DWI Courts Initiative

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Wholesalers of America (WSWA) launched a new DWI courts initiative. The initiative focused on establishing best practices for DWI courts and determining national policy issues about drunk driving as they relate to DWI courts. The initiative had as its main focus the concern that many “hard-core” drunk drivers do not have access to DWI courts. “Hard-core” drunk drivers are those with multiple DWI convictions and those who are found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or higher at the time they were arrested. The new initiative also focused on the goal of adding new DWI courts across the country. As a part of this initiative, NCDC and WSWA launched a national campaign to educate policymakers about the need for the expansion of DWI courts and the success of these courts in dealing with the problem of DWI recidivism. The NCDC was established in 2007 with a goal of nationally eliminating DWI recidivism through the expansion of DWI courts in the United States. Other stated missions of NCDC are to improve DWI court operations through training and technical assistance and to maintain operational standards for DWI courts.

Establishment of DWI Courts

DWI courts were specifically created to address the problem of repeat DWI offenders and the addiction to alcohol and/or drugs that leads many offenders to drink and drive repeatedly. DWI courts also focus on holding DWI offenders accountable for their criminal acts. DWI courts are sometimes referred to as accountability courts. Most DWI courts make use of intensive alcohol treatment programs and require DWI offenders to appear weekly in court in order to monitor their progress. If a DWI offender does not comply with the requirements of a DWI court, they are usually punished with DWI penalties. DWI courts operate by treating the DWI offender’s alcohol or drug problem as well as punishing the offender because punishment alone usually is not effective in altering the behavior of DWI offenders.

DWI courts generally operate according to the Drug Court model. Drug courts were first created in the late 1980’s in order to stop the alcohol and drug use of offenders that leads to criminal activity. The main focus of drug courts is treatment for offenders. The drug court judge is the main figure who is focused on bringing about the sobriety and accountability of offenders. The role of the judge in drug court is to make sure that the offender receives alcohol or drug treatment. The professionals who provide treatment to offenders have constant contact with drug court judges to share information about an offender’s progress in treatment. Offenders who are in drug court are required to attend court on a regular schedule, attend regular treatment sessions, and may be tested for drug use to make sure they maintain abstinence. The drug court system focuses on giving offenders choices about their recovery and encourages offenders to be in control of their treatment and recovery from addiction.

New York Hybrid DWI/Drug Courts

New York currently has 75 hybrid DWI/Drug courts. These courts are located in Brooklyn, Albany, Utica, and many other cities in the state. A hybrid DWI/drug court is a traditional drug court that also takes New York DWI offenders. The DWI courts in New York usually focus on offenders who have at least one prior DWI conviction and who are identified as having alcohol abuse problems. If an offender is convicted of DWI or pleads guilty to an eligible DWI charge, they are offered the opportunity to participate in DWI court. DWI offenders who refuse to participate in DWI court may be sentenced to prison.

Offenders who decide to participate in DWI court are usually sentenced to several years of probation with the condition that they participate in DWI court for a least one year. If a DWI offender successfully completes a DWI court program, they are then generally kept on regular probation. If a DWI offender fails to complete the DWI court program, they may have their probation revoked and may be sentenced to prison. Most offenders who participate in DWI court are subject to mandatory alcohol monitoring for several months and are required to submit to random alcohol and drug screens whenever they appear in court and during the time between court appearances. DWI court judges in New York apply both rewards and sanctions for DWI offenders based on their compliance with the program.


This article is brought to you by Anelli Xavier DWI Defense, a Rochester DWI lawyer.

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