Their patience worn thin by repeat drunken drivers, Waukesha County, Wi., may try something no other justice system in Wisconsin and few in the U.S. have tried: establishing an alcohol abuse treatment court. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says it is because the courts have seen too many people like Curtis Marden, who pleaded guilty this month to drunken driving for the fourth time for weaving down a road at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon with a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit. Last year, nearly 1,000 people convicted of drunken driving in Waukesha County had been convicted at least once before. “When I talk to people in the community, I ask them what their biggest fear is,” Chief Judge Kathryn Foster said. “Mine probably is being hit by a drunken driver, being hit by someone who crosses the center line because they’ve had too much to drink.”
Waukesha officials soon will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., to look at one of the first such courts in the nation, where defendants are processed quickly and where stringent treatment and monitoring requirements are enforced in return for less jail time. Discussion of an alcohol abuse treatment court began in earnest last summer on the local Criminal Justice Collaborating Council. There are believed to be around 40 alcohol treatment courts around the nation, compared with an estimated 1,200 drug treatment courts. “With DUI (driving under the influence) courts right now, we’re where we were at 10 years ago with drug courts when they were catching on,” said Kristen Daugherty of the National Drug Court Institute in Alexandria, Va.