DWI Courts are Effective in Reducing DWI/DUI

DWI courts, sometimes called DUI courts, sobriety courts, wellness courts or accountability courts, have proven effective in reducing the crime of drunken driving (driving while intoxicated or while impaired).

Although the proportion of traffic fatalities in the U.S. that are alcohol-related has dropped dramatically over time, the problem remains a very serious one.

DWI offenders tend to fall into two categories:

  1. People who have made a poor decision and driven after having had too much alcohol  to drink.
    • These drivers tend to have relatively low blood alcohol concentrations (BACs)
    • These people  are usually dissuaded  from the crime in the future by punishment
  2. People who are addicted to alcohol (alcoholics) who are hard-core repeat offenders.
    • These drivers tend to have very high and dangerous BACs.
    • These people are very resistant to changing their drunken driving behavior

DWI courts address the problem of the second category. They do so by addressing the root cause of the problem which is alcohol addiction. Drivers accepted into the rehabilitation program must typically:

  1. Plead guilty to the crime of DWI. They then usually receive a deferred sentence that is dropped if they successfully complete all terms and conditions of treatment.
  2. Abstain completely from all alcoholic beverages. They must wear monitoring devices and/or be subject to unannounced  tests for BAC.
  3. Undergo a treatment program that generally lasts 18 months to two years followed by a one to two-year probation.
  4. Appear in court every month or even every two weeks.

The recidivism rate (the proportion of offenders who go on to commit the crime again) is very low. About three of every four programs (73.3%) report single-digit recidivism rates. Thus, most programs have a recidivism rate below ten percent which is a success rate of over 90%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) promotes the establishment of DWI courts because of their proven success.



  • Hughes, Kim. DWI court aims to change lives; People admitting alcohol addiction can take part in county program. Houston Chronicle, March 29, 2007.
  • National Drug Court Institute. DWI Courts and DWI/Drug Courts: Reducing Recidivism , Saving Lives (ndci.org)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Guiding Principles for DWI Courts. (nhtsa.dot.gov)

Filed Under: Drinking and Driving

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