The purpose of the Pennsylvania criminal justice system is not merely to punish offenders, but to also set them on a path towards rehabilitation. This is especially true when it comes to drug crimes and DUI offenders with substance abuse issues. Their tendency to offend or re-offend stems from an addiction over which they have little control.

Punishment has little or no deterrent effect, but treatment has been shown to work. For this reason, some courts in the Commonwealth are willing to give drug offenders credit for time served in qualifying substance abuse treatment programs. For example, if you are sentenced to 30 days in jail, but demonstrate that you’ve spent 90 days in an institutionalized rehabilitation program, the judge may be willing to credit those 90 days towards your sentence, in which case you may avoid jail time.

At Fienman Defense, we have helped many of our clients obtain similar case outcomes after drugged or drunk driving convictions. If inpatient treatment is not covered by insurance, these programs are not cheap, but you may be well worth the investment. Call us today at (215) 839-9529 to see if this option is a possibility in your case.

When Rehab May Spare You from Jail Time

Judges are often bound by mandatory minimum imprisonment terms provided by statute. However, sentencing judges have some discretion in deciding what form this imprisonment may take. If you’ve been convicted of a drug or alcohol-related offense, a judge may order you to complete a residential rehabilitation program instead of spending time in jail. And in some cases, you can show up to your sentencing hearing having already completed rehab, and the judge may be willing to count this towards your sentence as credit for time served.

Many legal battles have been fought between prosecutors and defense lawyers over the exact definition of imprisonment and participation in a rehabilitation program can meet the requisite standard. In the 1991 case of Commonwealth v. Conahan, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a rehabilitation program may substitute for imprisonment in jail when:

  • You enter a program that lasts longer than the mandatory minimum jail sentence
  • You pay for attending this program (or your insurance covers it)
  • The program takes place in a “custodial hospital environment,” meaning that your behavior is strictly supervised and that you are confined to the grounds of the facility
  • You complete the program and demonstrate that you have taken responsibility for your substance abuse

If you voluntarily enter an inpatient rehabilitation program in a custodial hospital environment before your sentencing hearing takes place, the judge has the discretion to credit this towards your jail sentence. Keep in mind that completing rehab does not entitle you to avoid jail time as a matter of right. It’s up to you and your criminal defense lawyer to show the judge that you are deserving of leniency because you’ve taken responsibility for yourself and are ready to change your ways.

Good Public Policy: Treating Substance Abuse vs. Punishing It

When we advocate on behalf of clients who are facing charges related to alcohol or illegal drugs, we often ask the sentencing judge: “why should they sit in jail when they could get the treatment they need?” If you have the means and the will to put yourself through rehab, then a judge is likely to let you take matters into your own hands. This is because most judges understand that substance abusers do not get cured in jail.

Furthermore, all judges know how expensive jail time can be. Whether you have access to private insurance that’s willing to foot the bill or the means to pay for rehab yourself, if your imprisonment and treatment can be completed without draining the Commonwealth’s limited resources, everybody wins.

For the Best Possible Outcome, Call Fienman Defense

Your drug or alcohol charge may be completely erroneous or it just may be the reality check you need to get started on a road to rehabilitation. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Michael Fienman has an impressive track record of securing the best possible results for people charged with drug and alcohol-related crimes. By highlighting your responsible behavior and the various fiscal benefits for substituting treatment over punishment, we may be able to help you avoid jail time after a DUI or drug offense.

To learn more about how to improve your case outcome by completing a voluntary rehab program, call Fienman Defense today at (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation.

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