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Support for Prosecutors and DWI Courts

NHTSA’s objective is to enhance DWI prosecution, by establishing Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor positions and improving prosecutor technical support and training in additional States, and to apply the strategies used in drug courts to DWI cases in additional jurisdictions.  These initiatives build the capacity of prosecutors to successfully pursue DWI cases to ensure that court ordered sanctions of serious offenders are monitored and completed, to prevent further recidivism. 

The success of enforcement activity is dependent on an effective adjudication system.  If any part of the system breaks down, individual offenders will not be subject to consequences, which weakens general deterrence and serve as a disincentive to law enforcement.  If DWI cases are not addressed effectively, offenders will be more likely to repeat their crimes.  To ensure that the system works effectively, NHTSA is also focusing its efforts on supporting the criminal justice system by improving prosecution and establishing DWI courts.   

DWI cases are complex and in many jurisdictions are assigned to inexperienced prosecutors.  Moreover, the turnover rate among prosecutors is high.  According to a 2001 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey, 58 percent of prosecutor offices in large districts report problems recruiting staff attorneys and 72 percent report problems retaining them.  A 2002 study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reports that 48 percent of prosecutors surveyed believe the training they receive prior to assuming their positions is inadequate.   Encouraging jurisdictions to assign cases to more experienced prosecutors, and an infrastructure that ensures adequate training and sharing of knowledge among all prosecutors who handle DWI cases, are critical elements in the effective prosecution and disposition of these cases.

In addition, many sentences are not completed and there is a high rate of recidivism among DWI offenders.  Drug courts have been established to closely supervise drug offenders after sentencing to ensure compliance with sanctions, and they have been successful in reducing recidivism rates.  Similar findings have begun to be observed in DWI courts, which employ for DWI offenders the same type of close supervision used by drug courts.

More than half of the States in the Nation have traffic safety resource prosecutors and more than 300 DWI courts have been established nationwide.  Contact your State Highway Safety Office, NHTSA Regional Office, or NHTSA’s Enforcement and Judicial Services Division for information on your State’s traffic safety resource prosecutor.  Contact information can be found on the NHTSA Web site.  For information on starting a DWI court, go to the National Drug Court Institute Web site at or call 703-575-9400.  A copy of the National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem Solving Court Programs in the United States can be downloaded from the National Drug Court Institute Web site at