Gov. Peter Shumlin has hired Robert Sand, who has been the state’s attorney in Windsor County for the last 15 years, to develop a DUI treatment court system in Vermont.
DUI courts put “high risk” offenders — people with an addiction and/or a prior conviction — in treatment programs and requires them to regularly report back to a judge. DUI courts function much like drug courts, with one significant difference — they come into play post-conviction. Offenders are still required to fulfill their sentences — “There’s no break there,” Sand explained — but they can receive sanctions or rewards depending on whether they comply with judge’s conditions.
DUI courts have been adopted by a number of other states. As of 2009, there were more than 500 nationwide.
The framework for the first DUI court, based in Windsor County, has been put into place, and Sand says he expects to have the program up and running by March. DUI dockets will be set up in other county courts on an opt-in basis. “That’s something that will have to evolve organically,” Sand said.
The program is funded through a federal grant, which will cover Sand’s salary — $91,000 — for three years. Sand says he will look for a more “sustainable” funding source to supplant the grant after those three years are up. He will be employed through the Department of Public Safety.
Shumlin said Sand’s work in Windsor County has been “a real example for us.” In the past, Sand has backed broad drug decriminalization measures.
Shumlin expects the program to save the state money in the long run; he cited a study by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals that found states save $2 to $4 on criminal justice expenses for every dollar spent on DUI courts.