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Can I Get Work Release Instead of Jail for a DUI?

Everyone knows that California jails are overcrowded. It seems ridiculous to clog up the jails in Alameda County and Contra Costa County with people convicted of drunk driving. There are better ways to punish and rehabilitate people charged with a DUI in California. Unfortunately, too many people aren't aware of jail alternatives. 

If you are charged with drunk driving in Oakland or the East Bay, talk to your California criminal defense attorney about alternatives to jail. Your attorney can negotiate with the judge to avoid jail time and get work release or educational classes. You can avoid the stigma of jail time and remain in your community. 

What Is Work Release?

Under California Penal Code Section 4024.2, counties may authorize the sheriff to offer voluntary programs to any person committed to participate in work release in lieu of one day of confinement. 

Work release is an alternative to jail where you spend time working in the community instead of sitting behind bars. Work release is similar to the SWAP program run by the Sheriff's Department. These programs offer jobs doing light manual labor for low-risk offenders instead of incarceration. 

Work release is a community-based program. For each day of your sentence, you can spend eight to 10 hours working in the community, including: 

  • Community park cleaning and maintenance

  • Manual labor for nonprofit organizations

  • Landscaping

  • Washing vehicles

  • Graffiti clean-up

  • House repair and yard services for senior citizens

  • Roadside work with CalTrans

What Happens If I Miss a Day of Work?

As a condition of work release, you have to promise to appear for work by signing a notice to appear. Any person who violates their promise to appear is guilty of a misdemeanor. If the sheriff's officer has reason to believe you failed to appear, they can take you into custody or issue an arrest warrant to complete the remainder of your sentence. 

If you are not going to show up you need to have written notification, subject to approval. If you violate the terms of the program or are absent for 2 or more days, you can have participation revoked and be sent back to jail. 

Getting to the worksite is generally your responsibility. You have to show up in time, which may be 15 minutes early. To get credit, you have to complete the entire day's term of service. If you show up under the influence of alcohol or drugs or are sent home for misconduct, you will not receive credit. 

Can I Do an Education System Instead of Work Release?

In 2012, the California legislature amended the work release program to allow for other alternatives in addition to labor. You may be eligible for other opportunities, including: 

These programs are still offered on an hour-for-hour basis. Eight hours of educational or vocational programs would equal one day of custody credit. 

The same conditional appearance and attendance requirements still apply. If you don't show up, show up late, or get kicked out of the program, you can be taken into custody and sent back to jail. 

Educational Programs

Many participants who don't have their high school diploma can get their GED as part of work release. A GED can improve your job opportunities after finishing your sentence. 

Vocational Programs

Vocational programs provide job training opportunities. This includes automotive technology, construction, HVAC, electrician training, fabrication, and welding. These can be highly sought-after jobs with good incomes and provide a useful skill after release. 

Substance Abuse Programs

Many criminal problems are related to substance abuse. Alcohol abuse can increase the risk of domestic violence and drunk driving. Drug abuse can result in a dependence on drugs that disrupts all aspects of your life. Getting substance abuse treatment and education can give you the tools to deal with addiction and avoid reoffending. 

Life Skills Programs

Life skills programs can benefit everyone, including people who have had a run-in with the law. Life skills give people the tools to deal with the challenges of everyday life, including anger management, relationships, driver responsibility, employment, personal responsibility, and substance abuse. 

Parenting Programs

Family relationships can be strained when one parent is incarcerated. Giving parents additional tools can help them maintain strong family ties and parent/child bonding. 

How Do You Know If You Are Eligible for Work Release?

Work release is generally for non-violent, low-risk offenders. Felony convictions and sex offenders convicted under California Penal Code 290 are generally not eligible for work release. Minor drug possession, drunk driving, or other non-violent offenses may be good contenders for work release. Talk to your California defense attorney to see if you might be eligible for work release instead of jail.  

Can I Work At My Normal Job Instead of Manual Labor?

Working your regular employment after sentencing is known as work furlough. Work furlough is a different program where you work your regular job during the day and return to supervised confinement in the evenings and on weekends. 

Participants generally pay a fee but this fee enables them to avoid jail time and continue working, with less disruption to their lives. However, if you fail to return to jail or community supervision on time after work, you can have your privileges revoked and go back to jail. 

How Can an Attorney Help With Prison Alternatives?

Even if you are a first-time, non-violent offender, the court may not offer up work release, diversion, or other jail alternatives. Your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor and the court to help you stay out of jail. Your attorney can show that you have a low risk of danger to the community and can benefit from educational programs, substance abuse treatment, or vocational training. 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of criminal defense experience and understands the challenges involved. Contact a local criminal defense lawyer who understands how to negotiate with the court to help you stay out of jail. 

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