1. Ottawa County (Mich.) Sobriety Court Program

Ottawa County (Mich.) Sobriety Court Program

Program Goals/Target Population and Eligibility

The Ottawa County Sobriety Court Program is a driving under the influence (DUI) court located in Ottawa County in western Michigan. The court program has three main goals: diverting offenders from jail, eliminating substance use, and reducing the recidivism of offenders that live within the court’s jurisdiction.


The program targets offenders with their second DUI charge or criminal charges that involve substance abuse. To be eligible for the program, offenders must meet the following criteria:


·         They must have a new charge in Ottawa County or a violation of probation for offenses that are drug or alcohol related for which there is an underlying substance abuse issue.

·         They must have an alcohol and/or drug addiction or shown an obvious pattern of substance abuse.

·         They must be a resident of Ottawa County.


Offenders are ineligible if they have a record of a prior serious violent offense or felony weapons violations, a serious mental illness, or charges pending in another jurisdiction.


Potential program participants may be referred by a number of agencies, including the police, defense counsel, or prosecutor’s office. Once a potential participant is identified, the Sobriety Court case manager administers an initial screening. If an offender is found to be eligible for the program and shows a desire to participate, he or she enters a postplea agreement and begins treatment.


Program Components

The Sobriety Court Program has four phases. Participants must spend a minimum of 17.5 months in the program but cannot take longer than 24 months. Phase 1 lasts a minimum of 15 weeks. Participants are required to attend biweekly court sessions, as well as individual and group therapy according to their individualized treatment plan. Participants are also required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA) meetings five to seven times a week, and obtain a sponsor within the first 60 days of entering the program. Weekly drug testing and daily alcohol testing occurs in conjunction with random home visits from the police or probation officers. Participants are also required to seek and maintain employment during this phase or attend the program “Michigan Works!” for job assistance. If participants cannot find a job after 4 weeks, they must complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service per week until they are employed. In order to advance to the next phase, payments for fines, costs, and treatments must be made. Participants must also have 90 continuous days of sobriety.


During Phase 2, which also lasts a minimum of 15 weeks, participants still attend biweekly court sessions and must meet with their case managers at least twice a week. They must also attend four to seven AA/NA meetings each week and maintain a relationship with their sponsor. Drug and alcohol testing as well as home visits are random, and participants must maintain employment and keep to the payment schedule. Participants advance to Phase 3 only after having a minimum of 90 days of continuous sobriety.


Phase 3 of the program lasts a minimum of 20 weeks. Program participants attend court sessions and meetings with their case managers at least once a month. They also must attend AA/NA meetings at least three times a week, as well as family counseling, a life skills course, and an English as a second language course (or begin a General Educational Development [or GED] process). Drug and alcohol testing still occurs randomly, while employment and payments must still be maintained. Participants must maintain 90 days of continuous sobriety before progressing to the final phase.


During Phase 4, which is also a minimum of 20 weeks, participants continue to attend monthly court sessions and case managers meetings, in addition to at least three AA/NA meetings each week. Any previous trainings or counseling must be completed, and participants must attend a bimonthly “Give-and-Take” group session. Drug and alcohol testing is still administered randomly, and employment must still be maintained. Participants must also complete a narrative describing their lifestyle change during their time in the program.


The Sobriety Court Program uses a system of rewards and sanctions for compliant and noncompliant behavior. Rewards can include positive recognition from the judge, including applause and praise, reduced court fines, or a more flexible payment plan. When participants advance to a new phase of the program, they receive certificates and gift cards along with the possibility of reduced requirements. Sanctions can include increased supervision, electronic monitoring, increased substance use testing, community service, jail alternative work service, loss of driving privileges, delayed movement to the next phase or return to an old phase, extended time in the program, or a jail sentence (from 48 hours to 30 days).


Participants that successfully complete the program are released from their probation term. Probation terms are generally 24-month sentences, but participants can be released early if they complete all the phases in less time. Participants that are terminated from the program for noncompliance receive a jail sentence of up to 365 days.


Key Personnel

The Sobriety Court team includes two judges, probation officers, field supervision officers, assistant prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, the program coordinator, and the treatment providers.

Intervention ID

18 to 100


Study 1

Carey, Fuller, and Kissick (2008) found significant differences between the group of offenders that participated in the Ottawa County (Mich.) Sobriety Court Program and the comparison group participants who were on traditional probation.



In the year after starting probation for the driving under the influence (DUI) charge, comparison offenders on traditional probation were rearrested nearly six times more often than court program participants. In the 2nd year, they were rearrested four times more often. Multivariate analysis, which controlled for other factors that could affect the chances of being rearrested, confirmed the statistically significant results and indicated that participating in the program resulted in a lower number of rearrests.


The number of individuals that were rearrested was also significantly different between the two groups. In the 1st year, 4.2 percent of program participants were rearrested, versus 15.2 percent of the comparison group. In the second year, 7.7 percent of participants were rearrested, versus 24.2 percent of comparison offenders. In a 2-year period, offenders on traditional probation were more than 3 times more likely to be rearrested for any charge and were 19 times more likely to be rearrested for a DUI charge than Sobriety Court Program participants.


In addition, survival analysis found that the rearrests occurred significantly earlier for comparison group members than for program participants. The average number of days until court program participants were rearrested during year 1 was 135 days, while the average for the comparison group was 74.5 days. When controlling for other factors that may affect the time interval before rearrest, the significant differences between the groups remained. The comparison group was rearrested earlier than program participants, even accounting for any differences that may have existed between the two groups.


Finally, participants spent significantly less time in jail following entry into the program. Participants spent an average of 37.6 days in jail post–program entry, while comparison offenders spent an average of 70.1 days in jail post–probation entry.

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