DUI Court needed in Sussex County
A recent issue of the Cape Gazette included driving under the influence arrests for two people who together had 11 DUI charges. The week before, another person accounted for five more DUIs.
They are not the only ones.
Sussex County leads the state in DUI arrests and repeat DUIs. Sussex has less than half the population of New Castle County, yet, for the past two years, Sussex accounted for more DUI arrests and more second-offense DUI arrests than New Castle, and more than twice as many as Kent.
There’s more: Sussex County also leads the state in dismissed DUI cases, a startling 204 in Sussex in 2017, while Kent and New Castle combined for 37.
It is time for change in Sussex.
Justice Department officials say both Kent and New Castle counties have DUI Courts, a diversionary court similar to Drug Court or Veterans Court, aimed primarily at second-offense DUIs.
This court allows second-offense DUI defendants to avoid a mandatory 60-day jail sentence and instead enter inpatient treatment, where they can get help. This process appears to be working. The number of repeat offenders in both counties has gone down.
But Sussex County has no DUI Court. In Sussex, if you are convicted of a second DUI, you go to jail – and you get no treatment.
The persistently high number of repeat offenses in Sussex is evidence that mandatory jail time is not reducing repeat DUIs – and neither jail time nor dismissals are making our Sussex County roads safer.
Department of Justice officials recently changed the DUI process in Sussex, sending cases to Superior Court, where offenders will have case review, currently not available in Sussex Court of Common Pleas. This change will likely mean fewer dismissed charges. It will also likely mean more people receive treatment.
This is a much-needed change that could reduce DUI-related crashes, making our roads safer for all. We hope DUI Court will follow.
As the busiest travel days of the year approach, let us all plan now to keep our roads safe.