COURT WATCH: Exploring Alternative Sentencing Options in DUI Case Raises Legal Questions

By Hailey Cairns

WOODLAND, CA – In a recent court hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court regarding a parole violation for a DUI (driving while under the influence) offense, an unexpected discussion unfolded concerning the interpretation of the penal code and the potential imposition of jail time.

During the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtayan raised a point of contention to the court, noting, “The penal code section is 23538, which provides that the court ‘may’ impose 48 hours of jail time.”

His observation brought attention to the permissive language within the code, suggesting that the court had discretionary power in determining the appropriate sentence for first-time DUI offenses.

Deputy District Attorney Martha Wais responded with skepticism, charging, “that is not what I know to be true , that is not how I have done it.” This exchange reflected a disparity in understanding and interpretation of the penal code section, indicating a divergence in perspectives on the court’s authority in imposing mandatory jail time.

Undeterred by the skepticism, DPD Davtayan continued to advocate for fair treatment and emphasized the importance of conducting thorough research, arguing, “I think it is not right to give him jail time, when it is his first offense,” highlighting his concern regarding the potential severity of the punishment relative to the nature of the offense.

Acknowledging Davtayan’s contribution, the judge proposed exploring alternative options, such as community service, as an alternative to jail time.

However, the DDA requested a formal, written request for consideration, stating, “So if that’s going to be a request, we would ask to be in writing so that we can respond.” This request indicated the prosecution’s preference for a more structured approach in evaluating potential alternatives, and the desire to delay the progress and proceedings in the case.

Trying to change the topic,  the DDA asked if a surrender date would be set, since that is what they were originally on for.

The judge clarified, “Well, we are not doing a surrender at this time because we are now deciding whether he needs to do jail time in the first place.”

The case was continued. Moving forward, the court proceedings will involve further briefings and an examination of community service as a potential alternative to jail time.

About The Author

Hailey Cairns is a second-year student at UC Davis, studying Political Science and Sociology. She aspires to become a civil rights attorney, advocating for individuals who have been unjustly deprived of their rights. With a strong commitment to social justice, Hailey also seeks to empower marginalized voices in her efforts to create a more just society.

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