One alternative to jail time for some of those who get a DWI in Missouri is participation in the state’s DWI Treatment Court Program. This program is meant to emphasize treatment of alcohol use disorder and to reduce recidivism of drunk driving offenses. And while these types of programs have seen some success in that regard, they are by no means perfect.
How do DWI treatment court programs work?
If a person is placed under arrest for their third or subsequent drunk driving offense, their criminal record will be examined, and the prosecutor may subsequently refer them for assessment by a treatment provider. Following that, the court will examine the assessment and the person might be offered participation in the DWI Treatment Court Program as an alternative to the traditional criminal court process.
If the person agrees to participate in the DWI Treatment Court Program, they will enter a guilty plea. Their sentence will be suspended, and they will be placed on probation with the program.
If the person has not already been jailed for DWI, they will spend a limited period in jail for “shock time.” Following that, they will either live in a residential treatment facility or will be allowed to live on their own and attend an outpatient treatment program.
As part of the program, the person must make weekly court appearances. They must provide a urine sample four times weekly and submit to random blood-alcohol concentration tests by a court martial or bailiff. The BAC test will be performed on Friday and Saturday evenings.
In addition, the person must attend mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice weekly. They also must participate in group and individual counseling sessions.
A person participating in the program might be granted limited driving privileges either during the program or after the successful completion of the program.
If the person fails to meet the requirements of the program or relapses, they will be sent to jail for 10 days. If the person is found to have operated an automobile when they are not allowed to, they will be sent to jail for 21-45 days. Repeated violations of the program’s requirements will result in the person having to return to court and serve the sentence that was originally suspended.
The problem with the DWI Treatment Court Program
The DWI Drug Court Program might seem great on the surface. An alternative to traditional courts that might result in treatment and reduced penalization would on its face seem like a better way to address alcohol use disorder than mere incarceration. Still, there are problems with the program.
First, these programs are notoriously difficult to qualify for. They are only an option for those who have been arrested for a third or subsequent DWI, but not a DWI that is a Class B felony. In addition, participation is in the hands of the prosecutor and judge. It is not an automatic right.
Second, there is not much leniency for those who break the rules of the program. It can be difficult for someone with alcohol use disorder to stay clean for the duration of the program. The pull of addiction is strong. Some participants who break the rules of the program may end up being kicked out and having to serve their suspended sentence anyway.
So, it is important to weigh your options carefully when charged with DWI. Some people can successfully complete the DWI Treatment Court Program. For others, taking a plea deal and serving their sentence is simply quicker. What is best for you depends on your unique circumstances.