The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, office parties and get-togethers. It is also the deadliest and most dangerous time to be on roadways.

John Rupp, drug court commissioner for the 24th Judicial Circuit, said drunk and drugged drivers present a serious risk to everyone.

“It gets worse this time of year — Thanksgiving through New Year’s,” he said.

Statistics show 25 to 28 people are killed in drunk driving crashes per day on average in December.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in 2011, 209 individuals were killed and 3,630 were injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes.

About 30 state and local officials gathered Friday at the St. Francois County Courthouse Annex to commemorate — not only the proclamation of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month — but the formation of DWI courts for each county in the 24th Judicial Circuit, which includes St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Madison, and Washington counties.

Similar to drug court, which has existed in the 24th Judicial Circuit since 2007, DWI courts focus on alcohol-related offenses. In 2010, Missouri legislation established DWI courts which can provide limited driving privileges.

Rupp said a DWI court is being formed in the circuit for each of the counties. They have already accepted one DWI court participant in Washington County.

Paula Hendrix of Office of State Courts Administrator has been helping Rupp and Drug Court Administrator Laurie Wood start the DWI court. Hendrix said in past years, the judicial system has been tough on the crime but they haven’t been “smart” on it.

Those who are sent to prison for DWI offenses often come out and re-offend. Drug and DWI courts, which offers punishment along with a intense treatment program, lowers the likelihood of reoffending and helps the offender, as well as his or her family. It is also more cost-effective than prison.

DWI court participants will be recommended by prosecutors in the counties. Participants will have DWI convictions and will have to pay restitution, and fees and fines.

He said drug court trackers will visit homes of participants at least twice a week to test for alcohol and make sure participants are following the rules. Members of the DWI court team will include Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health counselors, Missouri State Highway Patrol, prosecutors and Probation and Parole.

Participants who are granted a limited driving privilege will have an ignition lock system installed on their vehicles. There are other limitations and restrictions that come with the privilege. They can only operate the vehicle if they have a valid license, insurance and safe operating vehicle.

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said drug courts are a good solution. He said people are being punished but they are also treated and helped to become productive members of society.

Attending the proclamation were State Rep. Shelley Keeney, R-Marble Hill; Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi; and Rep. Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre, Troopers Juston Wheetley and Dustin Reed, as well as local judges, police officers and area county commissioners. Kenney presented Rupp with a House of Representatives resolution for the DWI court.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at tressel@dailyjournalonline.com.

(14) comments

janeqcitizen

I'm not against drinking but DWI having lost a sister & bro-in-law to a DWI. I raised their orphaned children. 1st-I commend ALL efforts to get self-indulgent drunks who CHOSE to drive off the roads. 2nd-The carnage caused by these jerks is NO accident-it's a wreck or crash-please don't attempt to minimize the slaughter of innocent people by calling it an accident. Most of these victims require closed coffins. 3rd-while a DWI Court would appear to be a unified effort-it is essential that there be NO Plea bargain, NO record expungement. NOT Negotiable-STATE Court level with Dept. of Revenue notification so when your "treated productive members of society" reoffend somewhere else their record can be applied to enhance prosecution. Not making these poor excuses for human beings accountable can make YOU accountable. Have SAFE Holidays. Thank-you for driving SOBER. (yes, you can).

bobo

Your right janeqcitizen, we need more teeth in our laws,but the draw back is our law makers and the present court system today. They just want to coddle the criminal element and dump on the victims , their famlies and tax payers. I lost a nephew due to a drunk driver who's mother is now a prosecuter here in Missouri cities. He's still driving drunk to this day....
Pathetic as it is...... Until we get teeth in DUI & DWI it's going to remain the same ol same ol.

blasterrat1

Bobo: Have you not read the post of Ktrain and several others? The ones where they have strongly rejected my claims that our Judicial system is broken! BTW was you not one of those that disagreed when I said it? IDK maybe not. But yes indeed we desperately need changes within our system.

ktrain 50

There are seveal programs like this all over Missouri there is the Drug Court / DUI Court / Family Court, all these are called alternative courts where you can see people who are non violent crimes and they have the option to this court or prison. It's much cheaper to put a person through this kind of court then prison, it also keeps a person at home with their family and also in the work force. These courts are not new they have been around for many years they are just expanding. We as citizens can set back and say he or she should have got more time or less time but we are not privy to the deals made by attorneys or the prosecutors and we make uninformed judgements when we don't know the facts.

