When drunk driving offenders are convicted by a traditional court, they are typically ordered to pay a fine, sent to jail, and receive a license suspension. Some courts require DUI offenders to also participate in an alcohol abuse evaluation and, if needed, treatment, but it’s not always a priority or even a requirement. Such sentencing may be enough to prevent some offenders from repeating the offense. But for hardcore DWI offenders, or those who are repeat offenders or who drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher, punishment without treatment or highly supervised treatment is ineffective because it doesn’t address the underlying problem of alcohol addiction.
Emerging DWI Courts are designed to focus on changing the behavior of hardcore DWI offenders through long-term treatment and intensive supervision, not through punishment alone. Supervision includes random and frequent drug/alcohol testing, remote alcohol testing and electronic monitoring, and bar sweeps and employment/school monitoring.
The treatment and supervision aspect of DWI Courts follow the Drug Court model. However, unlike Drug Courts, DWI Courts also operate on a post-conviction model to ensure that DWI offenders don’t avoid a conviction, license suspension, and other DWI consequences.
According to the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC), DWI Courts are much more successful at reducing repeat drunk driving offenses and arrests than traditional courts. A Michigan study of three DWI Courts found that offenders convicted in the DWI Courts were up to 19 times less likely to commit a repeat DWI offense than those convicted in a traditional court. According to a similar study conducted in Georgia, DWI Court offenders had a 9% rearrest rate, compared to a 35% rearrest rate for traditional court offenders.
While DWI courts aren’t as widespread as Drug Courts, they’re certainly on the rise. The NCDC reports that as of 2011, there are 192 DWI courts in the U.S. There are also 406 Hybrid DWI/Drug Courts, or Drug Courts that now take on DWI offenders. The NCDC continues to work toward expanding the use of DWI courts in the U.S.
To learn more about DWI Courts, visit www.dwicourts.org.