Houston and surrounding Harris County boast many landmarks and attractions. As the fourth-largest American city, Houston has top-rated sports teams, museums, performing arts companies, and nightlife. Additional highlights include the NASA Johnson Space Center, the port of Houston, iconic architecture and bridges of the Houston skyline, and nearby Galveston beaches.
One distinction, however, is more dubious: Some commentators have coined Harris County as the drunk driving capital of America. The label is apparently based on numbers, as 2,500 drunk driving fatalities occurred in 2012. Despite severe penalties for even first-time offenders, arrests for driving while intoxicated continue to be a problem.
Texas officials recently announced a new approach to DWI enforcement and prevention. Called the DWI Pre-trial intervention program, the approach is aimed at rehabilitation of first-time DWI offenders. For a DWI defendant facing trial, he or she may opt to delay that deadline by signing up for a year-long treatment and counseling program. If successful, an offender may be able to avoid the stigma of having a conviction on their permanent record.
However, not every first offense DWI applicant will be admitted. A local assistant District Attorney is overseeing the program out of the county’s probation office. She explains that alleged first-time drunk drivers must pass a screening interview before they are admitted to the program.
Not everyone admitted to the program may be successful, either. Under a zero tolerance approach, even one strike can result in expulsion. The time commitment is also substantial, involving various types and styles of counseling, drug abuse classes, outpatient services, urine analysis and electronic monitoring. Participants must also pay for the cost, which will average around $3,000.
Source: myfoxhouston.com, “Intervention program begins for first-time DWI offenders,” April 12, 2013