Staggered Sentencing

Definition: A staggered sentence is one where the convicted DUI offender does not serve the entire term in a consecutive period, but rather, serves a portion of his sentence before periodically appearing before a judge for assessment.

Executive Summary: Staggered sentencing presents an alternative form of punishment and treatment and is similar to DUI Courts in its effectiveness due to increased court involvement in overseeing the defendant’s progress to recovery. The program also requires accountability among offenders as they hold their fate in their hands. Offenders’ consequences are clearly defined and agreed upon with judges. Like DUI Courts, Staggered Sentencing is likely best suited for cases with repeat offenders. Staggered sentencing usually does not require the same financial resources or systematic establishment as DUI Courts.

More Detail: Minnesota Judge James E. Dehn devised a program of Staggered Sentencing in order to combat recidivism by repeat DUI offenders. As a result of his efforts and insight, a new form of sanction emerged that mixes punishment and rehabilitation with court supervision. Under the program, a convicted drunken driver receives a specified term of incarceration, just as in traditional sentencing. However, unlike traditional sentencing, the convicted driver does not serve the entire term in a consecutive period. Instead, the Staggered Sentencing program requires the convicted driver to serve a portion of his sentence before periodically appearing before a judge for review. During this assessment, the judge will ensure that the convicted driver has complied with the terms of his sentence, possibly including abstinence from alcohol, participation in community services, regular attendance at AA meetings, etc. If the convicted offender has demonstrated compliance to the agreed rehabilitative behavior, the court may permit them to complete their sentence through home monitoring instead of in jail. Completing sentences under house arrest or monitoring would still involve clear and strictly-enforced consequences for any subsequent violations.

Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges

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