State legislators are considering a bill that would replace jail sentences with rehabilitation
A new bill being considered by Tennessee lawmakers could see second- and third-time DUI offenders' jail time reduced in exchange for attending an intensive rehabilitation program, according to the Tennessean. The bill has the support of both Gov. Bill Haslam and various anti-drunk driving groups, but the notion of giving DUI offenders shorter jail sentences is nevertheless causing controversy.
Current law offers little rehab
Under the current law, judges can sentence a second-time DUI offender to a year in jail. In exchange for a reduction in that sentence, the judge is free to order the offender to attend up to 28 days in a residential treatment program.
The problem with that current law, critics say, is that it doesn't give judges the option of ordering offenders to attend longer term programs that are typically more intensive than residential programs.
Bill focuses on reducing recidivism
The bill currently before lawmakers, the Recidivism Reduction Act, seeks to shift the focus of anti-drunk driving laws away from jail time and more towards making sure people do not reoffend. The bill would still require offenders to serve some time in jail: for people serving their second DUI conviction, jail time would be a minimum of 15 days, while those with a third conviction would serve at least 60 days.
After serving those jail sentences, however, the offenders would have the option of participating in an intensive alcohol abuse program in order to reduce the remainder of their sentence. For a residential program, one day in treatment would count as the equivalent of one day in incarceration. For intensive outpatient programs, however, offenders would have to attend at least three days of treatment in order to qualify for a day's reduction of their sentence.
According to WSMV Nashville, people who graduate from the intensive program have only a 10 percent recidivism rate, meaning that public safety could improve if the program results in fewer drunk drivers on the street. At the same time, the bill is bound to generate debate from people who find it difficult to believe that reducing jail sentences for drunk drivers will actually make Tennessee's roads safer.
While it remains to be seen what affect the above bill will have on public safety if it is passed, this issue nonetheless highlights the problem of drunk drivers in Tennessee. A person who chooses to drive after consuming alcohol is putting not only himself, but other people at risk. A motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver can lead to serious injuries and even death. Anybody who has been injured by a drunk driver should seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney today. Drunk drivers who cause pain and suffering should be held accountable for their actions, and an attorney will be able to outline what measures can be taken to ensure compensation is received.