Court Procedures for Handling Intoxicated Drivers
Robert B. Voas, Ph.D., and Deborah A. Fisher, Ph.D.
B. VOAS, PH.D., is a senior research scientist and DEBORAH A. FISHER,
PH.D., is an associate research scientist at the Pacific Institute for
Research and Evaluation, Calverton,
The courts have
implemented numerous approaches to reduce the probability of recidivism among
people apprehended for or convicted of driving while intoxicated. Although
traditional punitive sanctions, such as fines and incarceration, are commonly
used, they have not eliminated drinking and driving in the
During the past two decades,
the percentage of
The relative importance of specific versus general deterrence is unclear and somewhat controversial, because estimates vary widely regarding the proportion of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes who have been previously convicted of DWI (i.e., who are repeat offenders). For example, data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which includes information on arrests in the 3 years preceding the crash, have suggested that 11 percent of offenders are repeat offenders (Hedlund 1995). In contrast, data based on State record systems that include 7 to 10 years of arrest information have indicated that the proportion of repeat offenders is more than 30 percent (Simpson et al. 1996). Thus, for up to one-third of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes, the courts have had a previous opportunity to intervene and reduce the risk of recidivism by implementing court programs.
This article provides an overview of the court procedures currently used to handle DWI offenders. The article first reviews some general considerations and historical developments in identifying and sanctioning DWI offenders, followed by a discussion of various types of sanctions used. Finally, the article explores the judicial process for adjudicating DWI offenses and the various stages in that process during which interventions can occur.
DWI Offenses and Recidivism
A large proportion of
motorists whose driving is impaired by alcohol go undetected, as evidenced
by the fact that at least two-thirds of the most serious (i.e., fatal) alcohol-involved
crashes are caused by drinking drivers who have never before been apprehended
by the police. This finding is confirmed by roadside breath-test surveys that
deter-mine the number of drinking drivers on
As a result of the low probability of being apprehended for DWI, many offenders who come before the court will never be arrested again (i.e., will not be considered recidivists), regardless of the action the court takes or whether the offender continues drinking and driving. Another factor influencing recidivism rates is the fact that spontaneous changes in impaired driving behavior occur in many peoples lives. Thus, many people who drink and drive at one point in their lives may subsequently change their drinking or driving behavior and avoid driving while impaired without undergoing any formal intervention from either health or legal agencies.1 (1Insurance companies have recognized this maturing out of problem behavior for years as evidenced by their higher premiums for youthful male drivers that end at age 25 or when the driver marries.) Finally, the number of recidivists obviously depends on the level of enforcement in the community as well as the effectiveness of court-sanctioning programs.
Some information exists
regarding the recidivism rates of people convicted of DWI. For example, data
from the State of
The fact that more than one-third of first-time DWI offenders are re-arrested has led to concerns about hard-core drinking drivers who are so frequently impaired when driving that they have a record of multiple convictions despite the generally low apprehension rates. These drivers are at especially high risk of being involved in alcohol-related crashes (Simpson et al. 1996). Based on their analyses, Simpson and colleagues (1996) suggested a definition for hard-core drinking drivers that includes all multiple offenders and first-time offenders who have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) (i.e., 0.15 per-cent or more) when arrested. A high BAC generally is viewed as an indication that the offender has established a pattern of heavy drinking over a substantial period of time, resulting in sufficient tolerance to be able to reach BACs of 0.15 percent or higher. This definition has been adopted by several safety organizations and Government agencies, including The Century Council (2000), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) (Voas et al. 1999), and the National Transportation Safety Board (2000). Approximately one-half of first-time DWI offenders have BACs of at least 0.15 percent when arrested. When these offenders are added to the number of offenders with more than one conviction, more than two-thirds of all DWI offenders who come before the court can be classified as hard-core drinking drivers.
