A tightly supervised driving-while-intoxicated court has been run on a pilot basis in Minneapolis for a year, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The aim is to reduce the 7,500 annual drunken driving cases in Hennepin County by getting court officers involved with repeat offenders who are chemically dependent. Statistics show that second-time offenders are likely to commit a third offense and be chemically dependent. First-timers and felony contenders don’t qualify for the court. Similar courts are established in St. Paul and other parts of the state.
In Minneapolis, a judge sees 34 people on Thursdays and 30 on Fridays. He started a year ago with four. Although many have stumbled in their recovery by drinking again, no one has yet been charged with a new drunken-driving offense — a statistic lauded by Chief Judge Lucy Wieland. “To that degree, even after this short period of time I would call it a success,” she said. Sharon Gehrman-Driscoll of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, has been pleasantly surprised with the results. One tweak already has been made. “In the beginning, we welcomed people with open arms. We figured early on, there were a number of people coming in to try to get out of the mandatory minimum jail sentence,” said Judge John Holahan. “Now, you’re on a 30-day trial before we decide whether to accept you.”