Starting last month, a new Nevada law codified a serious offender program established as a pilot project in 1998 and turned it into a new driving under the influence (DUI) court that meets weekly, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The court program is available to offenders who have pleaded guilty to their third DUI and who have not injured or killed anyone while driving under the influence. The program lasts three years and is self-funded, costing offenders on average $11,000 to complete. If offenders successfully complete each stage of the program and graduate, the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor. If they fail, they are convicted of the felony third DUI and sentenced to prison.
DUI Court attendees are on house arrest for at least the first six months of the program. The court places a breath ignition interlock device on their cars requiring them to breath clean before they can start their vehicles. “Our first priority is public safety, and so in order to accomplish that we’ve learned to be very sophisticated,” said Steve Grierson, assistant court clerk of the civil and criminal division. The program has been successful, said Sandy Heverly of the group STOP DUI. She said the group supported the program from the beginning after noticing three-time DUI offenders were walking out of prison in three months. The recidivism rate for those who have been in the Serious Offender Program since its beginning is 12 percent. The DUI Court incorporates counseling in its attempt to modify behavior. Participants are required to go to two group counseling sessions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and one individual counseling session a week for the first year.