||IX. Recommendations for Policy and Research
This chapter presents policy recommendations and it identifies areas where further research is needed to increase the effectiveness of dispositions for alcohol-related offenses among youth.
The goal of this Guide is to help judges and prosecutors effectively sanction cases of underage drinking and impaired driving. To that end, the NIAAA-NHTSA Expert Panel on Sentencing and Dispositions of Youth DUI and Other Alcohol Offenses endorses the following recommendations:
On Case Processing
- Efforts should be made to handle cases involving underage alcohol offenders as swiftly as possible.
- Courts must coordinate with administrative agencies to ensure that public safety is not compromised while a case is pending.
On Sentences and Dispositions
- It is important to pay close attention to all alcohol offenses among youth and to recognize that such offenses may contribute to impaired driving and other problems.
- Any sentence or disposition for a case involving underage alcohol-related offenders should seek to protect the public, hold the offender accountable to the victim and/or community, and provide education or treatment for the offender.
- Effective dispositions must incorporate increasingly severe sanctions when an offender fails to respond to initial and subsequent interventions.
On Screening, Assessment, and Treatment For Offenders
- All DUI offenders entering the court should be screened for alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems.
- When screening indicates the need for assessment, assessment should be conducted by trained professionals.
- Screening and assessment instruments used to evaluate underage alcohol offenders should be appropriate for youth.
- To avoid conflict of interest, assessment and treatment referral should be conducted by an agency not associated with any treatment program.l Judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and other justice system staff should have general knowledge about screening, assessment, and other issues surrounding AOD abuse treatment and should seek information about locally available agencies and the quality of the services they provide.
- The results of assessment and recommendations for treatment should be made available to the judge and prosecutor before sentencing.
- Judges and prosecutors should be familiar with the treatment provider(s) in their jurisdictions and use their authority to advocate for the development of supplemental services and programs as needed.
- When the offender (or offender's parents) cannot pay treatment costs, the court should consider substituting community service for fees and fines associated with the offense to help them pay for treatment.
- Diversion decisions should not be made by police authorities.
- Diversion is not recommended for impaired driving offenses.
- For nondriving alcohol offenses, diversion programs should be designed to hold offenders accountable for their acts and include elements aimed at rehabilitation, prevention, and education. Offenders who participate in a diversion program should not be able to avoid the imposition of mandatory sanctions, such as license revocation.
- Any diversion program should contain provisions to ensure that offenders who do not successfully complete the diversion program will be referred back to the prosecutor's office for prosecution.
- Adequate records should be maintained to ensure that a youth receiving a diversion sanction in one jurisdiction will not be eligible for a similar program in other jurisdictions.
On the role of parents in the justice system:
- Parents of juvenile offenders should be involved in the judicial process and should be required to attend court hearings; participate in rehabilitative and other court-ordered programs that require parental involvement with their children; pay certain costs associated with their children's criminal behavior, within appropriate limitations and subject to the ability to pay; and fulfill other obligations as ordered by the court.
On Information Sharing
- Relevant information concerning underage alcohol offenders should be shared among all entities that come into contact with the offender. This information should be available on a "need to know" basis with appropriate safeguards to protect against the release of confidential information to unauthorized persons.
- The records of all impaired driving offenders, regardless of where their cases are handled, should be kept in a central repository and should be accessible to all relevant entities.
- Judges and prosecutors should encourage States to improve their systems for tracking DUI offenses.
On Monitoring and Enforcement
- The court should have the resources, and should implement procedures, to monitor all sanctions.
- The court should take immediate action when an offender fails to comply, and the probation department should have the authority to impose immediate consequences.
- All courts should be provided with adequate resources to permit intensive monitoring of high recidivism-risk offenders.
On Judges' and Prosecutors' Roles in Prevention
- Judges and prosecutors should take an active role in community activities designed to prevent alcohol-related offenses among underage persons.
There is a pressing need for research findings to guide policies and practices related to underage drinking and DUI offenses, cases, and their dispositions. Specific needs include the following:
- Well-designed evaluations to assess the implementation process and outcome effectiveness of interventions with youthful DUI offenders and with youth who violate other alcohol-related laws. Preferably, the interventions would involve random assignment to various interventions individually and in combination. Intervention options may include various administrative license restrictions, court-mandated alcohol screening and treatment programs, and innovative types and conditions of youth probation (e.g., mandated parental involvement).
- Additional evaluations might focus on the impact of intensive monitoring on recidivism and other program outcomes, and on comparing the age-specific effectiveness of various sanction and treatment programs, since most have been evaluated only with adults, but not with offenders under age 21.
- Research on the impact of intensive law enforcement and rapid adjudication of youthful violations of DUI, minimum legal drinking age (MLDA), and alcoholic beverage control (ABC) laws on costs, community reaction and recidivism rates.
- Studies comparing the procedures, sanctions, and outcomes of handling juvenile DUI offenses in juvenile and in traffic courts. These studies also might test the impact of a special alcohol court (or inclusion of youthful alcohol offenses in a juvenile drug court setting) for underage youth.