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Second Judicial District opens new Felony DUI Court Program

Thursday, March 17, 2016

DENVER – Since Colorado enacted a new felony DUI law in August 2015, a new treatment program in Denver District Court has found 21 cases eligible for participation as an alternative to incarceration.

The law now requires that a fourth DUI be charged as a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.  While many four-time offenders are likely to be sentenced to prison, treatment options addressing substance abuse still must be considered.

In partnership with the Denver District Attorney’s Office; Denver Public Defender; Denver Adult Probation; Denver Pre-Trial Services and Community Corrections; the Denver Sheriff’s Department RISE Program and Addiction Research and Treatment Services, the Second Judicial District has implemented the RESTART (Recognizing and Establishing Smart Treatment Alternatives for Recovery and Transition) program.

“The law states that the Court must determine that incarceration is the most suitable option given the facts and circumstances of the case, including the defendant’s willingness to participate in treatment,” said Denver District Court Chief Judge Michael A. Martinez.  “Denver District Court and its collaborative partners are once again at the forefront in addressing the critical needs of those with substance abuse issues in our community.  Providing a specialized court to address these needs is a logical extension of the many services already available in our Court and within our Community Corrections agencies in Denver.”

RESTART is designed to balance the specialized treatment needs of eligible offenders, giving them the opportunity to avoid incarceration, while protecting public safety, ensuring offender accountability and intensively monitoring participants as they move through the program. RESTART’s multi-phase program includes a three-year probation sentence, intensive community supervision and substantial judicial oversight.

“I am excited to be a part of the RESTART team and am firmly committed both to addressing the treatment needs of those with alcohol addiction and to reducing recidivism among this population.  I can’t think of anything more important than decreasing drunk driving in our community” said Magistrate Albert Zweig, who presides over the Denver Adult Drug Court.  “I appreciate the efforts of the various agencies who have come together to make this a reality.  They were all instrumental in implementing the RESTART program.”

Offenders who are eligible and accept the terms of RESTART must successfully complete each phase in order to graduate the program.  Program requirements include completion of 60 days in the Denver County Jail RISE program, attendance and compliance with intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment and continuous remote alcohol monitoring and ignition interlock. In addition, eligible offenders will be required to perform community service work and attend Victim Impact Panels at Mothers Against Drunk Driving and meet frequently with community corrections officers and the RESTART judicial officer.

Participants who fail to comply with program and phase requirements will receive sanctions for non-compliant behavior and could ultimately face a significant prison term should their probation sentence be revoked by the court.  Participants who are compliant with program requirements and demonstrate significant progress will receive incentives as encouragement to continue their compliance and reinforce the goal of long-term positive behavioral change.  Some program participants may be eligible for a deferred judgment based upon their criminal and driving history.  For these participants a misdemeanor conviction may be imposed in lieu of a felony.

“Ensuring the public safety is a priority, and if we can do that while helping someone get sober and stay sober, then the whole community wins,” said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

Since the law’s enactment on August 5, 2015, the Denver District Attorney has screened 58 cases for the RESTART program, with 21 of these cases determined eligible to participate.  

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