PAINESVILLE, Ohio – Creative sentences are nothing new in the Painesville Municipal Courtroom of Judge Michael Cicconetti, but he hopes his latest will reduce the approximately 700 cases of Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated that come before him annually.
“We get so many repeat offenders, and when people drink of course they lose their common sense,” Cicconetti said.
Those convicted of drunk driving now have an additional requirement beyond penalties, fines and jail time. He requires defendants to install and activate the Uber and Lyft rideshare apps on their smart phones as a condition of probation.
The apps allow users to hail a ride with the touch of a button, paying a low fee for the ride and avoiding the high costs of drunk driving.
“Hopefully they’ll just go to their phone, touch that button and have a ride and save another OVI, or more importantly, save them from being hurt or hurting someone else on the road,” Cicconetti said.
The judge has gone outside the box with sentences before. He’s given defendants the choice of jail time or dressing up in costume, walking thirty miles, being pepper sprayed (it was actually water) and viewing the bodies of people killed in drunk driving crashes.
“It not only impacts the defendant that’s before you, but it sends a message out to the community as a whole. If you come before Judge Cicconetti, Painesville Municipal Court, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he said.
Now, a new message: avoiding his court room could be as simple as pulling out a cell phone. He said he hopes the sentence catches on elsewhere.
“It’s just another opportunity for them,” Cicconetti said. “If it works in one or two cases, we’ve helped.”