Some 1st time DUI offenders in San Jose can avoid jail thanks to pilot program

Santa Clara County is partnering with San Jose police for a new DUI program. The 6-month pilot program will give officers the option to take first-time, misdemeanor offenders to a recovery station rather than be booked into jail.  

Santa Clara County says this program supports their mission to reduce incarceration rates and reduce the time officers spend booking people into jail. Still, Mothers Against Drunk Driving say they don’t believe the program will help save lives.  

"All law enforcement agencies can use the Mission Street Recovery Station as a safe place. It’s open 24-7," said Javier Aguirre, Director of the Santa Clara County Office of Diversion and Reentry Services.   

Santa Clara County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry Services is now partnering with the San Jose Police Dept. to offer non-violent, first-time, misdemeanor DUI offenders the chance to recover at its Mission Street Recovery station, which opened in 2017. Officers will decide case-by-case to either take the first-time offender to jail or arrest them with a criminal citation and allow them to sober up.  

"Our main jail was basically used as a sobering site, and that really prevented officers from getting back to patrolling neighborhoods because they have to wait 45 minutes to an hour while the individual is being booked and completely charged," Aguirre said.   

Aguirre says recent data shows 1,500 people arrested on misdemeanor DUI, were released within 24 hours. He also says first-time DUI offenders are offered substance abuse services with Horizons. Still, Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD, say 30% of all crashes in California are DUI-related, and it considers any DUI offense a serious crime.   

"Most people who finally get a DUI, have driven drunk 80 times. So, the statistics show that even if you’ve just gotten your first DUI, that’s usually not your first time getting behind a vehicle when you’re impaired," said Patricia Rillera, MADD California State Executive Director. 

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San Jose police say people who are non-compliant, have additional charges or warrants, have a previous felony DUI or a DUI within the last 10 years, will not be eligible for the Mission Street Recovery Station.  

"If the arrestee is charged with a felony DUI, they’re not eligible for this program. If an individual themselves want to be booked into custody, they will be booked into custody," Aguirre said. 

Aguirre says they will review the data after 6 months to make sure the program is equitable and working. MADD says they’ll continue advocating for people to make better choices, like using a designated driver, or calling a ride-share company.