2021 Winner: Puerto Rico Department of Justice

Peter K. ORourke Special Achievement Awards
Puerto Rico Department of Justice

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice DUI Specialized Prosecution Unit was established in 1995 to address Puerto Rico’s high rate of impaired driving fatalities, but prosecutors struggled for the next two decades to convict offenders.

In 2017, the Department of Justice joined forces with the Puerto Rico Traffic Safety Commission to completely overhaul the Unit. They created a Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor program, hired 14 prosecutors that specialize in DUI cases, established a database to track recidivism and developed three specialized academies including one that addresses the prosecution of drivers under the influence.  

As a result, Puerto Rico’s DUI convictions have nearly tripled with dismissals falling from 50% in 2016 to 9% today. And this remarkable transformation took place at the same time the island faced its worst natural disasters, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This project is helping to ensure that people injured and killed by impaired drivers and the victims’ families receive justice through criminal prosecution.