Initiated on March 5, 2001, Sobriety Court is a specialized docket designed to address the problem posed by repeat drunk drivers. It is based on an adult drug court model with the objective of reducing recidivistic-drunk driving. The community has been involved from the beginning through the members of the Sobriety Court Advisory Board, which is composed of individual citizens and community groups, representatives from such organizations as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Parents of Murdered Children and The Traffic Improvement Association. The role of the Sobriety Court Advisory Board is to advise the Court, offer feedback from a community perspective and provide a monitor for continuous improvement.
Each defendant who enters the 72-week program does so voluntarily. Because these individuals give up certain constitutional and privacy rights, the agreement to enter Sobriety Court is based upon a signed contract and a knowing waiver on the record. Sobriety Court also uses a team approach and this team consists of the judge, a representative of the office of the prosecutor, a defense advisor, intensive probation officers, the probation supervisor, community volunteers, law enforcement officials and treatment providers. The first 36 weeks called the Intensive Phase, requires the offender to report for weekly meetings with the probation department, attend monthly review hearings before their sentencing judge, and attended counseling a minimum of one time per week. They attend AA daily for 90 days, then for a minimum of three meetings per week. They are ordered to daily alcohol testing for 90 days and random drug testing. After 90 days they submit to random alcohol testing, which is reduced gradually. Additionally, they must attend an educational Impact Weekend, maintain full time employment, adhere to a 10:00 P.M. curfew each night, and they are subject to random home visits. The ultimate goal of Sobriety Court is to end a defendant’s recidivistic drunk driving by ending their dependence upon drugs and alcohol. To achieve that goal, all individuals within the program are held to a standard of absolute responsibility. As offenders progress in the program and as the judge responds to their behavior through a phased system of sanctions and rewards, the offenders become increasingly responsible for their own behavior.
Upon successful completion of the Intensive Phase, each defendant advances to a less regimented form of supervision for an additional 36 weeks, the Aftercare Phase. Their requirements continue to be probation appointments every two to four weeks, random alcohol and drug testing, and three AA meetings per week. They no longer have monthly review hearings with their judge and they are no longer required to attend weekly counseling appointments. An annual graduation ceremony is held in the fall for those Sobriety Court participants that have either successfully completed the program or will be completing the program within the next few months following the ceremony.
In 2004, an evaluation of the Sobriety Court program was conducted by Evaluation Associates and Consultants, LLC. Their findings stated, “The Novi Sobriety Court has clearly met its primary goal of improving public safety by reducing drunk-driving recidivism among high-risk drivers.” In March 2011, an in-house ten year study showed that 982 participants had come through the program and only 40 participants who had successfully completed the program were re-arrested for drunk driving, a 7.4% recidivism rate, which is lower than the national average. These results suggest that this specialized approach to high risk drunk drivers significantly reduces the danger that these individuals will continue to engage in this hazardous behavior. Thus our community is safer.