Sobriety Courts Help Reduce Repeat Offenders
Michigan is home to 41 specialized sobriety courts, whose only focus is to keep drunk driving offenders from becoming repeat offenders. And on May 21 they were all doing one thing – celebrating the success of the ignition interlock program around the state.
According to the State Supreme Court, a recent study proves the value of ignition interlock devices for convicted drunk drivers. The study tracked convicted drunk drivers who were processed through district courts in Kalamazoo, Waterford and Grand Rapids, to name just a few.
From 2011 through 2014, data was collected, and the results are uplifting to say the least. Only 12% of the participants failed their court-ordered ignition interlock program, as opposed to the 34% failure rate of non-participants. Additionally, participants’ recidivism rates were also lower, coming in at 2.8% compared to the 5.5% of non-participants.
A state-wide press conference was held to celebrate the success of the program as a whole, but also its successful participants. It kicked off in Lansing with live feed from the Hall of Justice, during which time the fourth annual sobriety court report was released. This was followed by a jubilant graduation ceremony of the program participants.
Although certain people admitted that they had been skeptical of the program’s ability to make lasting change in people’s lives, the study results prove that fear was unfounded. District Judge Vincent C. Westra of Kalamazoo was one of them. But, he readily admits, he was wrong. “The availability of the interlock has allowed (participants) to get to their meetings, to get to their treatment … to have the availability of better employment. It’s improved their lives, but it’s also given them hope.”
And Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. couldn’t agree more. “We are saving lives, we are saving money and there are numerous people statewide benefiting from these programs,” he explained.
Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody struggles and fails and needs a hand once in a while. As drunk driving defense attorneys, we applaud the sobriety court for embracing opportunities to give good people a chance to get back on their feet and get their lives under control again. And to all of the ignition interlock program graduates: congratulations! We honor your hard work and your success! May your futures be bright and hopeful.