Lawmakers, MADD, and other anti-drunk driving groups have successfully lobbied for harsher sentencing on repeat DWI offenders, in hopes of deterring those drivers from offending again in the future. Because many repeat DWI offenders suffer from chemical dependency issues or mental illness, public funds might be more effective at curbing DWIs if directed towards recovery programs and improved access to mental health resources.
In this blog, our Minnesota DWI Attorneys reviews new research indicating that habitual DWI offenders might suffer from a undiagnosed mental illness, which impacts their seemingly inability to not drink and drive.
New Trends About Mental Health and Repeat DWI Offenders
New research supports shifting focus from punishment to rehabilitation because many drunk drivers who re-offend suffer from diagnosable mental illnesses. Researchers from Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School conducted a study that found nearly half (45 percent) of all repeat DWI offenders have a “major” mental health disorder, including PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and stress disorder.
While most of the repeat offenders also had substance abuse addictions, drug and alcohol-related disorders were not counted as one of the diagnosable mental illnesses for purposes of this study. The researchers also found that DWI offenders suffering from a mental illness (other than drug or alcohol addiction) re-offend more quickly and more frequently than offenders without a psychiatric condition.
The results of this study suggest policymakers might want to reconsider the approach of harsher sentencing to curb motorists from committing multiple DWI offenses. The research shows the folly of locking up a drunk driver suffering from an undiagnosed mental disorder in an attempt to prevent future violations.
If the resources devoted to jailing repeat DWI offenders were instead used for mental health diagnosis and treatment, this new research suggests we might make the roads safer and avoid incarcerating people who lack the capacity to change their behavior without therapy or medications.
Court Partners with Harvard Medical School in Groundbreaking Study
While this strategy might seem idealistic, the San Joaquin Superior Court’s Collaborative Courts department in California is currently working with Harvard Medical School to determine if repeat DUI offenses constitute an indication of mental illness.
The court will be one of six test sites for a Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS), which was developed by researchers at Harvard Medical School. People arrested for DWI with priors are asked questions relevant to diagnosing fifteen different psychiatric conditions. The CARS system produces a report that recommends treatments and offers a list of referrals.
Seeking Legal Advice Right Away is Critical
If you have been arrested for DWI and have prior convictions, you should seek legal advice promptly. If you are facing DWI charges in Minneapolis or the surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to one of our Minnesota DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.