The assessment of the hardcore drunk driving offender leads everything else in the adjudication process. - Judge Richard Vlavlanos


In order to stop hardcore drunk drivers from re-offending, it is necessary to change their thinking patterns, target their criminogenic needs and teach them pro-social skills and behaviors. What will not stop these offenders are random sanctions that are meted out without regard for individual offender needs. The first step in this process is offender assessments and evaluations that judges can use to guide sentencing. As judges pursue individualized sentencing, it is important to remember that there are limits on judicial discretion. Judges must ensure that they know and understand their states’ legal parameters and craft effective sentences that fall within those parameters.

After offenders are identified according to high, moderate and low risk of re-offending, their sentences should be tailored to their risks and needs. For instance, a low risk offender who is very unlikely to re-offend does not need the same level of supervision and intervention as a high risk offender. Conversely, an extremely high risk offender who is likely to resist all treatment efforts and is likely to re-offend despite any approach may be a challenge for the scarce resources of traditional courts. These offenders are appropriate candidates for DWI Courts that specialize in treating high risk offenders.

Additionally, a growing body of research reveals that low risk offenders who are subject to intensive interventions and programming often produce little, if any, positive effect on recidivism rates (Bogue, 2004). There is also evidence to suggest that subjecting low risk offenders to intensive services can backfire and result in increasing their chances of re- offending (Latessa & Lowenkamp, 2006; Bonta, Wallace-Capretta, & Rooney, 2000).

Potential reasons for this include that low risk offenders may actually adopt the antisocial attitudes and behaviors of high risk offenders with whom they are placed and/or placement of low risk offenders in intensive interventions may actually disrupt any positive social bonds or activities that may have existed prior to their placement.  However, it is still important to hold low risk offenders accountable for their behavior (Latessa & Lowenkamp, 2006).

Identification of risk and needs by using risk assessment tools along with assessment tools to identify alcohol, drug and mental health issues is priority number one when dealing with hardcore DWI offenders. Numerous experts have agreed that exposing offenders to the wrong interventions can actually increase recidivism.

Actuarial risk assessment tools cannot take the place of professional judgment, but they can absolutely provide better information for the judiciary to use in the decision-making process. Some criminal risks change over time and therefore offenders should be re-assessed to measure progress and provide an accurate prediction of recidivism over time.