The Kent Municipal Court last summer launched the first city-level Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Court in the state of Washington to provide a comprehensive court program with individual treatment, supervision and accountability for repeat DUI offenders.
Since the DUI Court was formed, the City Prosecutor’s Office has identified 51 defendants facing their third or greater DUI offense. Of those, 17 are awaiting disposition of their case and/or are set for trial, and 14 were disqualified, according to a city news release.
There are 22 active participants in the program. To date, only one defendant has voluntarily terminated himself from the program, opting instead, for the maximum jail sentence.
”The Kent Police Department is excited to be a part of the DUI Court,” said Cmdr. Todd Durham. “This innovative approach has worked in other parts of the country, and we look forward to seeing positive results in the city of Kent.”
Washington counties that offer DUI Court include Thurston (Olympia), Spokane, Yakima, Clallam (Port Angeles), Okanogan (Omak) and Clark (Vancouver).
This therapeutic court was developed in accordance with the evidence-based National DUI Court model which has shown that impaired driving can be prevented if the underlying causes, such as substance addiction and mental health issues, are identified and comprehensively addressed. DUI Court is a five-phase program for adults who have been convicted of three or more DUI-related offenses. It is specifically intended for high-risk/high-need alcohol and/or drug offenders who, in some cases, may also have co-occurring mental health disorders.
The Kent court was instrumental in getting the needed legislation that would allow municipal courts to set up their own DUI Court. It is a collaborative effort between the Municipal Court judges, Prosecutor’s Office, Public Defenders’ Office, Kent Police Department, Kent Probation and local treatment providers. Similar programs have shown that community safety has been significantly increased by significantly reducing the rate of recidivism for DUI and other crimes.
”It has been an inspiration to watch our participants strive to take personal responsibility for their actions and fully accept the negative consequences their addiction has had on their family, community and themselves. Presiding over Kent’s DUI Court has been a profound privilege,” said Kent Municipal Court Judge Karli Jorgensen.
The program has been implemented with the assistance of the Washington State Traffic Commission and Target Zero initiative and plans to serve up to 40 participants at a time.
Kent is the sixth largest city in Washington with a population of more than 127,000.