Success in the Media

Crime Statistics:DWI Court Shows Promise

Executive Summary 
In June 2007, the New York State Unified Court System launched hybrid DWI/drug courts in Erie and Niagara Counties to address the issue of persistent driving while intoxicated (DWI). 

The courts, based on the proven drug court model, target nonviolent felony DWI offenders who have at least one prior DWI conviction and who are identified as having an alcohol abuse problem. 

An earlier process evaluation describes the DWI court model, documenting court policies, implementation challenges, and participant characteristics (Washousky 2008). The current report evaluates the impact of the Erie and Niagara courts on re-arrest and case processing. Outcomes were compared between 90 DWI court participants and 259 similar defendants sentenced by judges in Erie and Niagara. Weighting techniques were implemented to adjust for baseline differences in current charges, prior criminal history, and key demographic characteristics (age, sex, and race). In addition, the report examines DWI court compliance and alcohol use outcomes among the participant sample. 

Impacts on Recidivism 

Consistent with previous research, overall re-arrest rates were low among both the DWI court participants and the comparison sample. Less than 1% of both samples had been re-arrested at three months post-sentence; slightly more comparison defendants than DWI court participants had been re-arrested at both six months (2% versus 4%) and one year (5% versus 8%) postsentence. 

While not statistically significant, these results suggest a possible positive effect of the DWI court program. The results further suggest that DWI court participants may be slightly more likely to have a new DWI re-arrest at six months and one year; though again, these results do not reach statistical significance. 

 Survival analysis results reveal that the DWI court did not significantly impact the amount of crime-free time prior to a new arrest for DWI court participants. This is likely due, in part, to the low re-arrest rate among both DWI court participants and comparison defendants. 

 Impacts on Case Processing 

 Defendants in both the participant and comparison samples took over eight months on average to reach disposition. There was no difference in time to disposition between the two samples. 

 DWI Court Participant Outcomes 

The majority (75%) of DWI court participants included in the evaluation were still actively enrolled in the program at the time of the analysis. Of those who were no longer active (23 defendants), the majority (83%) had successfully graduated. Only three defendants (13%) failed the program outright and were resentenced; an additional defendant (4%) entered the court and was then returned to standard case processing in response to noncompliance. Despite constant blood alcohol monitoring via an ankle monitor and frequent drug screening, very few DWI court participants tested positive for alcohol (3%) or drugs (7%). Nine percent of defendants tried to tamper with the screening device, which suggests an intent to ingest alcohol. 

In total, only 14 defendants had ever re-used or participants were somewhat more likely to have a noncompliant incident (i.e., positive drug or alcohol screen, removal or blocking of the required monitoring anklet, or program failure); white defendants and those charged with “common law” DWI (VTL §1192.3) were less likely to have a noncompliant incident. 


Over the limited time period covered by this evaluation, the Erie and Niagara hybrid DWI/drug courts did not significantly impact the probability, prevalence, or timing of re-arrest. However, while not statistically significant, slightly more comparison defendants than DWI court participants had been re-arrested at both six months and one year post-sentence, suggesting a possible positive effect of the DWI court program. Future research should examine court impact over a longer time period, including post-program time for DWI court participants. 



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