Research Team Studies Expedited DUI Courts

Illustration including drink, keys and gavel

Expedited court cases for DUI offenses reduced the numbers of cases filed, but it didn’t decrease the number of alcohol-rated collisions, two researchers at Sam Houston State University found.

In “What works (or doesn’t in a DUI court): An example of expedited case processing,” Drs. Jeffrey A. and Leana A. Bouffard studied the impact of expedited court processing in cases involving offenders charged with driving under the influence. The research also examined the link between sanctions swiftness, certainty and severity in those drunk driving cases. The study was published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

Dr. Jeffrey Bouffard
Dr. Jeffrey Bouffard
“Findings reveal that the program implementation corresponded with a lower rate of DUI case filings, but not with a general reduction in alcohol-involved collisions in the county,” said Dr. Jeff Bouffard. “Additionally, only sanction swiftness improved over time, while certainty remained stable and severity declined.”

Drunk driving continues to be a significant social problem in the United States. More than 30 percent of all fatal motor vehicles accidents in 2009 involved alcohol consumption, and 1.44 million people were arrested nationwide in 2009 for drunk driving.

To combat the issue, many states have adopted policy changes to deter drunken driving, including the use of fines, incarceration and license suspension. Some counties have adopted specialty courts to deal with DUI offenses and have combined it with expedited case management to address court efficiency and backlogs.

Dr. Leana Bouffard
Dr. Leana Bouffard
This study examines the impact of expedited court processing on the countywide rate of drunken driving based on DUI court cases in Spokane, Washington. The study found that while cases were being expedited more swiftly, there was no change in conviction rates and fines declined.

Dr. Jeff Bouffard said that the results may have been tied to sentencing guidelines in Washington state, which ties sentences to blood alcohol levels and bases fine of the sentences given. The standards also lead to more plea bargaining.

Dr. Jeff Bouffard also has studied the effectiveness of the use drug courts for DUI offenders. Based on a study of 66 offenders who completed one of two hybrid courts in North Dakota, the research found that while the drug court programs resulted in reduced recidivism rates for drug offenders, there was no significant decrease for defendants with DUI offenses.

Member of The Texas State University System