Proposed Nevada DUI Law Would Expand Successful Pilot Treatment Program
By: Mary Ann Pekara
A proposed Nevada DUI law that would expand a pilot program allowing repeat DUI offenders to avoid prison by undergoing house arrest and a serious treatment program is just another example of how many states are considering alternative sentencing as a means to curb drunk driving.
For the last eight years, Clark County has been working with a pilot program which allows third-time DUI offenders to avoid prison and a felony record by successfully completing at least six months of house arrest and then following up with an intensive, three-year treatment program.
Under the terms of this program, Nevada DUI offenders can not drink alcohol and are subject to random testing at any time. Nevada DUI offenders will get prison time and a felony charge if they fail to meet the program's requirements. Current Nevada DUI law mandates that third-time DUI offenders be charged with felonies and be sent to prison if convicted.
With that in mind, Chief Clark County District Judge Kathy Hardcastle urged the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 3 rd to pass Senate Bill 277, a proposed Nevada DUI law which would allow the establishment of other DUI courts throughout this state for the purpose of this program. Clark County is the only county in the state with a DUI court for this program.
Hardcastle explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee just some of the results and merits of this Nevada DUI program in Clark County during the last eight years, including:
- Graduation Rates and Success - This program has graduated 356 offenders during its eight-year existence in Clark County. The story said that only 12 percent of those graduates were arrested for Nevada DUI within three years of graduation. Hardcastle added that this is a far lower rate than people who get a DUI in Nevada and go to prison. The story said that about one-third of the participants got kicked out of the program.
- Costs - Hardcastle added that this Nevada DUI program makes participants pay for their house arrest, which costs about $11,000 annually. In contrast, the state has to pay on average $25,000 annually for inmates in state prison.
- Treatment - Hardcastle detailed how this proposed Nevada DUI law would allow repeat offenders to get treatment and thus "address the societal issue of chronic alcoholism." She added that such continuous treatment does not exist in prison.
While Hardcastle is pushing hard for this proposed Nevada DUI law, others would like to see more. Lobbyist Ben Graham said that he thought the program was a creative idea, but wanted participants to still have a felony conviction on their records.
Steven Grierson manages Clark County's drug, DUI, and mental health courts and countered that the program needs to include the incentive of avoiding the felony conviction. Grierson expressed his worries in the story that without this incentive, repeat Nevada DUI offenders would rather go to prison for a few months than deal with the challenging three-year program.
Proposed Nevada DUI Law Is Just Another Example of Alternative Sentencing
South Dakota recently passed a DUI law which would allow convicted offenders to still drive their cars if they agree to abstain from alcohol and take daily breath tests two times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Under this South Dakota DUI law, people who fail to meet these requirements will not only lose their licenses but also be sent to jail.
Ultimately, this South Dakota DUI law and the proposed DUI law in Nevada demonstrate how DUI penalties may not always be what you expect and reveal the importance of knowing the DUI laws in your state.