You must apply to the DUI Court which serves the city where you live: Orange County Superior Court has divided DUI Court cases among 4 courthouses, Central (Santa Ana), North (Fullerton), Harbor (Newport Beach), and West (Westminster). For a list of the Courts and the cities they service, please see locations page.
DUI Court Introduction
The Superior Court of California DUI Court program Program is a court-supervised program for multiple DUI offenders who have no violence, drug sales or gang activity in their past. This voluntary program includes comprehensive treatment, supervision and regular court appearances throughout its one year term.
Participants are normally second or third time DUI Offenders charged with misdemeanor offenses which do not include serious injury to any victim. An interested applicant will undergo a screening/assessment by the DUI Court team to insure they are appropriate for the program, will benefit from the treatment and supervision and will not present a risk to themselves or the public.
Once approved for the program, a participant will plead guilty to the DUI Charges, a jail sentence will be stayed and they will begin the supervision and treatment program.
"…As I type this, I am 81 days sober. Yes, I’m tired from running from bus to bus. I’m tired of talking about myself and my recovery. I’m financially struggling to pay my bills, and I’m building and rebuilding a lot of relationships, but I am SOBER. I’m too tired to drink, I’m too broke to drink and I’m too busy to drink, because of this program ~ and I wouldn’t want it any other way…"
As stated above, each participant receives an individual assessment, and treatment, based on the assessment. The normal course of treatment is outpatient, including weekly one-on-one sessions and group sessions, all will begin with either a licensed therapist (or a master’s level clinician supervised by a licensed therapist), and regular self-help meetings (such as AA , NA, or similar programs). In addition, participants are expected to attend and complete the DMV-mandated multiple alcohol offender educational program (SB-38).
"…When I received my second DUI it seemed that my world had come crashing down, and I knew it was time to make some serious changes. After spending 2 days in jail it was an enormous wakeup call and an experience I’ll never forget. It was by far a story to tell and a place I want to never visit again…by being tested weekly and attending AA meetings, I have stopped drinking. I feel so much better mentally and physically and even have a clearer outlook on life…"
In order to be successful in treatment, the participants need to be alcohol and drug free. The terms of probation prohibit participants using alcohol or drugs (except approved medications) and living in a home where alcohol and drugs are present. In addition to weekly or biweekly probation contacts, probation supervision is designed to insure compliance with the sobriety requirement of the program.
"…I truly believe things happen for a reason and only I can make the changes to live a happier healthy life. I am so thankful for this program and feel I have a second chance to turn my life around and live the life I really want and deserve. After a long orientation in the program, I am ready to advance to Phase One and move forward."
To insure compliance with the sobriety requirement of the program, participants will receive regular and random tests for drugs and alcohol.
"Over these last nine months I have been challenged to overcome my hardest endeavor yet. I have been sober 24 days and it has been the hardest experience of my life, they say 'if it does not kill you that it must make you stronger', and yet I am still living…I have experienced so many new things over these last nine months that have changed my outlook completely on life and all of my surroundings. For once, I am seeing things the way they were intended to be seen, not as a drunken blur."
Participants return to court at regular intervals for periodic reviews of their success in the program, for phase advancements and to attend DUI Court Graduations.
The DUI Court program is designed to be completed in one year from admittance. Some participants complete in that time period. Some participants who struggle with their sobriety or the rules of the program take longer to reach graduation.
"…the experience of being involved in the DUI program has been of great personal value to me. It has taught me that life’s changing cycle of experiences comes with personal benefits as well as consequences…"
Philosophy of DUI Court
The problem of driving while impaired has existed as long as society has had the automobile. As population has increased, streets and roadways have become more crowded and vehicles more powerful, injuries and deaths at the hands of impaired drivers have grown to levels resulting in strong laws and punishments for people arrested and convicted of impaired driving. The primary focus of these laws are stiff financial penalties and mandatory jail sentences.
Unfortunately, experience over the years has shown that stiff fines and incarceration do not deter many impaired drivers from their dangerous conduct. The scientific literature seems to show that these responses to impaired driving do not reduce recidivism, and in fact may increase it.
DUI Court grew from this understanding. The DUI Court concept is not soft on crime, however the reaction to the arrest and conviction for DUI is treatment and supervision not incarceration. A number of our graduates stated in their graduation speeches that if they had taken the jail option, (rather than DUI Court), they would have been back drinking and likely driving the day after their release from jail.
The DUI Court program is designed to get and keep participants sober, and provide them treatment over the period of a year, which hopefully is sufficient for them to gain an understanding of the destructive lifestyle they lived before, and become solidly entrenched in a new sober lifestyle.
During the DUI Court year, most participants experience greater health, reunification or better relationships with family and friends, and greater success at work. The goal of DUI Court is to treat the whole individual. The DUI Court team assists every participant in connecting them with whatever help they need.
The program has had great success in working with multiple DUI offenders and getting them back on a law abiding and productive track of life.
DUI Court History
The DUI Court is a “collaborative court”. The “collaborative court” concept arose in the early 1990s with a program known as Drug Court. This program works to break the cycle of arrest, conviction, jail, release, and reoffense with drug possession cases. It started in Miami, Florida and grew across the country. Orange County began its first Drug Court in the middle 1990s, and it proved very successful, eventually growing to at least one Drug Court at each of the Orange County branch courthouses.
