Original Voice

Program Profile: The Las Vegas Township Justice Court DUI Court Program

Raymond Figueroa, DUI Court Program Coordinator, Las Vegas Township Justice Court

Program Overview

The Las Vegas Township Justice Court DUI Court Program is a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment collaborative for misdemeanor DUI offenders. Established in 2003 as an additional, voluntary program, the program looks to manage the area’s growing concern for the repeat DUI offender.

The program incorporates a team approach and is structured and operated under the Specialty Court Model guidelines developed by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. The team includes a presiding judge, representatives from both the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office, the Clark County House Arrest Unit, approved treatment providers, and a program coordinator. Two departments within the Las Vegas Township Justice Court operate the DUI Court Program, presided by Judge Tony Abbatangelo and Judge Nancy Oesterle.

Program Quick Facts

Year Program Launched: 2003

Number of Participants:

  • Active Participants: Judge Abbatangelo’s court has 69 active participants, Judge Oesterle’s court has 110 active participants
  • Graduates: 401 graduates to-date

Program Costs:

  • On average, participants who successfully complete the program in one year will average $4700 in fees, including case management fees, the ignition interlock, house arrest fees, and treatment costs. SCRAM offenders pay an additional $12 per day.
  • 84% of successful graduates have paid 100% of the costs of their program. The remaining 16 % average payment of 40% of the cost of their program.

Duration of Program:

  • Program participation can range from 1 to 3 years, depending on compliance and progress.
  • 85% of participants complete the program in the minimum one-year time period.

Program Participants

  • Defendants can be accepted into the DUI Court Program as a judicial referral or as a result of case negotiations.
  • A substance abuse evaluation is required in either case, to ensure suitability for the treatment-based program. Criteria for Suitability for the DUI Court Program:
    • They have committed a DUI
    • They have a substance abuse diagnosis of either “abuse” or “dependence”
    • Their evaluation indicates they will benefit from treatment

Program Components

  • Substance Abuse Evaluation: The Nevada Revised Statute states that all 1st time DUI offenders with a recorded blood alcohol content greater than .18 at the time of the offenders and all 2nd time DUI offenders are REQUIRED to submit to a substance abuse evaluation. Our program utilizes formal interviews and bases assessment on the diagnostic criteria outlined by the DSM IV. Treatment recommendations are made according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine Patient Placement Criteria. Evaluations are made by a licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor.
  • In the majority of cases, the judge will impose a maximum jail time of six months and suspend the sentence so that it can serve as a significant leverage for compliance during the program.
  • 90 Days of Intense Supervision via house arrest at the beginning of their sentence
  • Intensive substance abuse treatment. The two-phase treatment intervention plan incorporates treatment through private, licensed, approved alcohol counseling agencies and is augmented by mandatory, 12-Step Support Group participation.
  • Each participant must install a breath ignition interlock device for the duration of their time in the program on any vehicle they operate or have access to.
  • Each participant must undergo random drug and alcohol testing throughout their participation in the program to ensure required abstinence.
  • Graduated sanctions for relapse or other violations are at the discretion of the judges and can include:
    • Imposition of contempt of court charges
    • Jail time
    • Required 500-word essays
    • Installation of in-home breath testing units
    • Bi-weekly drug testing
    • SCRAM Bracelets for 24/7 alcohol monitoring
    • Participation in a sober living environment (half-way house)

Program Completion and Graduation

Maximum treatment effectiveness, as determined by the entire DUI Court Program team, is the most significant determining factor for recommending completion of the program. A graduation ceremony is considered a celebration, and the offenders are acknowledged accordingly, including a cake, and the opportunity to share words of wisdom for future participants.

Program Outcomes

  • Las Vegas DUI Court Program defines success as completion of the year-long program of intensive treatment with noted progress, maintained sobriety, payment for their program, and no arrests during program participation.
  • 20% of participants are terminated from the program
  • 76 re-offenders to-date, for an 81% success rate

For more information

Ray Figueroa, Coordinator, DUI Court Program for the Las Vegas Justice Court