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Sobriety court a drug court for dangerous drunk drivers. Are repeat drunk drivers really dangerous?. Don't courts already prevent drunk driving recidivism? And if they don't does it matter?. And besides, change is hard. Of approx. 1.5 million DWI arrests each year,

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Sobriety court

a drug court for dangerous drunk drivers


Of approx. 1.5 million DWI arrests each year,

about one-third (500,000) have previous DWI arrests.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

number of prior convictions 3 or more
Number of prior Convictions (3 or More)
  • Alabama 54,043
  • Arkansas 34,554
  • California 310,971
  • Connecticut 15,723
  • District of Columbia 32
  • Florida 108,853
  • Georgia 45,598
  • Iowa 10,128
  • Illinois 49,527
  • Kentucky 7,956
  • Massachusetts 22,253
  • Maine 21,759
  • Maryland 25,120
  • New Jersey 19,841
  • North Dakota 372 35
  • Ohio 147,000
  • Rhode Island 3,408
  • South Carolina 14,148
  • Tennessee 54,081
  • Texas 124,662
  • Vermont 6,069
  • Washington 19,783
  • West Virginia 27,837
  • Wisconsin 33,166

46% of car crashes involved alcohol

Of those,

39% were fatal


drivers who caused these fatalities were

7 times more likely to have a prior conviction

for drunk driving


people killed by terrorism in the U.S. In 2001:


people killed by drunk drivers in the U.S. in 2001:



What the courts

have been doing

works about as well as


So what does work?

Sobriety Court!


How do we know?

The evidence is in!


Sobriety court reduces DWI re-arrest rates

by as much as

19 times

According to the Michigan DUI Courts Outcome Evaluation published March 2008.


So what is a Sobriety Court?

a type of drug court for people convicted of

drunk driving, who had a high bac, or had prior drunk driving convictions


Similarities to

Drug court

  • A sobriety court follows the ten key components used by all drug courts
  • The sobriety court team is composed of the judge, a program coordinator, probation officers, prosecutors, defense attorney, and counselor
  • The length of the program is 18 months

Drug Court Similarities

  • Each defendant must sign a contract and agree to participate in open court on the record
  • defendants wave certain rights (the right to the attorney of their choice, medical privacy and any objection to random drug tests or searches)
  • The judge meets with each defendant on a regular basis bi-weekly or monthly to review their progress
  • There is a team review prior to the review session with defendant

Drug Court similarities

  • Defendants see their alcohol/drug counselor twice a week
  • Attend a 12 step program daily for the first 90 days
  • Test daily for the first 60 days
  • See a probation officer weekly
  • Subject to unannounced visits to their home for purposes of testing
  • Rewards for progress
  • Sanctions for failure to comply

Drug Court Similarities

  • There is gradual reduction in supervision called a step down
  • The number of drug/alcohol tests declines with progress
  • The number of 12 step meetings per week declines with progress
  • Probation officer meetings decline to every other week
  • Individual counseling ends, but group counseling continues

Variations from the Drug Court model

  • Defendants must be convicted to enter the program
  • Defendants must live in the court's jurisdiction
  • Necessary focus on convincing defendants that they are addicts

A major variation: graduation is not the end

  • After a defendant graduates they continue on probation for at least nine months
  • During this phase they no longer see the judge
  • They continue to see their probation officer, at first bi-weekly and then monthly
  • They are subject to random testing
  • They continue in aftercare programs

The results of one sobriety court

As of december 31, 2008:

  • 788 participants have been admitted with only a 30% failure rate
  • 128 participants currently in the program.
  • No new DWI offenses were committed after two years by successful Dwi Court Participants.*
  • Drug court participants (who failed to complete) had a new DWI case in the two years following discharge a 2.19% recidivism rate.*

* 2009, evaluation of the 52/1 district court program conducted by The Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office.