Legislative agencies have focused on hard-core-drinking drivers, particularly repeat offenders, for a long time. Following the establishment of the Department of Transportation in 1967, the Highway Safety Bureau (which later became the NHTSA) issued a report on Alcohol and Highway Safety that suggested problem drinkers2 (2 The term problem drinkers refers here to those people who abuse alcohol and frequently experience negative consequences, in contrast to social drinkers, who occasionally consume sufficient alcohol to impair their driving but are not generally seen as abusing or being dependent on alcohol. ) comprised as much as two-thirds of the drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes (U.S. Department of Transportation 1968). As a result of this analysis, the Federal Government funded 35 Alcohol Safety Action Projects (ASAPs) in communities across the Nation. At the time, courts principally used fines, license suspension, and incarceration as sanctions for drinking drivers. The ASAPs focus on problem drinkers, however, stimulated the courts to add alcoholism treatment and alcohol education programs to the mix of sanctions used with DWI offenders (Stewart and Ellingstad 1989). Although the ASAPs were terminated when Federal funding was discontinued, the use of rehabilitation options by the courts in the ASAP communities continued and spread to most traffic courts, at least in part because the offenders, not the Government, pay the costs of treatment services.
Interest in hard-core drinking drivers has increased again in recent years, in part because of the controversy over legislation to reduce the legal BAC limit from 0.10 to 0.08 percent. Groups opposing such laws have argued that legislation could be directed more profitably at the problem drinkers arrested with high BACs who are at greater risk of being involved in crashes than are the heavy consuming social drinkers, who are likely to be arrested with BACs between 0.08 and 0.10 percent. Because of this political debate, in 1998 Congress added a section to the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) requiring States to strengthen their sanctions for second-time DWI offenders or face a transfer of highway construction funds to safety purposes.
Another development that increased public and legislative attention to the impaired-driving issue was the formation of activist groups, such as MADD, in the early 1980s. The advocacy efforts of these groups resulted in legislation that significantly enhanced the severity of sanctions for DWI and strengthened enforcement of impaired driving laws, thereby increasing the flow of offenders into the courts (McCarthy and Harvey 1989). MADD also initiated efforts to identify limitations of the adjudication process. For example, the group organized a court-monitoring program that revealed the extent to which offenders often were able to avoid the more severe sanctions. In particular, the courts frequently failed to impose the full period of license suspension provided by the law, even though extensive research indicated that license action was the most effective sanction for reducing recidivism and crash involvement of DWI offenders (Nichols and Ross 1990; Peck et al. 1985).
The inconsistent application of license sanctions by the criminal justice system encouraged activists to push for the passage of administrative license revocation (ALR) laws. These laws empower the State departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) to suspend, at the time of arrest, the drivers licenses of those people who are apprehended with BACs above the legal limit. (This license suspension takes place prior to the trial and is generally independent of the court disposition.) ALR laws, which currently exist in 40 of the 50 States, are associated with reduced pro-portions of drinking drivers in fatal crashes (Zador et al. 1988; Voas et al. 2000) and have been highly successful in increasing the number of DWI offenders whose licenses are suspended. However, States are experiencing difficulties in adequately enforcing those suspensions: as many as 75 percent of drivers suspended for DWI continue to drive (Nichols and Ross 1990). As a result, both public and legislative attention is focusing increasingly on court sanctions that prevent DWI recidivism and driving-while-suspended offenses through actions against the offenders vehicle, such as impoundment or confiscation. These and other court sanctions currently used with DWI offenders are discussed in the following section.
Sanctions Used With DWI Offenders
As mentioned previously, any sanction can have a general deterrent effect as well as a specific deterrent effect. The discussion in this article focuses on the impact of sanctions in preventing people who have been apprehended for DWI from repeating their offense (i.e., on specific deterrence strategies). The generation of a general deterrence effect that is, dissuading the driving public at large from ever drinking and driving is of equal or possibly even greater importance, however, and each sanction must be judged on its merits for both general and specific deterrence. This requirement complicates the evaluation of court remedies applied to DWI offenders. Space does not permit the assessment of the general deterrence value of sanctions in this review, how-ever, and the reader is referred to articles by Voas (2000), Hingson (1996), and Nichols and Ross (1990) for a broader discussion of the general deterrence effects of various sanctions.
