By Jeff Gallatin
City Council approved Nov. 7 giving the city prosecutor and Rocky River Municipal Court judges the ability to send first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenders to a classroom instead of a jail cell.
With the approval, drivers convicted of DUI while driving in Bay Village now could be sent to the classes about dealing with drinking and alcohol issues instead of receiving three days in jail. The prosecutor now will have the ability to recommend that course of action, with the final decision resting with the sentencing judge in Rocky River Municipal Court.
Bay Village Law Director Gary Ebert said the move brings Bay Village laws into line with other area cities.
“We were the only one in the Westshore cities that didn’t have something like this on the books,” he said. “It allows them to be sent to these classes instead, if the judge believes it’s merited and a better way to handle the case.”
Ebert said the the court itself has taken part in some of the classroom educational programs for a first-time offender.
“They believe the educational programs can be effective for some of the first-time offenders,” he said.
During the council caucus session, Ward 1 Councilman Dave Tadych questioned whether the classes were an appropriate alternative to jail time.
Council President Brian Cruse, who has served as a defense attorney in DUI cases, said the classes and related programs are effective for some offenders.
“They work with some people,” he said. “This just gives the judge an alternative if it looks like the circumstances merit considering an alternative for some people to those days in jail.”
Both Ebert and Cruse noted that the classes are optional, not mandatory.
“If the case merits it, the judge can definitely still give someone jail time instead,” Ebert said.
“A judge can give up to six months in jail as a sentence,” Cruse said. “It’s going to depend on the circumstances of the event.”
Police Chief Dave Wright said it gives law enforcement another tool it can use in handling DUI cases.