DUI Courts and Repeat-Offender Programs

Alternative sentencing programs that aim to rehabilitate DUI repeat-offenders.

Many DUI offenders get the message after their first conviction. But there are also those who can't seem to reform their ways. The DUI laws of all states treat repeat offenders more harshly than first offenders. However, recognizing that greater penalties don't always get the desired results, some states have created "DUI courts" and repeat-offender programs that focus on remedying what is often the root of the problem—the offender's substance abuse issues.

Standard Sentencing for Repeat Offenders

Generally, DUI penalties include fines, license suspension, and possible jail time. However, the specific dollar amounts and number of days of suspension and jail depend largely on how many prior DUI convictions the offender has.

DUI first-offenders are sometimes eligible for diversion programs and the like that can alleviate some of the consequences of a DUI. But for DUI repeat-offenders, these second-chance type programs aren't available. So, traditionally, second and subsequent DUI offenders didn't have many options other than try to negotiate some of the penalties down through plea bargaining or fight the case at trial.

Unfortunately, many repeat DUI offenders are alcoholics and addicts. For these people, the standard DUI sentencing system can become a vicious cycle. Namely, offenders with substance abuse problems are apt to relapse and reoffend. The result is the offender's probation gets revoked or the offender picks up new criminal charges. In either scenario, these offenders end up back where they started on the wrong side of the law.

DUI Court and Repeat-Offender Programs

In an effort to curb this revolving door, some states, like Georgia and Michigan, have created special courts and programs for repeat DUI offenders. Rather than punishing offenders with months or years of jail time, the program uses intense supervision to change the offender's behavior and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

Program Requirements

DUI court and repeat-offender programs generally have lots of requirements. For example, a Michigan DUI court program requires a 72-week commitment for participants. During this time, participants are required to be gainfully employed, subject to a 10:00 p.m. curfew, and must agree to random drug and alcohol testing and home visits by a probation officer. The participant must also attend and complete 90 days of group treatment. These types of requirements and intense supervision are common to DUI court and repeat-offender programs.

While DUI court requirements may appear onerous, these programs work for many people. Many drivers get DUIs because they are alcoholics, not because they are wanton or reckless criminals. DUI court uses intense supervision with the goal of creating lifelong habits and supporting relationships to prevent relapse and resulting criminality.

But, unfortunately, DUI court doesn't work for everyone. Those who fail or refuse to complete program requirements typically face the standard DUI penalties.

Benefits of DUI Courts and Repeat-Offender Programs

Offenders who successfully participate in DUI court or a repeat-offender program typically receive a number of benefits. For example, program participants normally serve no time in jail or less jail time than they otherwise would have and might pay lower fine amounts. Many DUI courts also replace the license revocation with license restrictions, allowing participants to maintain their employment and livelihood. These restricted driving privileges often require the use of an ignition interlock device (IID).

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