The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award
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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, media, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke
2012 Winner: Guam DWI Court
The Guam DWI Court has led to outstanding improvements in the adjudication and treatment of DWI offenders in the U.S. Territory of Guam. By implementing a single docket of impaired driving cases assigned to one judge and establishing a DWI Executive Committee to bring together various stakeholders, the project is improving highway safety by decreasing the number of drunk drivers on Guam’s roadways.
Prior to the Court’s establishment, Guam’s DWI prosecution process had long been problematic. A lax “book and release” policy, coupled with a caseload spread among seven trial judges with no therapeutic approach and differing case management styles, led to delays of more than two years between arrest and conviction. Many violators were reoffending, sometimes resulting in serious injury or even death. No priority was given to monitoring mandated treatment or drug testing.
In November 2010, the Supreme Court of Guam ordered the establishment of the Guam DWI Court as a one year pilot project, relying primarily on the Judiciary’s FY 2010 appropriations. The Guam Office of Highway Safety awarded an $86,000 grant to support a full time court interpreter for Chuukese offenders and provide training for the DWI Executive Committee and Probation Units.
Under the leadership of a single judge, the DWI Court consolidated all misdemeanor and felony cases into a single docket. The Guam Attorney General dedicated a team to clear the historic backlog of uncharged cases and implemented a new “book and confine” Guam Police Department policy to eliminate future backlogs.
Now, DWI defendants can resolve their cases within 30-90 days of arraignment, rather than the two to three year time period it previously took. More significantly, offenders are able to engage in drug and alcohol treatment well within one year from date of their initial arrest.
The Court’s Probation Units have set up an aggressive process of early pre-trial drug testing and monitoring, which has helped bring the one-year recidivism rate down to just 5 percent. The project also increased community awareness of drunk driving laws through appearances on radio shows, press releases, and training for the Guam Bar Association and Guam Police Department.
A very unique aspect of the Guam DWI Court is its full-time Chuukese interpreter. The non-English speaking residents of the Island of Chuuk represent a disproportionately high percentage of Guam’s DWI offenders. Between October, 2010 and December 2011, more than 328 cases required the services of the Chuukese interpreter. In addition to assisting the court, the interpreter also facilitates interpretation for all steps in the criminal justice process, including instructing a Chuukese drug and alcohol program for convicted offenders as part of their probation and treatment program.
All told, the Guam DWI Court has managed to successfully implement a robust DWI process that not only makes the roads safer for Guam residents, but also helps offenders get the treatment they need in a language they can understand.
For more information, contact the Guam Department of Public Works’ Highway Safety Coordinator Cecilia Javier at 671-647-4343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guam DWI Court members