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.
The defendant who enters the 18 month program does so voluntarily. Due to the fact that 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. Sobriety Court consists of a minimum of 18 months of supervision and consists of four phases. Advancement to each phase requires a demonstrated strong commitment to recovery. The first phase is three months long while the second phase is four months long, both of which are composed of very rigorous conditions. The third phase is five months long, and the last phase is six months long.
They attend AA daily for 90 days, then the requirement is reduced gradually throughout the phases. 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. All participants are required to install a camera ignition interlock that ensures community safety which is mandatory with no exceptions. 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 each phase, the participant submits an application for advancement before finally applying for graduation. A semi-annual graduation ceremony is held in the fall and spring 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.