrictive electronic monitoring. You may be able to travel as you please so long as you adhere to a curfew. You must continue with your drug and/or alcohol treatment, or aftercare, if you are at that point. You can now go to two (instead of three) AA or NA meetings each week. Random drug/alcohol testing moves from weekly to biweekly, as do your meetings with your probation officer. You will still have progress hearings each month, and you must continue making monthly payments.
Phase 4 – About Six Months
After about one year of EHM, you may be transferred to intensive probation. During this time, you have to abide by a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., unless you have to be at work during those hours or you obtain permission from your probation officer to be out during these hours. You must continue your drug and/or alcohol treatment program as directed, attend two AA or NA meetings each week, and submit to biweekly random drug/alcohol testing. You have biweekly contact with your probation officer still, and now, you also have to answer random calls from your probation officer. There are still monthly progress hearings and monthly payments. You need to maintain your employment through this phase.
Phase 5 – About Six Months
During this last phase of the DUI court program, your curfew is removed. You only need to go to one AA or NA meeting each week, and you’ll have to meet with your probation officer once per month. There is still random drug and/or alcohol testing. You must keep working, attending progress hearings, and keep making monthly payments.
Completing the DUI Court Program
If all goes well, you can complete the DUI court program after about two years. However, the estimated duration of each phase depends on your situation. It may take you longer to fulfill the requirements of each phase, or you may be required by the court to go through a longer period of supervision. It may also take you longer to get through the DUI court program if you relapse during your treatment.
However, after certain benchmarks, you may graduate from the program. You must have:
- Completed all of the phases
- Successfully completed your recommended treatment
- Be alcohol and drug-free for at least 12 months
- Maintain employment, be in school, or maintain involvement in vocational training
- Sustain a living situation that enables a sober lifestyle
Revocation of the DUI Court Program
If you are continuously non-compliant throughout the DUI court program or you commit a new offense during the time, then your right to be in the DUI court program may be revoked. If this occurs, you may be sentenced to the original possible statutory sentence under the law. The penalties you have already completed may not count toward your new sentence.
Allegheny County Offers a Similar Drug Court Program
Allegheny County also has a drug court, which is similar to the DUI court program. If you are facing a drug possession charge and have previous drug convictions on your record, then the prosecutor may refer you to the drug court program or you may apply for the program. Like in the DUI court program, you will be screened using the PCPC, which is necessary to determine the most appropriate penalty and treatment for you.
The average sentence in the drug court is 23 months of restrictive intermediate punishment and then six months of probation. However, your sentence may be shorter or longer depending on your circumstances. Also, the judge can shorten or lengthen your penalty depending on your compliance with the program.
To graduate from the drug court program, you must fulfill all the recommended treatments, attend AA or NA, and remain sober. You must comply with any level of EHM or travel restrictions. You must either be in an educational program or working. Throughout all of this, you will have consistent contact with your probation officer and attend progress court hearings.
Let Our DUI Attorneys Help You
If you are facing a third or subsequent DUI offense in Allegheny County, now is the time to call a lawyer from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC and discuss your options. Depending on your current case and your criminal record, you may be eligible for the Allegheny County DUI court program. This program enables you to avoid a lengthy term of imprisonment and receive the help you need to conquer your substance abuse issues. If you are eligible and willing to put in the work treatment will require, we can apply for you to go through the Allegheny County DUI court program.