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Starting Friday, a new pilot program will change the way repeat DUI offenders are handed in Monterey County. The agencies involved in the program say they’re now focusing on more treatment options.
The $350,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety is funding the program, which combines resources from the D.A.’s Office, the Department of Probation and drug abuse counselors. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Sam Lavorato is the administrator of the program.
Over the last ten years he has seen his share of DUI cases.
“There’s an average of about 2,000 cases (annually) here in Monterey County,” Judge Lavorato said.
He’s hoping to change that with a new program aimed at treating repeat DUI offenders, many facing alcohol addiction. It’s by no means the easy way out. Participants still have to face consequences, but now have treatment options.
“It provides that particular individual coming in to see probation and testing,” Judge Lovarato said. “The individual would have to do either an outpatient program or residential program. The individual would have to do the mandatory minimum as far as jail time in concerned.”
The first step is identifying those eligible for the voluntary program.
“So the DA is going to review the individuals’ history and charges,” said Ed Hazel with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, “And determine whether a recommendation for referral to the DUI court is appropriate, and if so, will make that recommendation to the judge.”
But it’s not for everyone.
“If a felony is committed or someone is injured, or God forbid dies, they’re not getting treatment, they’re getting the penal system,” said Anna Foglia, CEO of Sun Street Centers.
Sun Street Centers is part of the program, offering treatment options like a five month residential program or outpatient counseling. The center says statistics show treatment is far more effective than incarceration. Through this program, they’re anticipating a 50% reduction in the number of repeat offenses.
“Penalizing these participants alone returns them to the community with the same issues and they will likely reoffend,” said Nona Medina, the DUI Grant Director.
While this program is new to Monterey County, it’s not new to the state. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, this treatment option has been successful in San Joaquin and Orange Counties.
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