DUI Court evolved from this experience. Initially there was some reluctance to expand the Drug Court concept to impaired drivers. Drug Court normally dealt with felony cases and the risk to society was normally low (the risk primarily being to the user of the drugs). DUI Court was similar in that it involved substance abuse and addiction, but was also different because impaired drivers were injuring and killing people on our highways.
Around 2003, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), decided that DUI Courts would be valuable in reducing the number of drinking driver caused injuries and fatalities. They began offering funding assistance for the start-up of these programs by putting out a request for grant applications through their state counterparts, which in our case was the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
Orange County Superior Court decided to seek a start-up grant and pulled together the “stakeholders” or “collaborators” who would be involved in the proposed program.
The grant was received and the Harbor Justice Center- Newport Beach DUI Court began to screen and accept participants in October of 2004. Additional DUI Courts were added in the North Justice Center – Fullerton in 2007 and the Central Justice Center – Santa Ana in 2008. In the fall of 2009, the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Court a grant to continue the existing DUI Court programs, and to expand DUI Court services to the jurisdiction of the West Justice Center. Although current judicial staffing and financial contraints temporarily require that their court appearances be made at Harbor Justice Center, participants receive their treatment and probation services within the geographic jurisdiction of the West Justice Center.
Since inception the Newport Beach DUI Court has assessed more than 1,450 impaired drivers, accepted more than 760 to the programs and have graduated over 430 from the program, with an overall retention rate above 75 percent and a recidivism rate below 3 percent.
As a result of these successes and the work and dedication of the team, the DUI Court has, for the 2nd time, been named an “Academy Court" by the National Center for DWI Courts, making it one of four such courts in the United States. The DUI Court has also won awards from CADPAAC (County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California) and CPPCA (California Probation, Parole and Correctional Association).
DUI Court Acceptance Process
DUI Court was designed for people facing a charge of DUI with prior DUI convictions, who are ready for a change. These are people who acknowledge that substance abuse has gotten out of control in their lives and they want to take steps to regain their sobriety. For these people, DUI Court should be one of the possible resolutions they consider.
- There are several requirements to be acceptable to the DUI Court
- The applicant must live in the geographic area of the court where he/she applies for DUI Court. (see cities served under “Orange County Locations”). Applicants who live outside Orange County cannot be served by this program. Applicants who live in another part of Orange County will be referred to the appropriate court.
- The applicant must not have any instances of violence, drug sales or gang activity in his/her past.
- The applicant must have a recognition that he/she has a substance abuse problem and a readiness for change.
- The applicant must have sufficient mental and physical health to be able to complete the activities and requirements of the program and may not be taking medications which are inconsistent with program testing or sobriety (ie. drugs of abuse such as stimulants and depressants, among others).
- The applicant must have a feasible transportation plan for attending court sessions and the program’s activities.
- Interview Process
- The first step is arraignment. The Court encourages all applicants to be represented by counsel who has reviewed the complaint and police report and has done any necessary investigation on the case.
- At arraignment, or thereafter, an applicant can request his/her case be set for a DUI Court interview.
- DUI Court interviews occur in 3 parts. The first two steps occur on the DUI Court Interview date set by the Court. These include a computer assessment and an interview with our Probation Department Team member.
- The second part of the interview is scheduled during the first interview for a day later that week. The second interview is with a Health Care Therapist who is a DUI Court Team member. This interview occurs at the Health Care (OCHCA) Department building located at 1200 North Main, Santa Ana, CA.
- The final step in the process is a team discussion which brings together all of the interview information. Attorneys are encouraged to attend this meeting which normally occurs Monday afternoon at 1:30 PM on the day prior to the applicant's next court appearance (the one where the Court will announce the team’s decision).
- At the Court session where the interview results are announced, an applicant will be told if his/her application is approved or declined and what conditions, if any, were made with the approval. (In many cases where an applicant is declined, they can request a re-interview).
- To enter the program all applicants enter a guilty plea and are sentenced to a stayed jail sentence (which is consistent with what would have been imposed outside of DUI Court). In addition the applicant will be given DUI Court terms of probation and be required to agree to a DUI Court plea agreement. Once the plea is taken, the applicant begins the activities of the program.
- During the first two weeks of the program a participant is in the "window" period. This, is in essence, a "test drive" of the program. As long as the participant is not in violation of his/her DUI Court probation terms, he/she may withdraw from DUI Court and withdraw his/her guilty plea during this "window" period. A person will not be recommended to move from the "window" to orientation until a clean drug screen has been received.
- At the point a participant accepts an advancement into the "orientation" phase of the program, the right to withdraw from the program and withdraw his/her plea expires. Withdrawals thereafter (without a violation of probation) will have the consequence of imposing the stayed jail time plus appropriate probation terms. If a participant wishes to withdraw after violating terms of probation, a probation violation sentence may also be imposed.
- The information you share with the DUI Court team through the computer self-test and the interviews with probation and health care will remain confidential. The Judge and team will keep the information confidential and it will only be used in considering treatment options either in DUI Court or in recommending treatment options outside of DUI Court. In the event an applicant chooses not to volunteer into DUI Court or is not accepted, the information received during the evaluation process will not be shared with prosecutors.