The Honolulu DWI (driving while impaired) Court celebrated its first graduate on Thursday, March 6, before presiding District Court Judge David Lo. In court, Judge Lo congratulated and acknowledged the accomplishments of the first DWI Court participant to complete the program.
“We are so proud of the commitment, discipline and effort you have invested to make it to this day,” Judge Lo said to the graduate. “You are an affirmation to me and the rest of the team that this program can change lives. Thank you for being an inspiration to us and the other participants in this program,” Judge Lo added.
The DWI Court's first graduate receiving a lei. To the graduate's right is his attorney, Patrick McPherson.
The Honolulu DWI Court program has been operational since January 2013 and currently has 17 participants. It is a collaboration between the District Court of the First Circuit and the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, with initial Federal funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the State Department of Transportation.
Although it is premature to evaluate Hawaii’s program, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration evaluation of three DWI Courts on the mainland found that DWI offenders who graduated from DWI Court were 65% less likely to be re-arrested for a new DWI offense. Moreover, all DWI Court participants had a recidivism rate of 15%, whether they graduated or were terminated, versus a recidivism rate of up to 35% for those not in DWI Court.
The Honolulu DWI court’s goal is to protect the safety of the community while addressing the root cause of impaired driving, which is alcohol and other substance abuse. It does so by providing active monitoring of the treatment and recovery process throughout a year of engagement and case management. Although anyone may petition for admission into the DWI Court Program, the target population for DWI Court participation is a repeat offender with one or more prior convictions for drunk driving.
Unlike the traditional traffic court process, DWI Court emphasizes accountability and strict supervision to ensure compliance. While participating in the program, offenders must undergo alcohol and drug testing, individual and group counseling, and regularly attend self-help meetings.
Offenders who apply to the program must voluntarily complete a clinical screening before admission, and if accepted, they must enter a plea of guilty or no contest. Offenders with certain types of prior criminal convictions, including a violent or sex crime, are not eligible for the program. The execution of the participant’s sentence is stayed pending successful completion of the DWI Court program. The amount of time spent in the program is determined by each individual’s needs but is no less than one year.
When asked about the program, the graduate said: “DWI Court has helped me by laying the groundwork for sober living. During the past year, this court has introduced me to a variety of people, programs, and resources that have assisted me in avoiding alcohol. Most importantly, DWI Court has helped me stay out of trouble, and has redirected my life along a course which is much more positive and fulfilling.”
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the Hawaii State Judiciary Communications & Community Relations Office at (808) 539-4909 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.