Program Type: DWI/Drug-Court
Program  Location: Michigan
Lead Agency: 56-A District Court, Eaton County

56th District DWI Court

Smart Start, Inc.

The Issue: Treatment
Program Target Population:

Hardcore Offenders

Repeat Offenders

Program Description:

Research has shown that ignition interlock devices alone are not effective in reducing recidivism among high BAC and repeat DWI offenders after removal of the device. The Eaton County DWI Court / Ignition Interlock Program seeks to combine DWI Courts and ignition interlocks in order to determine whether this increases the percentage of DWI offenders that comply with ignition interlock device requirements, discover whether ignition interlock devices can be used to effectively control the vehicles of DWI offenders, and develop a more effective means of alcohol testing in a zero tolerance probationary setting. The overall intent of the program is to allow offenders to plea to a lesser impaired driving charge and quickly enter an intensive supervision and treatment program to reduce jail time, reunite families, and allow the offender to return to work and normal life activities.

In 2009, the 56th District Court in Eaton County administered the DWI Court / Ignition Interlock Pilot Project to high BAC first-time DWI offenders for one year.  The population was limited to only first-time high BAC offenders since repeat offenders could not receive restricted licenses in Michigan at the time. A DWI Court team consisting of a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer, and treatment provider determined the conditions under which an offender could participate in the program. The offender underwent an assessment and was then placed into appropriate treatment. The treatment program was administered by a community-based private-service provider, which included alcohol tests three times a day and random drug screening. In addition, the offender had to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles they owned or operated. The offender had to appear every two weeks before the judge for a review of their participation in the program. Rewards and sanctions were applied swiftly. As a result, participants underwent comprehensive treatment, drug and alcohol testing and close accountability from the judge and probation.

Program Effectiveness:

During the pilot project, 88% of participants installed ignition interlock devices on their vehicles as ordered by the court. 70% of the participants provided all breath samples required and passed their alcohol tests during the pilot. A major strength of the program is the ability of judges to develop a relationship with the offender, when their frequent oversight is a crucial motivator for the offenders to remain sober.

As a result of the project’s success, the Michigan Legislature passed a law expanding the program to all 30 DWI courts in the state (Michigan Public Act 154 of 2010). The program also included repeat offenders since the new law allows for repeat offenders to apply for a restricted license after a mandatory 45-day suspension period.

The legislation also mandated that the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals conduct three annual reports. The first evaluation of five new courts implementing the program was descriptive in nature, and found that implementation has gone smoothly and the majority of offenders have been compliant with the ignition interlock requirements. There will be two subsequent evaluations in 2012 and 2013 that will include advanced statistical analyses to determine if the program is having the desired effect of reducing DWI recidivism, as well as other forms of dangerous driving and criminal behavior.

Program Cost Effectiveness:

Participants paid out-of-pocket for the ignition interlocks during the pilot project.  However, ignition interlock devices were provided by Smart Start, Inc. to program participants for $4.00 per day which was very cost-effective for indigent participants. As a result, this program is 100% financially self-sufficient.

Source of Funding:

Participant fees; however, devices were provided by Smart Start, Inc. at a low daily cost.

 Factors to Consider When Replicating the Program:

  • The primary target population for DWI courts is repeat offenders and most states will require an amendment to their motor vehicle codes to allow restricted licenses for repeat DWI offenders.
  • Participants’ ability to cover the cost of ignition interlock devices
  • Procuring funding for the operation of the DWI court, treatment services and testing


Michigan DWI/Sobriety Court Ignition Interlock Evlauation

Case Studies of Community-Based Self-Sufficient DWI Programs

For more information on this program, please contact:

Judge Harvey J. Hoffman
56-A District Court
1045 Independence Blvd.
Charlotte, MI 48813