n April 13, Platte County launched a new DWI court to take a stand against repeat drunk drivers.
Missouri DWI courts were authorized by legislation passed in 2010. Traditional sentencing involved a relatively short term incarceration that did not adequately address the underlying cause of their behavior: alcohol addiction. All too often, offenders emerge from the criminal justice system only to re-offend and appear right back in court on a DWI charge or are involved in a DWI fatality, says Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor.
The new Platte County DWI court will emphasize accountability, and will require extensive supervision, twice monthly court appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and counseling. It will be a four-phase program that will last 12-18 months followed by supervised probation. The treatment will be administered by Tri-County Mental Health, and will be funded by the Clay Platte Ray Mental Health Tax Levy. This valuable treatment resource was not previously available to the court.
The DWI court will operate in Division 5 under the direction of Judge Dennis Eckold.
The new program has been in the planning stages for several months and has also included the division clerk, assistant prosecuting attorneys, a defense attorney, probation and parole officers, officials from Tri-County Mental Health, treatment providers and a Park University professor.
This team recently attended a national training program developed by the National Center for DWI Courts held in Springfield, Missouri.
Platte County was one of seven courts selected to attend this initial training program in the state of Missouri.
DWI courts have the potential to significantly reduce repeat offenses. According to the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC), repeat offenders who have participated in a DWI court are 19 times less likely to drink and drive than DWI offenders in traditional court, and three times less likely to commit any other offense. The study also found that DWI courts saved the criminal justice system time and money by providing treatment more quickly, and using sanctions, such as jail time, more strategically.
Judge Eckold said, “We are also carefully reviewing our approach to misdemeanor offenders in an effort to increase supervision and treatment early on, if appropriate. We believe this new program will have better results in dealing with DWI offenders and will ultimately make our community safer.”