Court sanctions for DWI offenders fall into four categories based on different concepts of why people drink and drive and how recidivism can be prevented:
Penalties to produce deterrence. The use of these sanctions (e.g., fines and incarceration) is based on the assumption that drinking and driving occurs because the driver is not motivated to change his or her behavior and perhaps accept inconveniences (e.g., relying on a designated driver or taxi) to avoid drunk driving. In these cases, punishment (or the threat of punishment) might favorably influence future decision-making about drinking and driving.
Education programs. These sanctions assume that the driver committed the DWI offense because of a lack of knowledge about the following: drinking-and-driving laws, the effects of alcohol on driving, and ways to avoid drinking and driving. Education programs, together with alcoholism treatment programs, are classified as rehabilitative approaches.
Alcoholism treatment programs. The use of these sanctions is based on the premise that many DWI offenders abuse or are dependent on alcohol and must recover from their uncontrolled pattern of alcohol consumption in order to avoid impaired driving.
Incapacitating sanctions. These measures, which include license suspension and vehicle actions (e.g., vehicle impoundment), are designed to protect the public (at least for the duration of the sanction) by making it impossible for the offender to drink and drive, regardless of the reason for the original offense.
Many DWI sanctions fulfill more than one of these objectives, because the specific deterrent, the rehabilitative approaches, and the incapacitating effects of sanctions often cannot be separated. For example, both incarceration and the installation of devices that prevent an intoxicated driver from starting a vehicle (i.e., ignition interlocks) can have an immediate effect in protecting the public by restricting or eliminating driving. Simultaneously, these measures are expected to be aversive and to deter recidivism. Similarly, although treatment and education programs may serve primarily as a means to rehabilitate offenders, they also may be experienced by offenders as unpleasant and costly and thus have a specific deterrent effect as well.
All court sanctions have a potential deterrent effect, because they force the offender to engage in activities that he or she would normally avoid. Tradition-ally, however, fines and jail sentences have been the primary means of creating deterrence.
the widespread use of fines in penalizing DWI offenders, little research has
been conducted regarding their general or specific deterrent effect in the
In addition to their punitive
function and potential for reducing recidivism, fines fund the DWI criminal
justice system in some jurisdictions. The NHTSA (1983) has urged States to
develop self-sufficient alcohol safety programs. The State of
Incarceration. Only limited evidence suggests that jail sentences have a general deterrent effect and reduce drunk driving by the public (Voas 1986; Nichols and Ross 1990; NHTSA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol-ism [NIAAA] 1996). Moreover, little evidence indicates that this sanction has a specific deterrent effect, making its usefulness questionable. In addition, limited jail space and the cost of incarceration constrain the use of jail sentences (Voas 1985). Nevertheless, the authority to incarcerate an offender ultimately is the basis of the courts power to enforce all of its other sanctions (e.g., probation requirements and referrals to treatment programs). Thus, although the effectiveness of jail sentences is doubtful, the desire to avoid jail is an essential incentive for offenders to comply with sanctions that appear to be more effective, such as treatment interventions (NHTSA and NIAAA 1996).
Jail sentences also can provide an opportunity to place DWI offenders into residential treatment programs. For example, Prince Georges County, Maryland, has implemented a 28-day DWI detention center program for repeat offenders in which participants undergo intensive assessment and receive group therapy in the evenings after returning from work release. This program reduced repeat-offender recidivism by approximately 75 percent (Voas and Tippetts 1990). The passage of a law requiring a mandatory 2-day jail term for first-time DWI offenders in Ohio provided an opportunity to develop a 48-hour residential Weekend Intervention Program (WIP) that met the States jail requirements but also provided for intensive assessment of first-time DWI offenders (Siegal 1985). Final disposition of the case was postponed until the detailed referral plan resulting from this assessment could be submitted to the court for use in sentencing offenders. This program appeared to reduce recidivism when the judge made adherence to the referral plan a condition of probation (Siegal 1985), and the program has been duplicated in numerous areas through-out the country.
