Ga. alcohol-related arrest data
DUI Liquor laws • Under 18: 1,005 • Total all ages: 11,456 Drunkenness • Under 18: 101 • Total all ages: 3,385 Source: www.centurycouncil.org
• Under 18: 1,005
• Total all ages: 11,456
• Under 18: 101
• Total all ages: 3,385
• Under 18: 184
• Total all ages: 26,982
Liberty County is cracking the whip even harder on repeat DUI offenders starting next Thursday.
County commissioners approved the implementation of a new DUI court that will send motorists caught operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol to a 24-month program instead of jail, Judge Leon M. Braun Jr. told county commissioners during the mid-month meeting.
"DUI court is relatively new as far as here in the state of Georgia," Braun said. "For anyone who’s been on the bench for any length of time — and I’ve been on the bench for almost 25 years — the one thing that you have the most difficult problem with is the repeat offender. What do you do with them? You’re going to put them in jail? But that’s costing the county money. And the bottom line is, it’s just not helping them. They’re in jail, thank God they aren’t out on the street running over something or stuff like that, but it’s costing the county money."
The program will take effect immediately and Braun said he knows of current inmates who will benefit from it. In years past, he worked with alcoholics who hadn’t been sober for more than six days in a row. The idea is to get repeat offenders into a program that will change their life, Braun said.
"If you are selected, it is not voluntary," he said of the program, which will require participants to pay monthly fees. "It is high intensity on the front end. The purpose is to get them into treatment ... it is not a hug-a-thug program," he said.
The program is expected to cost the county a total of $30,870, which includes travel costs for training, supplies, consultants and contracts. Most of what will be used for the system is already in place, however, including the judge and the public defender.
Participants enrolled in the program will undergo counseling and will address "a number of bio-psychosocial domains including alcohol use severity and drug involvement, the level of needed care, medical and mental-health status, extent of social support systems and individual motivation to change. Without clearly identifying a client’s needs, strengths and resources along each of these important bio-psychosocial domains, the clinician will have considerable difficulty in developing a clinically sound development plan," according to the Georgia DUI Court standards listed on the georgiacourts.org website.
Braun said he has seen it work in other communities as well. Liberty County’s neighbor, Chatham County, put the program in place in May 2003 and has graduated almost 300 participants, according to the State Court of Chatham County Georgia website.
"As Judge Braun mentioned last night, the creation of DUI courts has proven to be very beneficial to the community in many ways," County Administrator Joey Brown said. "Obviously the ability to remove continuously impaired persons from our community is a benefit. However, when you also create the ability to change those lives for the betterment of those persons involved it creates a win/win situation."
The initiative came shortly after Gov. Nathan Deal discussed the drunk-driving issues during his inaugural address.
"As a state, we cannot afford to have so many of our citizens waste their lives because of addiction. It is draining our state treasury and depleting our workforce. As governor I call on local elected officials, sheriff and local law enforcement personnel to work with me and the state law enforcement officers to break this cycle of crime that threatens the security of all law-abiding citizens," Deal said in the speech.
If participants aren’t cooperating, they will be kicked out of the program. The success rate is about 63- 65 percent, the judge said.
Commissioner Chairman John McIver asked how a case would be handled if a participant is behind on child support. Braun said it would be dealt with on a "case-by-case basis."