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County wants DUI convicts to pay for jail stay

County wants DUI convicts to pay for jail stay

If Pima County officials have their way, more convicted drunken drivers will soon have to pay for the privilege of eating and sleeping at the county's Adult Detention Center.

Jail officials recently met with judges and top prosecutors to remind them that they have the authority to make convicted drunken drivers reimburse counties for the cost of locking them up — which the jail officials want them to do.

Although the law has been on the books since 1997, and prosecutors include it in plea agreements, judges have not been consistently imposing the fee, said Jan Kearney, presiding Pima County Superior Court judge.

"The sheriff requested we look at imposing those fees more often in view of the current financial situation," Kearney said.

Pima County statistics show 876 people were convicted of drunken driving between January and June of 2008. They spent a combined 16,595 days at the jail, costing the county about $1.24 million.

Still, Kearney and Superior Court Judge Richard Fields said the chances of judges imposing the fees remains unlikely, for the same reason they haven't been regularly imposed in the first place.

Drunken driving is one of the most expensive crimes to commit in terms of the fines and fees required by state lawmakers and fighting at trial, Fields said.

For example, felony drunken drivers are required to pay $1,500 to the state general fund and another $1,500 to the prison construction operating fund. In addition, they more than likely have to pay restitution, lawyers, monthly probation fees and other fines.

"I don't fault the sheriff at all for asking, but the reality is we have to make an assessment of what defendants can afford to pay," Fields said. "In the end, you can only get so much from folks."

Kearney agreed, noting that there is no point assessing reimbursement fees knowing they won't get paid and knowing the defendant would end up in jail again for not paying them.

Requiring defendants to pay for their beds makes more sense to him than requiring them to pay into the state general and prison funds, but he doesn't have a choice between the three, Fields said.

Defense attorney Joseph St. Louis said he was unaware that judges have not been asking those convicted of driving under the influence to reimburse the county, but he found the idea wholly unattractive.

"When you have a super-extreme DUI case, where someone has to go to jail for 45 days, you're looking at $6,000 between the DUI costs and the jail costs," St. Louis said. "Who can go to jail for 45 days and still have a job? By forcing them to pay for their jail stay too, you are guaranteeing someone will not be able to keep their home or support their family.

"At some point, enough is enough," St. Louis said.

In response to jail officials' request, the Pima County Attorney's Office revised the language of its plea agreements to help judges determine exactly what fees to impose, said Bruce Chalk, deputy county attorney

Instead of simply referring to the statute, the plea agreements now state someone who stays in the jail one day must pay $175, two to 10 days, $250, 11 to 30 days $800, and 31 days or more $2,000, Chalk said.

Chalk, along with Fields, pointed out that an additional problem with imposing the reimbursement fees is logistical. There is no mechanism in place to collect them.

The cost of A DUI

Getting caught driving under the influence can be expensive, as those convicted are hit with a litany of different fees and fines. And these figures don't even include attorneys' fees, restitution or jail-reimbursement fees.

First-time misdemeanor DUI

$250: Fine

$210: Surcharge

$10: Probation surcharge

$500: Prison fund

$500: State general fund

$20: One-time, time payment fee

$65: Monthly probation fee

Aggravated felony driving under the Influence

$750: Fine

$630: Surcharge

$10: Probation surcharge

$250: Assessment

$1,500: Prison fund

$1,500: State general fund

$65: Monthly probation fee

$20: One-time, time payment fee

Source: Pima County Probation Department

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or

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