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'DUI Hotel' or Jail: Which Would You Pick?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

As an alternative to a night in jail, Pennsylvania offers people convicted of DUI the choice of serving their sentence in a 'DUI Hotel.'

This hotel doesn't have room service or a pool. What it has is alcohol-education programs, treatment sessions, and mandatory evaluations. It's not so much a luxury stay as a last chance for first-time offenders to stay out of jail.

Officially the program is called the DUI Alternative Jail Program and is only available in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. It earned its nickname because of the way the program is run.

For offenders that choose the alternative sentence, they are required to check into one of two participating hotels for a three-day and three-night program.

Participants must be first-time offenders who were sentenced to 72-hours and found ineligible for another alternative rehab program, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The program was created to reduce the burden on the jail system while still meeting requirements for offender treatment and education.

Not everyone is happy with this alternative arrangement. Mothers Against Drunk Driving in particular is upset about the program, arguing that there's no evidence that it deters offenders from driving under the influence in the future.

The main reason for jail time following a DUI is safety. Being in jail means the offender isn't on the road.

But a 72-hour jail sentence doesn't necessarily keep drivers off the road for long. This program combines the incarceration requirements with the state's treatment requirements. Participants get all the sentence requirements done in one weekend and hopefully can move on.

Do you need to know if your state has alternative programs for first-time DUI? Ask the FindLaw Answers DUI & DWI Forum to get a clear answer.

The Allegheny County program was started in 2011. So far it has seen over 800 participants, reports Fox News.

It's unclear how many, if any, of those participants have reoffended since going through the program as opposed to first-time offenders who take the 72-hour sentence.

Alleghany County is the first in Pennsylvania to offer this kind of alternative program for first time offenders. But it's possible that others will follow suit if the program is successful.

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