High recidivism rates in region lead to review of DUI rules

A man from Maryland’s neighboring state of Delaware was just recently arrested for his twelfth drunk driving offense. The man, age 55, has racked up the dozen DWI charges since 1991. The most recent arrest occurred in March, just about a year after he had been released from custody for a 2009 DUI conviction.

Experts say that about 37 percent of regional drivers are repeat offenders, a situation that is causing public outcry and calls for stricter laws. Still, legislators contend that these additional measures have not stopped people from drinking and driving multiple times. In many cases, defendants serve a significant amount of time behind bars, only to leave prison and almost immediately return to their poor habits. Some choose to drive under license revocation, which can lead to additional penalties.

Delaware legislators say they will begin operating a DUI court that is modeled off of initiatives in Wisconsin and Colorado. This court, which will open later in the year, is designed to help defendants get treatment — instead of simply locking them up. Maryland researchers say that this could be a critical move, as about 8 percent of drunk drivers in fatal crashes have been convicted of a prior DUI charge.

Although recidivism — the rate of repeat offenses — has decreased nationally for DUI since 1995, some jurisdictions are still struggling. Delaware, for instance, has a particularly high recidivism rate. Further, about 1,000 people are admitted into prison for DUI annually in that state.

Lawmakers and activists say it is critical to focus on treating the violators instead of simply throwing the book at them. Spending time in custody is not likely to prevent these defendants from drinking and driving once they are released. Instead, alternative methods such as the installation of an ignition interlock device may be explored as manageable alternatives to incarceration.

Source:  The News Journal, “Drunk behind the wheel again: For one man, 12 DUI arrests” Esteban Parra, May. 10, 2014