First Hand Experience At Tent City Follow DUI Arrest (Part 2 of 3)

The Legal Process

I chose not to consult with an attorney prior to my first court hearing with the District Attorney, which was a foolish mistake on my part. Consulting with a legal professional is always a smart decision because if the officer did not follow protocol or if anything was done incorrectly, there may be an arguable case to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. The district attorney reviewed my case, and did not see any errors, so the case against me still stood strong. I was not to expect any leniency because, although this was my first offense, Arizona has the toughest DUI laws in the country and anyone who breaks these laws should expect the maximum penalty.

A punishment for a DUI can range from misdemeanor or 24 hours in jail for a non extreme DUI for a first time offender to 6 months in prison for an extreme, along with fines, classes and other penalties. I received a sentence of 10 days in tent city, 40 hours of alcohol counseling classes, $1500 in fines, and an interlock device on my starter in my car for one year. This device cost me $95 per month, and it required me to blow into it to start my car, and retest every 5-30 minutes depending on how far I was driving. If I had failed blowing into the device I would have been fined $85, the MVD would be alerted, and a month would be added on to my sentence.

Jail Time

When I first arrived at tent city after being fingerprinted and frisked for drugs and weapons, I noticed that the entire compound was surrounded by 25 foot barbed wire fences. Then I saw the cluster of Army surplus tents in back- my new home. In some attempt at humor, there was also a neon sign in the front office that reminded all attendees that they always had room- VACANCY.

By far, the most excruciating part of the entire experience is being processed. I was put in a 12 x 12 holding cell with approximately 10 other men that would uncomfortably hold five people. You cannot stretch your legs, and it feels incredibly claustrophobic. There is only one bathroom in this holding cell, and the overall feeling is cramped, anxious, and nauseas. It is not just the physical conditions of this place that make it so miserable, but also the influence it has on your mental state. Going in for the first time, you would assume that you would be in this holding cell for a half hour, maybe an hour. Unfortunately, I was in the holding cell for an entire day, 24 hours, before going to the yard. This alone was enough of a deterrent to never drive drunk or doing anything again that might land me in tent city.

Once I got on to the yard, it was not quite what I expected. Most of the people serving time there were normal people, not hardened criminals, and many of them had also been in there for DUI’s. There were two elements of this place that could not be altered that I would have to overcome- the extreme heat and the boredom.