The use of rehabilitative or remedial sanctions is based on the assumption that for many drivers, DWI offenses result from personal risk factors, such as lack of knowledge about alcohols effects or the presence of alcohol-use disorders (i.e., alcohol abuse or dependence). To change those risk factors, the offenders are mandated to participate in education or alcoholism treatment programs.
Education Programs. Education programs provide information on important alcohol-related issues, such as alcohols effects on driving performance, the relationship between rate of consumption and BACs, and the nature of DWI laws. In addition, these programs frequently include skills training to help offenders choose and implement plans to avoid drinking and driving. These programs, which are aimed primarily at first-time DWI offenders who have been classified as social drinkers, generally are delivered in a classroom setting over 10 to 14 hours.
Evaluations of such programs have yielded mixed results, with the extent of the impact frequently inversely related to the quality of the evaluation design (Stewart and Ellingstad 1989; Wells-Parker et al. 1995). For example, early evaluations that found relatively great benefits from education programs suffered from the comparison of nonequivalent groups. Thus, participants in education programs were not randomly assigned to those programs, but elected to do so to avoid license suspension; as a result, the studies compared these fully licensed drivers with suspended drivers. The opportunities to conduct random assignment studies within the court setting, however, have been limited by fairness and equal treatment considerations. Even when such opportunities have existed, they have frequently yielded conflicting results (for an example of such conflicting results obtained in the same State, see Reis 1983 and Stewart et al. 1987).
effort being applied throughout the country to both first time and repeat
offenders is mandated attendance at Victim Impact Panels (VIPs). These panels
are one-time, 2-hour education programs in which victims of drunk-driving
crashes or their relatives describe their injuries and the effect the crash
has had on them. Two evaluations of VIP programs have been published. Fors
and Rojeck (1999) reported evidence for the programs effectiveness in
reducing recidivism; however, a study by
Treatment Programs. Therapeutic programs strive to reduce impaired driving by promoting recovery from alcohol abuse and dependence. These interventions require a more extensive and intensive form of remediation than can be achieved with education and counseling. Historically, approximately one-third of DWI offenders have been classified as problem drinkers based on analyses of their driving records and on brief assessment instruments, such as the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST) or the Mortimer-Filkins structured interview (Nichols et al. 1978). These offenders typically have been assigned to 3- to 6-month treatment programs (Nichols et al. 1978). The remaining two-thirds of first-time offenders have been considered social drinkers who are candidates for education programs.
To motivate DWI offenders to participate in longer therapeutic programs, participants initially were allowed to retain their driving privileges. When the recidivism rate of offenders in treatment programs was compared with that of offenders whose driving privileges had been fully suspended, however, the latter group was involved in fewer sub-sequent crashes (Hagen et al. 1980; Sadler et al. 1991). This difference appears to result principally from the fact that suspension reduces the risk of both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related crashes, whereas treatment primarily reduces alcohol-related crashes (McKnight and Voas 1991). Although the effects on crash involvement associated with suspension are more extensive than those associated with treatment, the former tend to be shorter in duration, lasting only as long as the suspension is in effect. In contrast, treatment may have carry-over effects (e.g., reductions in heavy drinking) that extend well beyond the period of intervention.
More recently, with the passage of ALR laws, all DWI offenders tend to receive suspensions regardless of whether they participate in treatment programs. Under these conditions, the combination of suspension with treatment has been more effective in reducing recidivism than suspension or treatment alone. For example, DeYoung (1997) found that suspended second-time offenders who participated in an 18-month treatment and monitoring program had recidivism rates approximately 30 percent lower than did offenders who only received suspensions.
