On July 22, 2020, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors finally authorized home detention for misdemeanor DUI Defendants charged in Justice Courts. This comes after many years of unfair and disproportionate treatment for DUI Defendants throughout Maricopa County. Years ago, the legislature recognized that current misdemeanor DUI sentences in Arizona are extremely harsh compared to other misdemeanor crimes, and even compared to DUI sentences in other States. The legislature noted that serving many days in jail for a simple misdemeanor DUI often does more harm than good. For any individual, serving 10, 30, 45 or more days in jail, usually causes a loss in employment, which breeds family instability, depression, and inability to pay for rehabilitation including alcohol treatment, probation, or fines. As a solution, the legislature allowed a portion of jail sentences to be served at home instead of physically in the jail. However, due to the way that cases are referred for prosecution, when you receive a DUI complaint, you are either charged in a City Court or in a Maricopa County Justice Court, depending on what agency arrested you and where. In practice, this meant that two people with the same case, same alcohol concentration, and facts, but in different court systems within Maricopa County, received two very different sentences- one with significantly more jail time. This scenario was arguably unconstitutional because the law requires that persons should be treated equally; however, if not unconstitutional, at the very least, the scenario was very unfair.
With this new authorization (most likely spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic) , defendants will be given the same opportunity regardless of who makes the arrest and where within Maricopa County. Given that Maricopa County jails are seeing increases in Covid-19 cases, this authorization for home detention could not have come at a better time. One might wonder why it took so long for the County to take the legislature up on its offer and establish the home detention program, especially since the City Courts have been doing home detention very successfully for many years. Regardless of the motives behind the new program, everyone should be aware and take advantage of the change to make sure they are not being required to serve more days in jail than necessary. There are still a lot of kinks to be worked out with the program, such as who is going to provide the home detention monitoring, the price, and ensuring the Judge and Prosecutor are on board with the exact number of days required to be served. But, this is definitely progress. If you think your case might qualify for home detention, contact us to see if we can help.