In San Mateo County, California, a new multiple DUI court program focuses on those with a history of drunk driving. Under the program, people with two or three misdemeanor drunk driving offenses will get individualized treatment plans and closer monitoring by the state. The first six months after a DUI offender’s second or third misdemeanor conviction is when they are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash, and the program’s goal is to divert these occurrences with a new targeted strategy.
The county’s District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and Private Defender Program worked together to design the program. Key elements of the program include offenders’ monthly check-ins with a judge dedicated to the program, increased supervision, and customized substance abuse treatment plans. The two-pronged approach of accountability and treatment is meant to encourage program participants toward a path of recovery rather than repeated accidents. “From the health perspective, we really want to improve the overall health of the individual,” said Clara Boyden, a program manager with San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.
The health staff will employ strategies such as outpatient treatment programs, counseling, and medication to help individuals manage their issues with substance abuse. In addition, case managers could potentially refer participants to employment and education opportunities.
As for the accountability element of the program, at-home and in-the-field check-ins will continue with probation officers. Newer technology will also strengthen current supervision efforts. A tool that requires a breathalyzer test before a driver can start a vehicle, called an ignition interlock device, is one device that will be used in the program. There are also ankle monitors that track participants’ locations and their level of inebriation. These technologies will allow probation officers to keep participants on track and hopefully prevent them from repeating the mistake of driving under the influence—a behavior that accounts for one third of all auto accidents.