In general, the evaluation of treatment and education programs for DWI offenders has proven difficult. (For a recent review of the methodological challenges inherent in conducting research related to the broader effectiveness of alcohol and other drug treatment as well as the strategies for addressing them, see Dennis et al. 2000.) Among the factors contributing to the methodological short-comings of studies are the following:
- Judges are guided by fairness and equal treatment considerations when making their decisions. As a result, they generally do not assign offenders randomly to various court programs, which can result in non-comparable groups of offenders.
- Researchers and judges generally have a tendency to treat DWI offenders as a homogeneous group and ignore important variations among them. However, researchers have identified 5 to 10 groups of offenders with significantly different characteristics. These differences can make it harder to detect specific program effects.
- Truly untreated control groups to compare with treated offenders are usually lacking, because offenders in control groups generally receive a set of traditional sanctions, which may be more salient than the treatment being evaluated.
- Researchers often use relatively weak measures for evaluating treatment and education programs. For example, some studies use DWI recidivism and crash involvement as outcome measures, both of which are based on rare events and therefore are relatively insensitive. Other studies rely on self-reported attitude and knowledge items, which are subject to recall and other biases and, consequently, may be of limited validity for predicting recidivism.
In a landmark study, Wells-Parker and colleagues (1995) conducted a meta-analysis of 215 studies of rehabilitative interventions for DWI offenders reported between 1955 and 1992. Interventions fell into seven categories: education, psychotherapy or counseling, traditional alcoholism treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, treatment with the medication disulfiram (Antabuse®),3 (3Disulfiram is a medication used in alcoholism treatment. When taken with alcohol, disulfiramcauses highly unpleasant effects, such as nausea and vomiting. These effects deter alcoholic patients from consuming alcohol while taking the medication.) contact probation, and combined interventions (i.e., interventions that included two or more distinct and independent modalities). Interventions involving education only lasted an average of 10 hours over 5 weeks, whereas combined interventions lasted an average of 36 hours over 32 weeks. Given the limitations noted above, it is not surprising that the majority of studies analyzed were considered methodologically weak. However, the investigators found that among the studies rated as strongest methodologically, remedial programs were associated with a 7- to 9-percent reduction in recidivism. Combinations of modalities in particular those including education, psychotherapy or counseling, and followup contact or probation were more effective than other intervention types. A recent review of meta-analyses conducted on alcohol and other drug treatment research (Wilson 2000) points out some problems with the analytic techniques used in the study by Wells-Parker and colleagues (1995); however, to date, it is the only attempt to quantitatively synthesize the research on remedial pro-grams for DWI offenders.
Reductions in recidivism
of 7 to 9 percent may not appear to be substantial. However, about 1.5 million
DWI arrests occur each year (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2000 online),
and most of the offenders are convicted and required to attend an education
or treatment program. With these high numbers, a 9-percent reduction in recidivism
can result in a major reduction in repeat DWI offenses. Further, recidivism
only reflects the potential benefits of treatment and other sanctions to highway
safety. However, reductions in heavy drinking produced by treatment programs
also can reduce alcohol-related violence, falls and other traumatic injuries,
and other medical and social consequences of excessive alcohol use. The potential
effect of these non-highway safety benefits was demonstrated by Smart and
Mann (1993), who found an association between the regional availability of
treatment programs and lower liver cirrhosis rates in
As previously noted, the passage of ALR laws has increased the use
of license suspensions and has largely taken the right to impose this sentence
out of the hands of the courts. However, States are encountering a significant
problem in enforcing license suspensions, as shown by the fact that 50 to
75 percent of DWI offenders report that they have driven while suspended (Nichols
and Ross 1990). In addition, most offenders do not reinstate their licenses
when they become eligible to do so. For example, the reinstatement rate in
As a result, courts have
increasingly turned to measures targeting the vehicles (and, in some cases,
the registration or vehicle tags) of DWI offenders as a means of incapacitating
these high-risk drivers. For example, in 1993
Ignition Interlocks. Alcohol safety interlocks are also widely used to control the driving of DWI offenders. These devices require the driver to take a breath test before starting the car and will pre-vent vehicle ignition if the operator has a BAC higher than 0.025 percent. Interlock devices are highly effective in preventing drinking and driving, thereby reducing DWI recidivism by 50 to 90 percent (Coben and Larkin 1999; Voas et al. 1999) while they remain on the vehicle. Once the units are removed and the offenders license is reinstated, how-ever, recidivism risk returns to the same level as that of offenders who have not participated in interlock programs.
