SLC Starts DUI Court

SLC Starts DUI Court

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A DUI Court is being started in Salt Lake City, and, unlike two suburban courts, it will not offer offenders a plea-in-abeyance deal.

Beginning Wednesday, prosecutors will select 60 to 100 offenders for a pilot DUI Court, which will be monitored by Justice Court Judge Virginia Ward and supervised by city Prosecutor Sim Gill's office.

Offenders will be monitored for one year. They will have to meet regularly with a probation case manager and a community board of prosecutors, DUI victims and others interested in DUI issues.

This is a new and powerful component to the DUI Court, Gill said.

"When offenders are forced to interact with other members of the community that they have put at risk, it creates a different level of accountability that is sometimes missing in the eyes of the offender," he said. "That link has a profound impact on the whole idea of self-policing."

Similar DUI courts are in operation around the nation, but the Salt Lake court is to have more intense probation than in most other cases -- and no plea in abeyance, under which offenders can have their convictions erased if they complete a rigorous, supervised treatment program.

"I take critical issue with anyone who suggests that you can't get people into treatment without it." Gill said.

However, he said the Salt Lake City DUI Court may offer to reduce the DUI charge to alcohol-related reckless driving, a lesser charge.

This winter, Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Salt Lake City, sponsored a bill to compare DUI Courts that do offer pleas in abeyance, such as Taylorsville and Holladay, and those that don't. The charge is to determine if one strategy is more effective than the other in having DUI offenders complete their treatment and court requirements.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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