Drivers who drink and are charged by police as first offenders will get a chance to attend "drunk driver's school" rather than face a possible conviction for the offense in court, under a new experimental plan proposed by the D.C. Corporation Counsel's office.
The program's main objectives are to provide some form of rehabilitation for drunk drivers, and to relieve both the city prosecutors and the D.C. Superior Court of some of the burden of processing drunk driving cases, according to Geoffrey M. Alprin, chief of the criminal division of the corporation counsel's office.
The corporation counsel's office plans to select a private agency to conduct the treatment services by early next month, Alprin said. Defendants must agree voluntarily to participate in the program and will be required to pay a small fee for treatment services, he said.
The agency will be required to provide treatment services for indigent defendants who want to join the program, Alprin said No city funds will be used to support the project.
If an offender successfully completes the program, the charges against him will be dismissed, Alprin said. Defenders will get only one chance to participate in the plan, which has been approved by the court.
Persons who are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol will be eligible for the program if they have no previous drunk driving or alcohol-related convictions and if no injuries were involved in the incident that resulted in arrest, according to the city prosecutor's proposal.
In addition, the driver must have agreed to take a ment to measure the level of alcohol in the blood, and the measured level must not exceed 15 percent. Under District law, a person is considered under the influence of alcohol if alcohol level in the blood reaches 1 percent, a spokesman for the corporation counsel's office said.
Participation in the program will not affect possible action taken in respect to the defendant's driver's license by the city's Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services, Alprin said.
The corporation counsel's office estimates that defendants in about 10 to 12 percent of the approximately 4,000 drunk driving cases a year will be eligible for the program, which will be conducted on an experimental basis for one year.
The penalty for drunk driving for first offenders is a fine of not more than $500, six months in jail, or both, a spokesman for the corporation counsel's of fice said.
Under the new program, all defendants will be re-effect of alcohol on drivers. Defendants who are found to have serious drinking problems will be provided with more intensive treatment plans, city officials said.