In 1998, the Colorado legislature passed the Persistent Drunk Driver Act. Under the Act, repeat DUI offenders and DUI offenders with especially high blood alcohol content (BAC) are labeled as “persistent drunk drivers” and will face particularly harsh consequences for DUI convictions. In 2011, however, Colorado courts decided to provide these persistent drunk drivers with an alternative to prison sentences. The program is called Sobriety Court, also known as DUI Court, and is an option that persistent DUI offenders should consider. In order to qualify for the program, the court must determine that you are a persistent drunk driver and that you are a serious risk for repeat DUI offenses, even after a jail sentence.
The Sobriety Court program
Modeled on the Drug Court program, which helps drug offenders recover from addiction and avoid future charges, the Sobriety Courts are focused on rehabilitation instead of incarceration. The principle behind such courts is that addressing the root of the problem–the alcohol addiction–is more successful in preventing future DUIs than penal consequences. If you successfully complete the Sobriety Court program, you will avoid another DUI conviction on your record as well as any sentence you would have otherwise received.
Though a court program almost always sounds preferable to time behind bars, successfully graduating from Denver Sobriety Court is no simple task. The program involves the following:
- Agreeing to not use alcohol or other substances during the entire course of the program.
- Undergoing frequent and random testing for alcohol and/or drugs.
- Attending scheduled court appearances several times per month.
- Participate in substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and any other counseling deemed necessary by a thorough evaluation.
- Attend regularly scheduled meetings with a probation officer.
All participants in Denver Sobriety Courts are closely supervised throughout the entire process to make sure they are complying with the rules of the program and taking it seriously. However, with that intense supervision also comes the support of counselors as well as other participants in the program. Additionally, the program can address other issues in your life, such as transportation difficulties due to losing your driver’s license and other mental or practical problems.
The treatment program used by Sobriety Courts is longer than most rehabilitative programs to try to prevent relapse following graduation. If a judge finds that you have successfully completed all steps of a Sobriety Court program, you will avoid jail time for your underlying DUI charge. However, if you are unable to complete the program, you will face sentencing as usual in criminal court.
Sobriety Court can be a very useful program for qualifying offenders to avoid jail time and additional convictions on their records and provide support to avoid future DUI arrests. However, the process is not easy and the pros and cons of attending Sobriety Court should be carefully weighed prior to making a decision. An experienced Denver DUI defense attorney who is familiar with the Sobriety Court system can advise you of all of your options and help you choose the best course of action for your particular case. If you have been arrested, contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm for assistance today.