An agreed understanding was reached at the March 22 Sunnyside City Council meeting between the City of Sunnyside and Yakima County District Court, regarding a new option for a DUI court program.

Council voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Martin Casey to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Yakima District Court and the City of Sunnyside.

The program, designed by the Yakima District Court, is a specialized option provided to defendants that meet certain criteria to be enrolled. The defendants would receive assistance counseling with the intent to reduce repeat offenses.

“This follows a model of trying to provide more targeted resources to help reduce the reoccurrence of these type of offenses,” said Sunnyside City Manager Martin Casey.

The new alternative is not designed for a one time DUI offender rather it is more focused for possible repeat offenders. The DUI court program requires continued appearances and participation from defendants that choose to enroll, Police Chief Al Escalera explained.

“They have to be willing to participate. It is not for your one time offender it is for your multiple offender. It hopefully provides them the resources and education to reduce to keep them from getting felony status. If they fail to comply with some of the things they agree to do, the judge can then remand them to jail,” Escalera further explained.

In the case that a defendant must serve jail time they would serve time at the Sunnyside Municipal Jail. This would only apply to defendants that were originally arrested within the City of Sunnyside and within the City of Toppenish. The agreement would transfer the qualified DUI cases from Sunnyside Municipal Court to Yakima District Court for prosecution. There is no cost to the City of Sunnyside for the transfers.

“If the program is successful we should actually see a little reduction in beds occupied by repeat DUI offenders as they are receiving the help they need to succeed,” Casey acknowledged.

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