Neb. County Implements Special Drunken-driving Court

Scotts Bluff County, Neb. has been approved for a pilot program for a drunken-driving court.

The county already offers an adult drug court, a juvenile drug court and a family drug court.

Crystal Newton, problem-solving court coordinator for District X, and Judge Glenn Camerer will oversee the new court, which will serve offenders who have been charged with second or third drunken-driving offenses.

Camerer said those individuals have become the target clients of the DWI court to help reduce recidivism.

“These are people who are showing addictive tendencies and are likely repeat offenders,” Camerer said. “Most average citizens who find themselves in a DUI situation once will learn and not reoffend. Those with addictive tendencies don’t and are more likely to be repeat offenders.”

The goal of the court. like its drug court counterparts, is to get people enrolled in alcohol and/or drug treatment programs, mental health counseling as needed, and regular participation in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous programs. Each client will be required to undergo a substance-abuse evaluation and must participate in treatment as ordered by the judge.

Unlike some DWI courts throughout the nation, Newton said the Scotts Bluff County Court program is a “post-sentence” court. That means that a judge will sentence any offender as statute allows. All offenders will be required to serve and comply with any sentence and will not be allowed “to spread out sentences” over the course of participation in the DWI court program.

The intent is not to reduce sentences for drunken drivers or to serve as a plea-bargaining tool. Instead, the court will be a tool to help willing clients participate in treatment and to refer clients to other resources that can help the client and his or her family.

“It still remains that putting (drunken-driver offenders) in jail is not solving the issue,” Newton said. “Sometimes, it is the pound of flesh that the community wants, but it doesn’t solve the underlying addictive issues.

“With the court involved, the client is held accountable and has to participate.”

In order to participate in the program, all clients must be willing to abstain from alcohol and/or drugs, Camerer said.

Compliance will be ensured as all participants will be required to have constant monitoring by wearing an ankle bracelet, called Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, which detects even small traces of alcohol through the body’s sweat. All clients will also be subject to random alcohol and/or drug testing and unannounced and routine home visits by probation officers and law enforcement.

The new court was scheduled to begin hearing cases by the end of November.

“From a judge’s perspective, problem-solving courts are time-consuming,” Camerer said. “But, some people succeed in this type of program who wouldn’t succeed in another way. That makes it worthwhile.”