Program Type: DWI/Drug-Court
Program  Location: Michigan
Lead Agency: 58th District Court
Partners: N/A
The Issue: Recidivism
Program Target Population: Repeat Offenders

Program Description

The Ottawa County Sobriety Court Program is a driving under the influence (DUI) court located in Ottawa County in western Michigan. The court program has three main goals: diverting offenders from jail, eliminating substance use, and reducing the recidivism of offenders that live within the court’s jurisdiction. The program targets offenders with their second DUI charge or criminal charges that involve substance abuse.

The Sobriety Court Program has four phases, where the required court appearances and treatment program participation vary based on the phase the offender is in. Participants must spend a minimum of 17.5 months in the program but cannot take longer than 24 months.

The Sobriety Court Program uses a system of rewards and sanctions for compliant and noncompliant behavior. Rewards can include positive recognition from the judge, including applause and praise, reduced court fines, or a more flexible payment plan. When participants advance to a new phase of the program, they receive certificates and gift cards along with the possibility of reduced requirements. Sanctions can include increased supervision, electronic monitoring, increased substance use testing, community service, jail alternative work service, loss of driving privileges, delayed movement to the next phase or return to an old phase, extended time in the program, or a jail sentence (from 48 hours to 30 days).

Participants that successfully complete the program are released from their probation term. Probation terms are generally 24-month sentences, but participants can be released early if they complete all the phases in less time. Participants that are terminated from the program for noncompliance receive a jail sentence of up to 365 days.

Program Effectiveness
In March 2008, a study of the Ottowa County DUI court was published by the Michigan Supreme Court, funded by the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning. The study found that in the year after starting probation for the driving under the influence (DUI) charge, comparison offenders on traditional probation were rearrested nearly six times more often than court program participants. In the 2nd year, they were rearrested four times more often.

The number of individuals that were rearrested was also significantly different between the two groups. In the 1st year, 4.2 percent of program participants were rearrested, versus 15.2 percent of the comparison group. In the second year, 7.7 percent of participants were rearrested, versus 24.2 percent of comparison offenders. In a 2-year period, offenders on traditional probation were more than 3 times more likely to be rearrested for any charge and were 19 times more likely to be rearrested for a DUI charge than Sobriety Court Program participants.

Participants also spent significantly less time in jail following entry into the program. Participants spent an average of 37.6 days in jail post–program entry, while comparison offenders spent an average of 70.1 days in jail post–probation entry.

Overall, these results demonstrate that the Ottawa county DUI court program is effective in reducing recidivism and reducing drug and alcohol use while using fewer criminal justice system resources.

Program Cost Effectiveness

Sources of Funding

Possible Challenges to Replicating the Program

For more information on this program, please contact:
Alma Valenzuela
(616) 355-4314

Formal Evaluation of Ottawa County Sobriety Court Program