American Judges Association


Date of this Version

July 2003


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 40:2 (2003), pp. 8-15. Copyright © 2003 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


Impaired driving is the most frequently committed crime in America. It has been an issue of debate and concern for the judiciary, as courtrooms across the country hear cases involving a majority of the 1.4 million annual DWI arrests. Since the early 1980s, concerned citizens have lobbied for and won considerable changes to the way these cases are approached from a public-policy perspective, often resulting in legislative initiatives and changes in criminal practice. Until now, however, little comprehensive research has been conducted on the implications of these system-wide changes for criminal justice professionals.

In December 2002, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation—an independent road safety institute—released a report concerning the adjudication of DWI cases and the sanctioning of hard-core drinking drivers. Its findings were based on the views, insights, and opinions of more than 1,000 judges across the country. The report is part of a multiyear research initiative designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system by highlighting key problems in each segment of the system and recommending practical, costeffective solutions. Two earlier reports addressed problems in the detection and apprehension of hard-core drinking drivers, and the prosecution of these offenders. The foundation recently released the final report in July 2003, which addressed monitoring by probation and parole.

In addition to funding provided by a charitable contribution from the Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., the involvement and participation of several thousand criminal justice professionals across the United States—representing law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and probation and parole officers—made this unique initiative possible. By identifying key problems and recommending practical solutions derived from prior research and validated by the experiences of thousands of professionals participating in the study, the initiative underscores the need for systemic improvements. As a starting point, this series of reports serves as a valuable sourcebook. It provides direction to criminal justice and traffic safety professionals at national and state levels. It also guides agencies in addressing concerns and in strategically reviewing existing policies.

This research has received considerable support, cooperation, and interest from a wide variety of individuals as well as key national agencies. These groups include the Highway Safety Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Traffic Law Center of the American Prosecutors’ Research Institute, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators, the Conference of State Court Administrators, the American Judges Association, the National Judicial College, the National Center for State Courts, the American Probation and Parole Association, and the National Criminal Justice Association.

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