Wolfspirit13

I agree with you 100%. I know two individuals that between the two of them have a total of 8 DWI's. One has served 120 days shock, got 5 yrs probabtion, but still drives back and forth to work, (which he isn't supposed to), and the other does as she pleases. Both still drink and drive, whenever the need arise's. As of right now neither have a vaild drivers license but they have the "So What Attitude". These are the individuals that need this court or for the current laws to be enforced. Revoke the one's parole, and put him in jail, while forcing the other into this new system. Hit their pocket books, thats all they understand. Neither could care less about what they are doing, and the possibility of the harm they could do to others.

frankopinion

And you as a law abiding citizen have a responsibility to turn them in the same as you would if they were robbers,rapists,druggies or whatever.The police can't be everywhere or see everything.If we are ever to clean up our streets,we as law abiding citizens are going to have to help.

Wolfspirit13

So as to not mis-understand.....I have called Farmington City Police, St. Francois Co Sheriff's Dept, Missouri Highway Patrol, and the Parole and Probabtions offer.....The one is still driving as if nothing had ever happened. I have given full descriptions of the vehicles each drive, license plates numbers, so I have been the so called "Law Abiding Citizen"....where are those that are there to "Serve, and Protect"????

ktrain 50

Is this person in politics or something, I know many police officers and they arrest people all the time who are driving when they are not supposed to. Also the person you are talking about maybe they got a SR-22 and their license back on a hardship. Bet you and Blasterrat1 are closely related if not the same person, your writing styles are the very much the same. ? Just wondering.

frankopinion

Good for you. Please accept my pat on the back.

blasterrat1

Uh oh. Ktrains brain is working again. Here comes the multiple username accusations again! LOL!!

ktrain 50

I am glad they finally have a special court for DUI / DWI this is alternative to PRISON and much cheaper, the individual can be home with their family ( NO WELFARE) and keep their jobs and be a productive citizen paying taxes instead of being in PRISON and cost the tax payers. Hope they get a more personalized one on one help. WISH YOU ALL GREAT SUCCESS.

bobo

Whats wrong here already is the statement of "Limited Driving Priviliges" there should be no driving at all allowed. These DUI & DWI need to be thrown in prison and a hard labor prison
for the next 15 - 20 yrs to dry out . Otherwise it's the same ol same ol revolving door that
does no good and innocent people getting killed by one of these drunken drivers.
Send all drunks who drive a message and a hard message. Stop playing w/them and get serious.

Wolfspirit13

First and foremost I AM IN NO WAY RELATED TO Blasterrat1. The male individual I refer to is a cook at a local bar and grill. His girlfriend is the second individual involved. She is free on bond, while he is on parole. The male serves alcohol and mixed drinks at the bar when according to his parole he is forbidden to. As previously stated both find their situations laughable, feeling they were wrongly convicted of such an offense. They feel they did nothing wrong from the beginning. The female has a child in school. Undaunted they scoff at their situation, while they continue to drink and drive. I wouldn't argue that many people are "ARRESTED" for DWI, and DUI, but in the end how many are truly PUNISHED even as the laws are currently written? Lets hope this new court will in someway deter this type of behavior. IMO license's should be taken permanently from this type of individual and monitered more closely than they currently are. In this situation the male brags that his parole officer has never been to his home or the place of business where he is employed to check on him.

blasterrat1

C'mon! You know your me! LOL

Welcome to the discussion.

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