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Texas offers innovative DWI treatment program

In recent posts to Texas readers we’ve explored various theories of criminal punishment, including deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation. Today’s story explores the goal of rehabilitation in the context of DWI offenders.

Specifically, statistics show that intensive treatment programs for DWI offenders may actually be working. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired driving fatalities dropped 2.5 percent in 2011. One reason for the decrease may be the more than 600 DWI Courts across the country.

According to the senior director for the National Center for DWI Courts, participants who complete the program may be 65 percent less likely to be rearrested for driving under the influence.

The treatment program is typically 18 months long and involves a team of seven people, including a cop, a probation officer, and a treatment provider. Participants are required to pass a twice-weekly drug test. Unlike traditional jail, however, the program focuses on positive reinforcements and incentives, instead of punishment. For example, rewards for participants who stay sober may include gift cards or even something as simple as applause. Those who fail the drug test may be required to undergo daily testing, be assigned a paper on the crime they committed, or even jail time as a last resort.

Not every DWI defendant is admitted to the program. After being arrested for driving under the influence, an offender is evaluated to see whether DWI Court could help him or her. For example, the senior director cautions that social drinkers, in particular, may be unsuitable for the program because it is an intensive treatment program designed for addicts.

Critics of the program say it goes soft on DWI offenders, withholding deserved punishment from them, and praising them for behavior which other law-abiding citizens are expected to already follow. However, the senior director responds to such criticisms by noting that the nature of addition is unique, and requires an innovative approach so that addicts can once again learn how to behave the right way.

Right or wrong, DWI Courts appear to be growing in popularity. There are now 600 DWI Courts around the U.S., and this year Texas added to that count.

Source: Business Insider, “A Drop in Drunk Driving Fatalities Shows an Unorthodox Court System is Actually Working,” Abby Rogers, Dec. 16, 2012

Our firm handles situations similar to the one described in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Houston DWI Lawyer page.