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Louisiana drug courts use treatment to curb DWI recidivism

Media reports often paint intoxicated drivers as malicious individuals with no regard for the safety of other humans. Certainly, Baton Rouge drivers are responsible for choices to drink alcohol before driving. When a person is addicted to alcohol or other substances, whether or not the individual is aware of it, the disease may be influencing the decision to drive drunk or drugged.

Substance addiction is no excuse for breaking the law. When a Louisiana driver's blood alcohol content level goes above 0.08 percent, he or she is intoxicated. Alcohol abusers are penalized for drinking and driving -- sometimes heavily depending on the alleged offense – but, due to addiction, many drivers just return to the road and unshakeable, dangerous habits.

A 29-year-old man was picked up in Baton Rouge recently on his sixth DWI offense. Last month, a Clinton man was arrested for his seventh drunk driving charge. DWI charges become felonies with a third conviction, with punishments that grow progressively more severe.

Multiple drunk-driving arrests can indicate an alcohol abuse problem that cries out for treatment. The Louisiana Supreme Court funds the state's 50 Drug Court Programs, which address the addiction problems of defendants. The alternative to punishment is successful, with a two-year recidivism rate of less than five percent among 2010 graduates.

Drug courts provide evaluations, treatment and abstinence monitoring. The state also has selfish reasons to invest in the program. It is cheaper to help troubled defendants soon after a DWI arrest than house them in prisons; sobriety programs also improve public safety by curbing the instances of drug-related accidents, injuries and deaths.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reported first time DWI offenders usually aren't caught until they've driven drunk 80 times. That's a red flag that many people arrested for drunk driving have serious problems with alcohol. A criminal defense attorney can explain the eligibility requirements for drug court programs.

Source: Fox 44 WGMB-TV, "System, psychology combine to allow drivers to get repeated DWI charges" David Lippman, Apr. 18, 2014

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