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Sober Living as Alternative Sentencing for DUI/DWI

Sober Living as Alternative Sentencing for DUI/DWI


A court may consider imposing alternative sentencing in lieu of the statutorily required and/or suggested penalties for the repeat offender of a state’s laws governing driving while intoxicated and/or driving under the influence (DWI/DUI). One such alternative is the “sober living” environment. Not all states allow this alternative; these states impose a mandatory sentence of imprisonment upon a repeat offender with no sentencing alternatives.


California is an example of a jurisdiction where the sentence alternative of a sober living environment is used extensively. Unlike other states, California’s penal code specifically includes sober living as a sentencing alternative and authorizes time spent in a sober living environment to be credited upon a term of detention in all felony and misdemeanor convictions, including those with mandatory imprisonment terms. Sober living environments are a way for the DWI/DUI offender to avoid being incarcerated.


Sober living is for those individuals who are multiple offenders with a drug or alcohol problem that has not responded to past attempts at treatment. The basic structure of a sober living environment involves the housing of only sober people, for both men and women. All residents are required to participate in planned daily activities, such as group meetings and 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Curfews and rules are imposed, and each resident is required to contribute to the running and functioning of the household by performing a household chore. The location is considered “transitional housing,” and can be in a residential home or apartment.


The term of stay in the sober living facility may be credited to any base fines or restitution fines at the rate of not less than $30 per day, or more, in the discretion of the court imposing the sentence. Fines are often part of a sentencing scheme where the DUI offender is ordered to a jail stay or released on probation, yet is obligated to pay fines and do community service. If the total number of days in custody exceeds the number of days of the term of imprisonment, the entire term of imprisonment shall be deemed to have been served. In any case where the court has imposed both a jail term of imprisonment and a fine, any days to be credited to the defendant shall first be applied to the term of imprisonment imposed, and thereafter the remaining days, if any, shall be applied to the fine on a proportional basis, including, but not limited to, base fines and restitution fines.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.