Building the Sentencing Roadmap (PDF)

So how can judges combat hardcore drunk driving from the bench? How can they manage the hardcore drunk driver in a way that protects the public and leads to long term behavior change? Research and the experience of judges reveal that certain, consistent and coordinated sanctions are key to reducing hardcore drunk driving, with certainty and consistency having greater impact than severity. Alternative sentencing methods, DWI Courts and sentences tailored to each offender can have a profound effect on an offender’s ability to avoid re-offending (Jones and Lacey, 1998). Likewise, drunk driving sentences handed down without factoring in the seriousness of a hardcore drunk driver’s problem may be followed by another DWI offense or worse, death or injury.

No one sanction or strategy is successful unless used in conjunction with other measures. It is the coordination of a variety of measures that prove most effective. For example, the combination of home confinement with electronic monitoring, intensive supervision, treatment, and an alcohol interlock can be quite effective in controlling the hardcore drunk driver. But the overseeing agencies need to coordinate their initiatives so that, for example, the person conducting the intensive monitoring has access to the record of the interlock. That way the monitor knows if the offender has attempted to drive after drinking and can take any necessary action.

The Judicial Hardcore Sentencing Roadmap

The following steps, based on NHTSA’s list of factors to help reduce DWI recidivism, give the general overview of what needs to happen when judges face potential hardcore drunk drivers.

  • First, properly identify the hardcore drunk driver. Require a thorough records check, including compliance with any previous sentences;
  • Evaluate offenders for alcohol-related and mental health problems and recidivism risk (via criminogenic risk and needs assessments);
  • Act swiftly to prevent the offender from driving drunk again and punish him or her, using sanctions and remedies based on the offender. No single sanctioning and treatment strategy is effective for all offenders;
  • Mandate appropriate sanction combinations designed to produce behavioral changes. Include provisions for appropriate alcohol treatment in the sentencing order for offenders who require treatment. Treatment alone never substitutes for sanctions or remedies, and sanctions and remedies do not substitute for treatment;
  • Monitor the offender’s compliance with sanctions and treatment; and
  • Act swiftly to correct noncompliance (NHTSA, 1996).