After a DUI: Jail vs. First Chance

First Chance, an alternative to jail for some DUI's

This last weekend, San Carlos police arrested two men for drunk driving.  In one case, a 27-year old man was booked into the San Mateo County Jail.   In another, a 25-year old man was cited and released to First Chance.  These two scenarios play out over and over again…documented in bulletins released by the police department.

So who gets a jail cell or who gets a not-so-bad dorm room at First Chance, located at 335 Quarry Road in San Carlos?

Sgt. Alma Zamora of the SC Police Bureau/SMC Sheriff’s Office says, for the most part, people arrested for the first time while driving under the influence are candidates for First Chance.  A big factor is attitude.   “Candidates are typically cooperative and can walk into the office without the assistance of an officer,” Zamora explained, adding that officers must also determine that the arrestee doesn’t pose a threat to staff at the treatment center.

In 2010, 85 San Carlos residents arrested for DUIs headed off to First Chance, avoiding the harsher reality of a night spent in jail.

Those who find themselves at First Chance – which serves the entire county of San Mateo – are there for a minimum 5-hour stay and a maximum of 18.  On a busy night, First Chance will handle 12-13 people.  While the numbers peak on weekends, Thursdays have become busier for undetermined reasons.

Men's dorm at First Chance

“Usually, people just lie on cots and rest or sleep,” said Julie Kinloch, Program Manager at First Chance.  When they’ve finished sobering up, they have an exit interview to determine if future treatment for drug or alcohol use is needed.

At any point during their stay, an arrestee may grasp the enormity of their situation and become emotional and upset.  Staff offer support and counseling for that, too.

“For some people there’s the perspective that you just need a hard night in jail to learn your lesson, but for most people, there’s a lot of shame.  They’re feeling bad enough and they need the help and support to think it through,” said Kinloch.

Intake desk at First Chance

Still, there’s no avoiding dealing with police officers.  There’s an official evidence room with a locked evidence box for blood and urine samples.  Officers stick around for the average 40-minutes it takes to evaluate a DUI client, who sit at an intake desk where they’re given a basic medical screen and an attitude assessment.  Like jail, money and property are collected and later returned.

“I think it’s a lot better than jail,” said Kinloch, adding that clients are given respect, understanding and some time to come to grips with what happened.

Additional Facts:

First Chance DUI Demographics:  Majority are young adults in their 20′s and 30′s; two-thirds of all those released into the program are men, the remaining one-third are women.

First Chance Sees More Middle-Aged/Older People During:   Christmas and New Year Holiday (Party) Season

Most common driving under influence drug:  meth

Largest percentage of those coming to First Chance for a DUI: residents of San Mateo (includes more drug charges, including meth)

Belmont DUIs to First Chance:  94 residents in 2010

In San Carlos, The Carlos Club on El Camino has the dubious honor as the most frequently named place in 2010 where arrestees said they had their last drink.

First Chance & Outpatient Program (StarVista)

Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Center

335 Quarry Road

San Carlos, CA 94070

(650) 595-8165



Filed Under: Column 1San Carlos News


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  1. [...] To read a previous post entitled, “After a DUI:  Jail vs. First Chance”, click here. [...]

  2. [...] (The Laurel Street Spy profiled First Chance in San Carlos…where some cooperative individuals arrested for DUI’s in San Mateo County are sent instead of jail. The Carlos Club on El Camino had the dubious honor as the most frequently named place in 2010 where arrestees said they had their last drink. Click here to read, “After a DUI: Jail vs. First Chance.) [...]

  3. [...] honor as the most frequently named place in 2010 where arrestees said they had their last drink. (click here to read the LSS piece on “After a DUI: Jail vs. First [...]

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