1. WHAT IS A DWI COURT

A DWI Court is a distinct court docket dedicated to changing the behavior of the alcohol/drug dependant offenders arrested for Driving While Impaired (DWI). The goal of DWI Court is to protect public safety by using the Drug Court model to address alcoholism and substance abuse as the root cause of impaired driving. Hardcore impaired drivers with serious alcohol/substance abuse issues are the primary target population of the DWI Court. (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.) These courts follow the principals set forth in Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components (NDCI 1997) and the Guiding Principles of DWI Courts.

2. WHAT MAKES A DWI COURT DIFFERENT FROM A TRADITIONAL DRUG COURT?

DWI Courts invariably operate within a post-conviction model. They are designed neither to assist the offender in maintaining a clean criminal history nor avoid license suspension. DWI Courts often deal with offenders who pose a greater risk of immediate public safety than many Drug Courts and accordingly have more intensive systems of offender monitoring.

3. HOW DO YOU START A DWI COURT IN YOUR JURISDICTION?

A jurisdiction interested in planning and implementing a DWI Court should first assemble a planning team or steering committee which is both representative of the community and represents all necessary criminal justice stakeholders. The community representatives may include representatives from victim support groups (MADD), media, faith-based institutions, business and civic groups and others. Key criminal justice stakeholders include the typical members of a drug court team such as judge, prosecution, defense counsel, treatment, probation, law enforcement, coordinator, and evaluator.

4. WHAT IS THE TARGET POPULATION FOR A DWI COURT?

  • Repeat impaired drivers (Impaired drivers convicted previously of DWI.)
  • Impaired drivers with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.

5. HOW DOES AN OFFENDER GET INTO A DWI COURT?

An offender may be referred by anyone: law enforcement, defense attorney, prosecutor, or any other members of the team. The offender is typically screened for eligibility and suitability for the program by the Prosecutor or other DWI Court Team member. Eligibility is typically based on legal criteria related to the individual's current impaired-driving charges and to their recidivism history. In addition, it is based on the results of a brief screening instrument administered by intake staff to confirm the individual has a serious substance abuse problem and potentially amenable to substance abuse treatment.

6. WHAT IS THE JUDGE'S ROLE? The Judge is the leader of the team; capable to motivate and elicit buy-in from stakeholders;and should be that of a change agent, by providing effective and continuing judicial leadership and support to the team members and program participants.

7. WHAT IS THE TREATMENT PROTOCOL? Multi-systemic treatment approaches work best because multiple domains, conditions, deficits, and disorders are treated simultaneously. DWI Courts must consider providing all the pieces that comprise an effective treatment continuum, particularly, motivational enhancement therapies, community reinforcement, behavior contracting, social skills training, and marital therapy. However, research further indicates that motivational approaches, cognitive-behavioral therapies, pharmacological approaches, and aftercare/continuing care are critical to sustaining long-term successful treatment outcomes.

8. HOW ARE DWI COURT PARTICIPANTS SUPERVISED? Frequent contact with participants in the office as well as in the field; community supervision reinforces the importance of treatment, accountability and early intervention for relapse.

In addition this intensive supervision must:

  • Provide random and frequent drug/alcohol testing
  • Include remote alcohol testing as well as electronic monitoring
  • Conduct bar sweeps and employment/school monitoring

9. WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORTATION ISSUES? Because this population most often cannot legally operate a motor vehicle, a DWI Court should utilize community resources to help provide alternatives to driving. Examples include bus passes, organized car pools and bike programs. Limited licensure is a possibility in a growing number of states.

10. WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH IMPLEMENTING A DWI COURT? The cost to implement and operate a DWI Court will vary from one community to the next, with several financial factors to consider, including but not limited to:

  • Administrative Personnel (e.g. Coordinator salary)
  • Equipment (e.g. software, database)
  • Drug/Alcohol Testing (i.e. breath tests, urine tests)
  • Electronic Monitoring
  • Treatment
  • Length of DWI Court Program

Existing community resources should be sought out and utilized as much as possible to ensure a sustainable program.

11. HOW ARE DWI COURTS SUSTAINED? City, county, state, federal funds and collaborations are optimal. Many states have approved the operation of DWI Courts and approved funding for these programs. The funding may pass through a number of different agencies in the states; the agencies may also have discretionary funds for treatment or criminal justice purposes. But you need to ask or go look at their websites. Get a contact person in each agency. Consider putting your contact person on your program's steering committee. In many states, revenue is earmarked for treatment or community service projects or the state receives funding for treatment through federal sources. Look and see if your DWI Court can tap into these funds. Some states have passed legislation creating fines or adding a surcharge on fines or fees-and these funds are, in many cases, earmarked for education and treatment programs. Always look for ways to collaborate with law enforcement on securing funds. Collaborate with local treatment agencies. Many programs charge a nominal participant fee, ranging from $5 - $30 dollars per week. This money can be used for grant matches, among other things. Different DWI Courts have accessed corporations and private foundations. Learn what your local foundations support, and ask them to support a piece of your program related to their community efforts.

12. WHO SUPPORTS DWI COURTS?

13. WHAT DWI COURT TRAINING OPTIONS EXIST?

I. NHTSA and NCDC Planning Training:

This training is designed for teams that are not currently operating a Drug or DWI Court. Team oriented, comprehensive training includes development of the following key issues:

  • Mission statement, goals and objectives
  • Target population, eligibility criteria, and disqualification criteria
  • Court model
  • Identification, referral, screening, assessment, and admission process
  • Phases, phase duration, and phase transition criteria
  • Treatment, supervision, and drug testing protocols for each phase
  • Formation of graduation and termination criteria
  • Court responses to client behavior and algorithms of incentives and sanctions
  • Long-term sustainability plan that includes traditional and nontraditional funding, community mapping, resource development, evaluation, and monitoring.

II. NHTSA and NCDC Enhancement Training:
This training is designed for operational Drug Courts that want to expand their target population to include impaired drivers. Topics addressed at the enhancement training include: Targeting the Problem; the Guiding Principles of DWI courts; Developing the DWI Court Treatment Continuum; Community Supervision Protocols; and Sustainability of the DWI Court Program.