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DUI Court can be a life-saving option for some Coloradoans

El Paso and Teller counties have special DUI Courts. They are designed for people who have had multiple DUIs and are considered high need or high risk. Some of the people who are accepted in the DUI Court program have had multiple drug and/or traffic offenses.

There are still mandatory prison sentences for people who have been convicted of three or more DUIs -- from 60 days to a year under Colorado law. However, those participating in DUI Court usually have their prison sentences reduced.

To qualify for participation, a person must have had at least four DUIs or Driving While Ability Impaired offenses, and have had a blood alcohol content of more than .170 on at least one of these. They may have had three or fewer DUIs or DWAIs if they have more than one other pending case. There must be a history of abuse of alcohol or multiple substances. Perhaps most importantly, they must want to change their behavior.

The program is three phases. In all phases, participants, who are referred to as "clients," must make regular appearances in court, attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and meet with a probation officer. They must also participate in therapy, maintain a job and refrain from using drugs or alcohol. They are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. In the second and third phases, the frequency of mandatory court appearances, AA/NA meetings, therapy sessions and probation officer meetings can be gradually reduced.

The mission of the DUI Court, according to the Colorado Judicial Branch website, is that "the client will not drink and drive again" and that "clients develop a personal lifestyle of sobriety, and experience a dramatic improvement in their quality of life." The DUI Court is designed not only to protect the participant, but also the public "from the many dangers associated with drunk driving."

People can be referred to DUI Court by their attorneys. While the terms of the court are strict, they are far preferable to injuring or killing yourself or someone else in a drunk driving accident. Those who believe they meet the qualifications and have the will to successfully complete the program should discuss DUI Court with their attorney.

Source: Colorado Judicial Branch, "Driving Under the Influence" Nov. 24, 2014

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