DWI courts (sometimes called DUI courts) are a form of court that exists in some United States legal jurisdictions, that use substance-abuse interventions and treatment with defendants who plead guilty of driving while intoxicated or impaired. DUI courts may focus on repeat offenders and drivers with very high levels of blood alcohol at the time of the offense.[1] As of December 2011, there were approximately 192 designated DUI courts in the United States, and approximately 406 drug courts that also accept DUI offenders.[1]


The term DWI stands for driving while intoxicated, while the term DUI stands for driving under the influence. Both charges relate to operating a motor vehicle while impaired as the result of the consumption of alcohol or another intoxicant. The name given to a DWI court may vary depending upon the terminology used in the state for its impaired driving offenses.


DWI courts tend to focus on the most serious cases and repeat offenders, and thus apply strict standards to the cases and defendants that come before them.[1] Drunk and impaired driving offenses involves a substantial risk of harm and death to the driver and to others, as a foreseeable consequence of such conduct.[2] In 1996, DWI cases accounted for 32 percent of motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States[3] In 2014, alcohol was involved in 9,967 motor vehicle accident deaths, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities.[4]

It is estimated that 6.2 percent of adults aged eighteen and older have an alcohol use disorder, characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use.[4] DWI courts focus on defendants who are deemed at high risk of re-offending if given a less intensive disposition.[5] DWI courts seek to reduce impaired driving by treating alcoholism, while requiring offenders to take responsibility for their actions.[1][6]

Studies suggest that DWI courts reduce both DWI recidivism and general criminal recidivism by an average of more than twelve percent, with the most successful DWI courts reducing recidivism by as much as fifty to sixty percent as compared to other forms of sentencing.[7]


Defendants who want DWI court treatment are required to abstain from drinking alcohol.[5] Participants may also be subject to various requirements[8] such as:

Related issues

When defining DWI offenses, states and courts must consider whether or not the charge or a specific drunk driving offense should be classified as a crime of violence. If a court rules the incident as a crime of violence, which would result in the charge being treated as an "aggravated" felony for purposes if immigration law.[12][13]

DWI Checkpoints may be used in conjunction with DWI courts to identify and prosecute impaired drivers.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d "What is a DWI Court?". National Center for DWI Courts. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  2. ^ Schuman, Gary (2008). "Dying Under The Influence". Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal. 43: 1–62.
  3. ^ "National Drunk Driving Crackdown — August 15–September 1, 2008". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 57 (31): 854. 8 August 2008. JSTOR 23318693. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Alcohol Facts and Statistics". National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b Vlavianos, Richard; Floerke, Shaun; Carey, Shannon. "DWI Court Research and Best Practices" (PDF). National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Retrieved 1 March 2018.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Hess, Kären M.; Christine Hess Orthmann (2008). "Courts". Introduction to Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (9 ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 582. ISBN 978-0-495-39090-9.
  7. ^ Harron, Ashley (January 2015). "The Bottom Line" (PDF). National Center for DWI Courts. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  8. ^ See, e.g., "Adult DUI/DWI Treatment Court Programs" (PDF). Maryland Drug Courts. Office of Problem- Solving Courts. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  9. ^ Olson, Rochelle (30 December 2007). "DWI court succeeds by keeping keen eye on offenders". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  10. ^ Nichols, Tison, J.; Casanova-Powell, T.; Chaudhary, N.K. (April 2015). "Comparative study and evaluation of SCRAM use, recidivism rates, and characteristics. (Report No. DOT HS 812 143)" (PDF). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 1 March 2018.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Kierkus, Christopher A.; Johnson, Brian R. (2015). "Michigan DUI/Sobriety Ignition Interlock Evaluation" (PDF). Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  12. ^ Hicks, Eric (April 2011). "Comments on Sentencing Procedures". Federal Sentencing Reporter. 23 (4): 265. doi:10.1525/fsr.2011.23.4.265. JSTOR 10.1525/fsr.2011.23.4.265.
  13. ^ Davenport, Maria-Teresa (Spring 2006). "Deportation and Driving: Felony Dui and Reckless Driving as Crimes of Violence Following Leocal v. Ashcroft". The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 96 (3): 849–875. JSTOR 40042799.
  14. ^ Davis, Robert (May 2012). "Selected International Best Practices in Police Performance Measurement". Center on Quality Policing: 37–39. ISBN 9780833069801. JSTOR 10.7249/j.ctt1q60z7.