Amnesty program for AWOL Philadelphia DUI offenders

Most Pennsylvania convictions for driving under the influence involve a mandatory jail term.  The mandatory minimum jail sentence for these offense increases with each subsequent conviction within ten years.  Therefore, although a first offense only mandates forty-eight or seventy-two hours incarceration depending on the level of intoxication, a second offense will result in either five, thirty, or ninety days of mandatory incarceration.  Unsurprisingly, while most people are able to pause their life for a five-day period, spending one to three months in jail causes extreme disruption to most people’s ordinary lives.

Different counties have addressed this problem in different ways.  Some counties have extensive intermediate punishment programs or house arrest to enable individuals to maintain employment and a semblance of their prior life.  Philadelphia County’s typical response to a hardship claim by a defendant is to permit the defendant to serve their prison term on consecutive weekends.  For a highest tier second offense, this means the defendant will turn themselves in every Friday evening for forty-five weekends in a row.  Maintaining this strict schedule for such an extended period of time requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

This program is an excellent opportunity but requires over ten months of timely reporting.  Many times, defendants who sign up for this program do not appreciate the impact it will have on their lives and when a slip-up occurs, they simply stop reporting.  When this happens, the probation department notes the failure to report and a warrant is issued.  Failure to report is a violation of the defendant’s probation and not only will the defendant remain incarcerated until they appear before their sentencing judge, but the violation exposes these defendants to increased jail time that they will have to serve straight, not on weekends.

However, Philadelphia County currently is offering defendants sentenced to DUI weekend sentences a unique opportunity.   Defendants who have stopped reporting for their weekend sentences should contact the attorney who represented them at trial and arrange a surrender process.   The attorney will arrange a court date to request permission to complete the original sentence without any additional penalties.  This amnesty program is a rare second chance and any defendant who has stopped reporting for should absolutely contact the attorney who handled the initial representation.

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