Eighty percent of States have passed specific legislation allowing the use of interlock devices; however, fewer than 10 percent of offenders who are offered a choice between installing such a device or receiving a license suspension elect to enter an interlock program (Voas et al. 1999). Thus, the majority of DWI offenders apparently prefer to drive while suspended rather than install such units. Currently, both the courts and the State DMVs manage interlock programs. The courts, however, with their ability to motivate compliance through the threat of other sanctions (e.g., incarceration) will increasingly be called upon to manage these programs in order to achieve higher levels of participation by DWI offenders.
License Plate Impoundment.
House Arrest and Electronic Home Monitoring. A relatively recent type of sanction is placing the offender under house arrest (while allowing him or her to go to work or attend other court-approved activities), which is enforced through electronic monitoring (e.g., electronic bracelets). Electronic house arrest generally has been considered an alternative to jail. If, however, the duration of the house arrest were equal to the corresponding jail sentence, such a sanction would be viewed as significantly less severe. Therefore, house arrest periods often are relatively lengthy (i.e., 3 to 6 months) compared with jail sentences given for the same offenses. Such periods can be considered an incapacitating sanction: they prevent recreational and nighttime driving, because the offender is confined to the home. An evaluation of a house arrest program for DWI offenders in Los Angeles County (where the average confinement was 88 days) found that the program reduced recidivism by approximately one-third (Jones et al. 1996).
Court Procedures Used for Imposing DWI Sanctions
The handling of DWI cases in the court system has several characteristics that influence how and at what stage in the judicial process DWI sanctions, such as those discussed in the previous section, are imposed. For example, most DWI cases are settled through plea bargains (i.e., without formal trials). Accordingly, the courts have developed various shortcut procedures involving pretrial and presentencing programs. Also, DWI cases tend to be the least interesting and least challenging cases for the judiciary and, therefore, are frequently assigned to junior members of the court. Furthermore, because DWI tends to be the most frequent criminal offense, case loads are high and judges are under pressure to avoid jury trials. As a result, judges try to limit hearings to no more than one per offender. The procedures used by the courts to implement the various sanctioning programs have received little research attention. The following sections summarize some of those procedures and their effect on sanctions.
Offenders younger than age 18 can be tried in either juvenile or adult court. The use of juvenile courts has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, juvenile courts can play an important sanctioning role, because they have the power to require parental involvement in remedial programs. At the same time, however, safety activists have been concerned about the use of juvenile courts, because the court records are sealed, thereby making it difficult to determine whether an offender has received a sanction. Moreover, DWI convictions in juvenile court frequently are not reported to the DMV; as a result, the public is not protected against repeat offenses by suspension of the youths license. Consequently, most localities try underage DWI offenders in regular traffic courts. Similarly, safety activists, such as MADD members, have opposed allowing youth peer or teen courts, which are used in some communities to handle minor offenses, such as to hear drinking-and-driving cases, because these courts do not have the authority to impose license suspensions.
