DUI Probation: Contradictory Information from VASAP – Part 1 of 2

Up until last night, things were operating as smooth as they could be for my DUI probation.  I served my time in jail; paid my fines; had the interlock device installed; received a signed and sealed green sheet so that I can drive per restrictions, and have been following my license restrictions and adjusting accordingly; no issues with my interlock device; and I have attended every VASAP class, with the exception of one excused absence.

The exception was the week I was in jail, serving the two-day sentence for this DUI.  Per the rules, I notified my VASAP case manager (who is for all intents and purposes your probation officer when you have a misdemeanor DUI conviction) within 24 hours of knowing about the upcoming absence.  She told me to work with my instructor to reschedule.  My instructor had me attend the early session as well as my regularly scheduled late session the following week, and said the attendance record would be passed on to my case manager.  All good, right?

This week, I received a form letter in the mail from my case manager.  It stated that VASAP was informed that I missed a class.  It gave me a makeup date and stated that I had to pay $25.  It was “signed” by the same case manager to whom I spoke regarding the known absence.

Well, it was all cleared up with a phone call to my case manager (after receiving a busy signal to the main office line for fifteen minutes).  She checked her records on my case and saw that I indeed made up the class.  She also said she would waive the $25 missed class fee since I was serving jail time for my primary offense and notified her within 24 hours of the time I found out about my sentence.

I started off this post intending to give it a theme: the government wants you to fail your probation and screw up again so that they can force more money out of you.  However, after speaking to my case manager, I think VASAP is a little different.  They likely want you to succeed, however, like most government agencies, they are understaffed and underfunded in relation to their workload.  VASAP is mostly funded by the fees it collects from its clients, and does not receive any further state funding.  They claim to supplement the fees with federal highway safety grants.  It is unfortunate, because VASAP holds the key to its clients getting on with their lives, and paperwork mishandling like this can cause confusion and even anger with the ones trying to move on and do the right thing.

The lesson here is, don’t give up when you receive official information that you think is wrong.  Be patient, call the VASAP office until you get through, be willing to sit on hold or call back.  Calmly and politely ask your questions and explain your situation with your case manager.  It is their job to answer your questions and help you through this probationary period.

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