New DWI Court To Treat Repeat Offenders - WSPA.com

New DWI Court To Treat Repeat Offenders

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The new DWI Treatment Court in Buncombe will serve high-level offenders. The new DWI Treatment Court in Buncombe will serve high-level offenders.

Buncombe County debut its new DWI Treatment Court and program Wednesday.

It is the first-of-its-kind in western North Carolina.

“Rather this being a court of punishment, this is a court of taking responsibility,” said Judge Julie Kepple who will be presiding over the DWI Treatment Court.

The program will take up to 30 high-level repeat offenders who qualify.

They will have to plead guilty to their charges but instead of being sentenced to jail, they will follow a substance abuse rehab program that lasts a minimum of 13 months.

The program consists of four different phases.

“In the first phase, they will have to be on a continuous alcohol monitoring device; they will have to go to treatment five times a week; they are drug-screened at least three times a week; they meet with their coordinator twice a week, and so it is a very stringent amount of activity that they have to do in order to go onto the next phase.”

Kepple says the program has worked in other areas of the state by reducing the chances that offenders will relapse, and fewer relapses means safer roads.

“I think that is some justice for everyone,” said president Ellen Pitt of the WNC Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Pitt says last year in Buncombe County, more than 40 percent of DWI offenders on probation got another charge.

The court is being funded by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

The state now has seven DWI Treatment Courts. Nationwide there are 609.

Officials say these DWI Treatment Courts help save taxpayer dollars.

By stopping recidivism, the program reduces court costs and the expense of repeatedly housing repeat offenders.

MADD found in 2012, North Carolina  taxpayers spent $1.96 billion on drunk driving fatalities.

For more information on how the program works, contact Jillian Davis at (828) 250-4653 or jillian.davis@buncombecounty.org.

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