DAs support bill to swap jail time for DUI treatment program - WSMV Channel 4

DAs support bill to swap jail time for DUI treatment program

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The state of Tennessee continues to be plagued by repeat drunken drivers, including a Nashville man who was recently arrested for his 10th DUI.

Now, the state's district attorneys have a new idea for dealing with that sort of dangerous offender, but the approach may be a surprise for many.

The prosecutors in the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference say they want to attack the problem by actually reducing jail time. The idea is to get the chronic offenders in a treatment program rather than a cycle of repeat jail sentences.

"They are resistant to change. Some of them are addicted. Others just like the lifestyle to binge drink when they want to," said Tom Kimball, with the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference.

Take the case of Michael Pomeroy. The 32-year-old man was recently charged with his 10th DUI when he wrecked his car on Old Hickory Boulevard and Whittemore Lane, then got out and started running. Police later caught him staggering down the street.

In another instance, Pomeroy got a DUI, was released from jail, went straight to the bar and got another DUI.

The district attorneys' conference would like the state Legislature to pass the brand-new Recidivism Reduction Act, which would give less jail time but put multiple DUI offenders into an intensive strict rehab program.

"They are like drug courts, where people have to go in. And it's hard, you know, and they are frequently having to come back and visit the judge," Kimball said.

Pomeroy now faces a possible six years in jail - the absolute maximum penalty under current state law - but even then, the time behind bars would only be about two years in real time.

The proposed new law would include alcohol consumption meters as well as interlocks on the offenders' vehicle. The convicted drunken drivers would still get to drive to work so they stay employed and don't backslide.

But they do spend less time in jail, which is always an agonizing call.

"When they are in jail, they are not driving. And if they are not driving, they are not hurting anybody. So this gives us a short-term safety provision, but what this really looks at is the long term," Kimball said.

This bill is moving along because sponsors say this method is actually cheaper than incarceration. The district attorneys' conference says the bottom line is graduates from the program end up with a recidivism rate of only 10 percent, so it takes the most dangerous drunken drivers off the road.

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