New Colorado DUI Court Emphasizes Treatment
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Using an existing drug court as a model, a new specialized DUI court is opening in Larimer County, in Colorado, on July 1, according to an article in the Loveland Connection.
It has taken years to implement the court, but its opening happens to coincide with new legislation in Colorado that increases the emphasis on treatment for DUI.
Drug courts that stress treatment for addiction are becoming more popular and more successful across the country, and the new Colorado court hopes to apply these methods and success to DUI enforcement.
Larimer County Magistrate Matthew Zehe will oversee the new court. “There’s recognition that people who commit this offense will continue to do so until they get treatment. There’s a movement within government that (treatment) really needs to be explored.”
The success of the drug court in the county is part of what helped facilitate the new DUI court. In the county, records indicate that 362 people have participated in the existing drug court since 2001, and that 155 people have graduated.
Out of the 155 people that graduated from the drug court program, close to 94 percent of them have not had a felony or misdemeanor conviction in the year following. And, 83 percent of graduates didn’t have a conviction for the next three years.
DUI court will be similar to drug court in that the goal is to send out graduates who are not only rehabilitated, but who are also trained to lead more healthy and productive lives. In other words, they are concerned with alcohol abuse, but they also want participants to grow as individuals.
“We want the participant to not only work on mental health and substance abuse, but also on building job skills and life skills,” said Larimer County DUI court coordinator Sarah Keck.
One graduate of drug court, Rochelle Cormier, noted the program support that helped her to deal with her addiction to methamphetamines and cocaine. “I came home (from rehab) and I tried to do it on my own for a couple weeks, kind of white-knuckling it. But what did it was the support from drug court and the 12-step programs. Everybody in drug court, the judge included, were very supportive.”
Larimer County officials will no doubt attempt to build that same level of support and community into the DUI court that will start at the beginning of July.
That includes fostering improved personal relationships for the participants in DUI court. That’s what happened with Cormier, who said that drug court helped her rebuild some broken relationships with her family. “I was never around when they needed me,” she said of her family. “If I showed up at all, I was trying to rush through it.”
Now that she is sober, she has had time to work on such issues, even to the point of wanting to become a drug counselor herself.
The new DUI court will work to replicate this success. The court will focus on those with repeat offenses who haven’t thrived in probation programs. Though there are around 2,500 DUI arrests per year in the county, the DUI court will only include 25 people to start with.
People who enter the program will work in a jail release program, and meet with counselors at least every other week.