Repeat DWI offenders are over represented in fatal crashes, and have a greater relative risk to kill another person. During an average weekend night, about 1 percent of drivers have BACs of .15 or greater and about two-thirds of fatally injured drinking drivers have BACs of .15 or greater.


To date, it has been left to the traditional courts and criminal justice system to deal with DWI cases, and it has become clear that the traditional process is not working for hardcore DWI offenders. (Hardcore DWI offenders are defined as individuals who drive with a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater, or who are arrested for or convicted of driving while intoxicated after a prior driving while impaired (DWI) conviction.) Punishment, unaccompanied by treatment and accountability, is an ineffective deterrent for the hardcore offenders. The outcome for the offender is continued dependence on alcohol; for the community, continued peril. A proven strategy exists to fight these hardcore impaired drivers, generally called "DWI Courts" or "DWI/Drug Courts."

A DWI Court is an accountability court dedicated to changing the behavior of the hardcore offenders arrested for DWI. The goal of DWI Court or DWI/Drug Court is to protect public safety by using the highly successful Drug Court model that uses accountability and long-term treatment to address the root cause of impaired driving: alcohol and other substance abuse.

Recognizing that treating hardcore DWI offenders is complex and requires a combination of countermeasures is just as important as understanding that the type and timing of the intervention is critical to curbing these offenders' illegal and dangerous behaviors (National Association of State Judicial Educators, 2004). This is consistent with a National Transportation Safety Board report which suggests the importance of quickly identifying and intervening with those drivers having the highest rates of alcohol-impaired driving (Quinlan et al., 2005).

With the hardcore offender as its primary target population, DWI Courts follow Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components (NADCP, 1997) and the more recent Guiding Principles of DWI Courts. Unlike Drug Courts, however, DWI Courts operate within a post-conviction model. This notion is supported in a resolution by National Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stating "MADD recommends that DUI/DWI Courts should not be used to avoid a record of conviction and/or license sanctions."

In addition to MADD, the following organizations have also passed resolutions in support of DWI Courts:

As of December 2011, there are 192 designated DWI Courts. In addition, there are another 406 Hybrid DWI/Drug Courts in operation. (A Hybrid DWI/Drug Court is one that started out as a Drug Court that now also takes DWI Offenders) That brings the total number of specialized courts dealing with hardcore impaired drivers to 598.  To see if a DWI Court is near you, click here.

For a brochure on DWI Courts, click here.