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Classifying Driving-While-Intoxicated Offenders: The Experiences of a Citywide DWI Drug Court

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: January-February 2000 Pages: 13-21
Date Published
January 2000
9 pages

Survey data from three groups of offenders convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) were used to determine how the three offender groups differed with respect to their personal characteristics, crime histories, and attitudes.


Municipal Court Judge Stephen Ryan initiated the Las Cruces, N. Mex., drug court in 1995. The court was one of the country’s first specifically designed for alcoholic DWI offenders. The court’s classification staff created the three groups: (1) nonalcoholic first-time and second-time DWI offenders, (2) alcoholic first-time and second-time DWI offenders, and (3) chronic three-time (or more) DWI offenders. Results of the analysis revealed that the three groups were different in ways that were expected, given their different levels of formal criminal justice system processing, and in ways that could prove troubling for public policy analysts and practitioners. Findings suggested that decisions made by the DWI drug court program staff during the study period appear to have been based partly on factors other than legal ones or diagnostic instruments. Findings imply that persons with administrative oversight of the screening process must scrutinize the efforts of staff for evidence of biases that not only may be counterproductive, but also may be illegal. Findings also suggested that local law enforcement agencies may be the source of some of these apparent biases in that police have the greatest discretion to arrest or release individuals who may be first-time nonalcoholics. Finally, this program was a post-adjudicative alcohol intervention program; therefore, the observed differences may result partly from the way that inferior courts administer justice to persons accused of drunk driving. Tables and 32 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2000