DUI/Drug Courts

Definition: DUI/Drug Courts are separate court dockets dedicated to changing the behavior of alcohol/drug dependent offenders convicted of DUI. The goal of these courts is to reduce recidivism by attacking the root cause of DUI: alcohol and other drug abuse.

Executive Summary: There are currently more than 2,800 drug courts across the country with hundreds more in the process of being created. More than 600 DUI Courts provide an alternative and effective method of battling impaired driving, particularly in regards to recidivism. This system is able to appropriately address convicted drivers in a manner that targets the defendant’s dependence on alcohol, which is usually the cause of repeat offending. DUI Courts provides an option that involves strict court supervision of the defendant’s conduct while the defendant engages in an appropriate form of treatment. These courts are virtually all post-conviction, meaning that the accused must plead guilty or be convicted in order to participate in them.

More Detail: DUI/Drug Courts utilize all criminal justice stakeholders (prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation, law enforcement, and others) along with alcohol/drug treatment professionals.

This group of professionals comprises a DUI/Drug Court Team with the judge as the “captain.” The group uses a team-oriented approach to systematically change participant behavior. This approach includes identification and referral of participants early in the legal process to a full continuum of drug/alcohol treatment and other rehabilitative services. Compliance with treatment and other court-mandated requirements is verified by frequent testing, close community supervision and interaction with the judge in non-adversarial court review hearings. During such hearings the judge employs a science-based response to participant compliance (or non-compliance) in an effort to further the team’s goal to encourage pro-social, sober behaviors that will help prevent DUI recidivism.

Supported by the American Judges Association, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the National Transportation Safety Board,  DUI Courts have a body of evidence demonstrating that “close monitoring” and intensive treatment with individualized sanctions for DUI offenders reduce recidivism.

Close monitoring approaches include: formal intensive supervision programs, home confinement with electronic monitoring, dedicated detention facilities and individual oversight by judges and continuous alcohol monitoring. Evaluations of DUI court effects on recidivism and court efficiency are ongoing. DUI courts use close monitoring together with random testing, treatment and positive reinforcement. One preliminary report on a DUI court in New Mexico indicated that recidivism was reduced by 50 percent for offenders completing the DUI court as compared to similar offenders not assigned to the DUI court. The latest research shows not only a reduction in recifivism but also a reduction in crashes.  “Research Update on DWI Courts” (NCDC 2015) http://www.dwicourts.org/learn/about-dwi-court/-guiding-principles

DUI courts follow the “Ten Key Components of Drug Courts” http://www.nadcp.org/sites/default/files/nadcp/KeyComponents.pdf  and the “Ten Guiding Principles of DUI Courts,” http://www.dwicourts.org/learn/about-dwi-court/-guiding-principles as established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the National Drug Court Institute. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) encourages the use of DUI courts through the Section 410 Alcohol Impaired Incentive Grant Program as did the latest transportation legislation adopted by Congress.


Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges


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