2014 Winner: Judge John S. Kennedy and the Target 25 Program

Peter K. ORourke Special Achievement Awards
John S. Kennedy

Each year, one out of every three traffic related fatalities in Pennsylvania is due to impaired driving. While Pennsylvania employs several proven countermeasures to address impaired driving such as high visibility enforcement, focused law enforcement training, prosecutorial and judicial outreach, and specialized DUI courts, reducing DUI recidivism has always been a challenge. Luckily, the Target 25 Program shows great promise in doing just that.

DUI cases comprise nearly one quarter of the caseload for the York County Courts, and one quarter of those cases involve repeat DUI offenders. In 2013, there were 679 second convictions, 230 third-time convictions, and 115 convictions for a fourth or subsequent DUI offense. Unfortunately, 25 percent of these drunk drivers were reoffending between the time they were stopped and the time they appeared at court to enter a plea for the original DUI stop. This data spurred the Honorable John S. Kennedy of the Court of Common Pleas to lead a local task force to examine the manner in which the York County Courts processes repeat DUI offenders.

Target 25 is so named because it targets that 25 percent of DUI offenders who are repeat or multiple offenders.

The most important element of the Target 25 Program is the change made to the DUI arrest procedure in York County. DUI arrestees who have a prior DUI are now required to be placed immediately on a continuous alcohol monitoring device and have a mandated a drug and alcohol assessment as a condition of bail. The police run a driving history on an individual stopped for suspicion of DUI and immediately make an arrest if any prior DUI record exists, taking the offender in for an evidentiary blood draw.

Shortly thereafter, the DUI offender appears before a District Judge for a bail hearing, and the judge sets bail with conditions of a drug/alcohol evaluation and a SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring device. The protocol also includes progressive changes to DUI sentencing, while still remaining in compliance with state sentencing guidelines. As a result, jail time is replaced by house arrest and continuous alcohol monitoring for convicted tier 1 and tier 2 second-time DUI offenders.

Implementing the Target 25 Program required changes to the system and buy-in from several stakeholders involved in processing DUI offenders in York County. Initially there was push back from police who did not want the additional processing burden and District Judges who did not want to hold bail hearings in the middle of the night. The only costs associated with the Target 25 Program are borne by the offenders for the SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring. These devices cost the offender $12 a day, or $84 a week.

Through efforts of Target 25, York County, Pennsylvania, has experienced a 90 percent reduction in the number of DUI offenders who were arrested for a subsequent DUI offense within the same year. Before the program started in 2011, 18 percent of crime victims in the county were DUIs. In 2013, this had been reduced to 6 percent. State crash data reveals that York County crashes resulting in an injury or fatality due to a drinking driver fell 21 percent in 2013 compared to the previous three-year average.

The Target 25 Program has created a strong and coherent partnership among all stakeholders involved in the arrest, prosecution, and adjudication of DUI offenders. It provides the framework for other counties in Pennsylvania on how to implement an effective countermeasure for reducing DUI recidivism. The program has caught the attention of the Pennsylvania legislature. In April of this year, Judge Kennedy presented a program overview during a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Transportation Committees. After the hearing, a state Representative brought up the possibility of legislative changes in DUI to include components of the Target 25 Program.

In a letter to the editor, Judge Kennedy noted: “Our experience with 24/7 alcohol monitoring is that the individuals on the monitor stay sober over 99 percent of the time. The sober days greatly aid in our efforts to treat their alcohol addiction … That’s important, because treatment is really the answer to stopping repeat drunk drivers. Any sentence that is going to address the problem should require treatment, preferably through one of our DUI treatment courts.”

For more information, contact Judge Kennedy at jskennedy@yorkcountypa.gov or 717-771-9234.