DWI offenses are considered
criminal offenses and, therefore, are tried in criminal court. Recently, however,
several jurisdictions in the State of
For DWI cases that are being adjudicated in criminal court, hearings may be held well before the trial begins. These pretrial hearings may result in the imposition of important sanctions, such as license suspension and vehicle impoundment. Because these hearings occur shortly after the offense, they have the important feature of immediacy, which, according to hypotheses, makes them more effective in deterring offenders (Ross 1984). Pretrial hearings may be held for several reasons:
· ALR and suspension laws require that the offender have an opportunity to receive a hearing. Although most of these cases are heard before a DMV hearing officer, in some States the hearings occur in the criminal court.
· Criminal courts may hold bail hearings for offenders who are being held on more serious DWI-related charges, such as vehicular homicide.
· In some jurisdictions, bail hearings are held for DWI offenders, during which installation of an interlock can be imposed as a condition of pretrial release.
In States where the vehicles driven by DWI offenders are being impounded (e.g.,
Some efforts to prevent
recidivism among DWI offenders, particularly those drivers who suffer from
alcohol-use disorders, focus on motivating the offenders to participate in
treatment programs. One way to achieve this goal is by postponing a trial
pending the completion of the remedial program, a process called diversion.
Successful completion of the treatment or education program, together with
a period of driving without a repeat offense, can earn the offender a dismissal
of the DWI charge. Safety advocates have strongly opposed such programs, because
the offenders driving record remains clear. As a result, some offenders
in States such as
Although most diversion
programs are limited to first-time offenders, some diversion programs are
open to repeat offenders. Salzberg and Klingberg (1983) evaluated one such
program in the State of
Not all pretrial programs
allow the offender to avoid a DWI conviction on the driving record through
program participation. For example, a pretrial, intensive supervision probation
(ISP) program in
Some States and jurisdictions
have instituted interventions that are initiated after conviction but before
sanctioning and which influence the severity of the final sanction. These
presentencing programs usually avoid the driver record problem presented by
pretrial programs. In many cases, as in the State of Mary-lands Probation
Before Judgement (PBJ) procedure, however, States allow the offense to be
struck from the drivers record after a certain period of offense-free
Presentencing programs in the adjudication of DWI offenses also can include screening procedures\that is, a triage process of determining which first-time offenders have a significant drinking problem and, therefore, require assignment to an extended treatment program rather than a short alcohol education program. (Screening is much less important for multiple offenders who, by virtue of being apprehended for DWI more than once, have demonstrated that they are likely to have a drinking problem.) A court presentence investigator normally conducts the screening procedure, and the result is provided to the judge at the time of sentencing. The qualifications of these presentence investigators vary. In many cases they are recovering alcoholics, rather than qualified clinicians, who rely heavily on the offenders driving record and on his or her self-reports of alcohol use and related problems. Several effective questionnaire instruments, such as the Mortimer-Filkins inventory, the CAGE questionnaire, and the MAST, have been developed to assist in this process (Popkin et al. 1988). In some cases, courts may sentence offenders to attend programs administered by a State agency or a private service and allow that agency or company to screen the drivers after conviction.
DWI offenders, like other criminal offenders, typically are unmotivated to comply with the court-imposed sanctions, including those, such as treatment, that are designed to be beneficial and facilitate recovery from alcohol or other drug dependence. The application of the courts probation authority, which is based on its power to impose a jail sentence, is critical to assuring offender compliance with treatment, education, house arrest, interlock, and other sanction programs. A major problem for the courts, however, is the limited availability of probation officers, which results in limited supervision of most DWI offenders. reason
Several studies have demonstrated the potential strength of monitoring programs. Reis (1983) found that for repeat DWI offenders, 15-minute biweekly meetings with a probation officer were as effective in reducing DWI recidivism as were weekly group therapy sessions. Similarly, Voas and Tippetts (1990) noted that first-time DWI offenders required to report weekly to alcohol program monitors had two-thirds fewer subsequent DWI offenses compared with offenders without that requirement.
