Program Type: DWI/Drug-Court
Program  Location: Georgia
Lead Agency: Athens-Clarke County DUI/Drug Court team (state court judge, a prosecutor, a court coordinator, a case manager, three treatment clinicians, a pharmacology expert, and a defense attorney)
Partners: Family Counseling Services of Athens
The Issue: Sanctions
Program Target Population: Hardcore Offenders

This program addresses the need for more effective sentencing of repeat offenders of DUI or drug-related crimes. The court has found that including a treatment component in the sentences of these offenders reduces recidivism.

Goals of the program:

  • Address the safety of the Athens-Clarke County community
  • Coordinate the response to drug- and alcohol-related crimes in the community
  • Ensure effective treatment and supervision for high-risk offenders

The prosecutor reviews all cases that come to the DUI/drug court, and determines which ones may qualify for the program. DUI offenders who qualify for the program have a choice between a “standard plea” or a “drug court plea.” The standard plea consists of accepting the sentence the judge hands down while offenders who choose the drug court plea are entered into the five-phase DUI/Drug Court program.

Phase I: Orientation process – Offenders serve any required jail time, attend orientation and are assigned to groups.

Phase II: Extended assessment phase – Offenders attend group sessions, required AA meetings and Thursday drug court sessions. Counselors determine the method and level of treatment that will likely be most successful.

Phase III: Active treatment phase – Information from Phase II is used to actively treat participants’ addiction issues. Additionally, offenders attend one weekly hour-long group session, one weekly AA meeting and Thursday drug court sessions.

Phase IV: Relapse prevention phase – Counselors help participants develop tools to assist them in avoiding future relapses.

Phase V: Testing the waters – Participants use skills gained in previous phases. Counseling sessions are held privately and less frequently. Counselors provide support and encouragement in a less structured environment.

Sources of Funding:

  • Participant fees cover some of the program costs.
  • Additional funding sources include pretrial intervention, state grants and drug labs.

Factors to Consider When Replicating the Program:

  • Find the right counseling partner: Counselors should be easy for the court to work with and must offer comprehensive services. Some areas of the country do not offer the type or level of services that family counseling services offer. 
  • Find funding: Athens-Clarke County participant fees covered some of the program costs. Additional funding was secured from pretrial intervention, state grants and drug labs.
  • Ensure proper probation supervision of participants: A DUI court requires additional structure including supervision. It is essential that participants are held accountable for their actions and progress. The Athens-Clarke County Court funded its own probation officer to ensure proper supervision.
  • Work with your prosecutor: It is important that prosecutors are willing to negotiate different plea agreements (“drug court” and “standard”) to encourage participation in the DUI/drug court.
  • Develop good working relationships with law enforcement: Law enforcement officers are the first step in this process and cannot be overlooked.

Program Evaluation:  

An Evaluation of the Three Georgia DUI Courts


For more information on this program, please contact:

Lee Rushton