Like most states California allows some individuals convicted of a crime to go on “work release” rather than serve jail time. Work release is a program where the offender does hard work to benefit the community and receives time off of jail for it. Unlike many states, California also gives credit for activities such as educational classes and alcohol/drug abuse treatment. This allows many DUI convicts to get back on their feet more quickly and to potentially avoid being put in jail.
Not every DUI conviction will include the possibility of a work release. If you’re facing a DUI charge, you should understand how work release works and how you can enter a work release program.
Basics of California’s Work Release Program
Traditionally, work release programs involved difficult manual labor. Today, labor is usually oriented to improve the community in some way. For example, many work release programs will involve cleaning up local parks or roadways. The work remains challenging—often an 8-10 hour day working outside.
However, since 2012, an amendment to the California Penal Code has allowed other activities to count as “work” for a work release program. The idea behind this amendment is not to use work release as a punishment but as a way to help convicted offenders prepare themselves to be productive members of society. As a result, a wide range of positive activities now get work release credit.
These can include:
- Parenting training and life skills classes
- Educational programs (such as GED courses)
- Vocational training
- Drug or alcohol treatment
Under current law, one full day of any of these activities is the same as one eight-hour work day or one day in jail. So, for example, five days of substance abuse counseling could take five days off your jail sentence. The specific activities available to you will depend on your local jurisdiction.
Preparing for Work Release
Unlike a work furlough, a work release does not typically involve any kind of confinement. You will not have to spend nights in a jail or a dormitory. You’ll be free to live at home during the work release, as long as you show up for every scheduled session and document your attendance.
You should prepare for your work release, however:
- Be aware that you will need to pay an administrative fee, often $100 or more. If you’re unable to afford this you may be able to qualify for a reduced rate.
- Many work release programs offer both a full time and part time version. The part time version is generally “weekends only” and designed to fit around your existing full time job. If you’re able to choose, choose the one that’s best for you.
- Plan your transportation. Being late or missing a session could mean going back to jail. If your driver’s license has been suspended for DUI, you may need to apply for a restricted license or find alternate transportation.
Work Release and Drug/Alcohol Treatment
Many DUI sentences include mandatory substance abuse treatment. If that’s the case, you may be able to work off jail time by attending your court ordered treatment program.
Even if your DUI sentence does not include treatment, you may want to voluntarily enroll in treatment as a work release rather than go to jail. Be aware that there are a wide variety of treatment programs available and you should choose the one that’s right for you.
How to Get Work Release Instead of Jail
Work release is a common and popular alternative for DUI offenders. Most drivers convicted of DUI are not violent, making them good candidates for release in the community. And California courts are focused on DUI penalties that are a deterrent to repeat offenses. Work release is an ideal solution.
That doesn’t mean it’s always offered, however. Sentences for DUI are complex. Sometimes a judge will explicitly tell you to seek treatment instead of jail; sometimes it’s only offered if you request it; and other times the judge wants hard, firm jail time. The best way to get an outcome that works for you is to have a reputable DUI defense lawyer at your side.
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