More extensive forms of
probation also can reduce recidivism effectively, as shown by the Milwaukee
ISP program mentioned previously and the Day Reporting Center (DRC) in
Extended Supervision by Judges
As judges gain seniority,
they frequently choose to adjudicate more serious offenses than DWI, resulting
in a high turnover among judges handling DWI cases. A few judges, however,
elect to focus on DWI offenders and develop their own special approaches to
sentencing DWI offenders. Typically, these programs involve monitoring offenders
closely. Examples of such innovative programs are those developed by Judge
Culver in Indiana, who gives offenders the alter-native of installing an ignition
interlock or going to jail, and by Judge Adkins in Ohio, who uses lie detectors
to deter-mine whether offenders have complied with the probation requirement
for abstinence. Most such initiatives have not been evaluated. However, Jones
and Lacey (1998) studied a program designed by Judge Todd in
Currently, the best examples
of extended judicial monitoring of alcohol and other drug abuse offenders
are drug courts. These courts have been developed over the past decade to
take nonviolent drug offenders out of traditional court systems and place
them in programs designed to promote recovery, reduce recidivism, and save
money (Tauber and Huddleston 1999). To this end, drug courts take a rehabilitative
approach\ characterized by clinical assessment and intensive treatment\to
initiate behavioral changes in offenders with clinically significant drug-abuse
problems. Drug courts also typically feature close supervision by the judge
as well as by the treatment provider, including frequent drug testing and
a demand for offender accountability. Approximately one-half of all drug-court
programs involve diversion. For offenders who successfully complete the treatment
program, the original charges may be reduced or dropped, whereas offenders
who fail to complete the program face prosecution and sentencing for the original
offense. Currently, approximately 550 drug courts exist or are being planned
The application of the drug-court model to DWI cases is based on the notion that the traditional judicial approach (i.e., sanctions) has reduced alcohol-related crashes primarily among social drinkers and drivers under the legal drinking age. Problem drinkers, however, generally are not deterred by traditional sanctions and continue to drink as well as drive after drinking until they are successfully treated for their addiction. Accordingly, DWI court programs are typically for repeat offenders who are most likely to be problem drinkers. In some jurisdictions, certain drug courts operate solely to hear DWI cases (i.e., DWI courts), whereas in other jurisdictions drug courts adjudicate both DWI and other drug cases. Because they are a recent development in the effort to prevent impaired driving, few drug courts handling DWI cases have been evaluated.
Based on the research conducted to date, it appears that the two most effective means of reducing recidivism among DWI offenders are rehabilitative programs and incapacitation, whereas the usefulness of punishment (e.g., incarceration and fines) appears limited. Although great variation exists in treatment and education programs and their effectiveness, evidence suggests that when such programs are delivered alone (i.e., with-out other intervention components), modest reductions in recidivism are attained. Effectiveness is increased, how-ever, when remedial interventions are comprised of several modalities (including contact probation, which has been shown independently to reduce recidivism risk). The strongest evidence for using combination interventions comes from numerous studies showing significant reductions in reconviction rates over several years when treatment and education programs are combined with license suspension. One essential factor in ensuring treatment effectiveness (and in supporting recovery of alcohol-dependent drivers) is monitoring offenders participation in such programs.
Restricting offenders driving opportunities while treatment interventions take place is a growing problem. Similarly, the increasing number of drivers whose licenses have been suspended as the result of ALR laws has made enforcement of these suspensions difficult. To cope with these problems, an increasing number of States will probably turn to vehicle impoundment and forfeiture. Other strategies that will play an increasing role in incapacitation approaches in the future are technological measures, such as electronic house arrest monitoring and vehicle interlocks. Because these methods of monitoring behavior are intrusive, offenders will strongly resist their application. Consequently, such sanctions generally will need to be imposed by the courts, which have the power to impose incarceration on offenders who fail to comply.
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