Petition for Approval of South Central Judicial District Drug Court
This petition is a request that the Supreme Court approve the South Central Judicial District Drug Court as a drug court program so that completion of the drug court program may be used as a sentencing alternative for persons convicted of third or fourth driving under the influence offenses as provided in Section 39-08-01 of the North Dakota Century Code.
On April 5, 2001, Governor John Hoeven signed House Bill 1218 which permits those convicted of third and fourth (or subsequent) driving under the influence offenses to serve their mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment by serving at least ten days imprisonment and then successfully completing the drug court program approved by the North Dakota Supreme Court. The legislation included an emergency clause and it is now law.
House Bill 1218 amends the provisions of law which impose minimum mandatory sentences for driving under the influence offenses. Third and fourth offenses are class A misdemeanors, with a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a maximum fine of $2,000. Before the legislation was signed, those convicted of a third offense within five years were required to serve at least 60 days imprisonment. Those convicted of a fourth (or subsequent) offense within seven years were required to serve at least 180 days imprisonment. The new provisions allow the sentencing judge to suspend all but 10 days if a defendant is in need of alcohol and substance abuse treatment. The defendant is placed under the supervision of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is required to complete the drug court program. Some of the new language of the statute provides:
For purposes of this subsection, unless the context otherwise requires, "drug court program" means a district court-supervised treatment program approved by the supreme court which combines judicial supervision with alcohol and drug testing and chemical addiction treatment in a licensed treatment program. The supreme court may adopt rules, including rules of procedure, for drug courts and the drug court program.
The South Central Judicial District Drug Court was planned using a federal grant obtained by the Department of Corrections. The planning process began in December of 1999. The Department of Corrections took the lead in the planning process and assembled a task force which included Judges Bruce B. Haskell and Gail Hagerty, and representatives of the Department of Human Services, West Central Human Services, the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office, the Morton County State's Attorney's Office, the Mandan Police Department, the Morton County Sheriff's Department, the Bismarck Police Department, the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Metro Area Narcotics Task Force and several defense attorneys.
The mission statement for the drug court is:
The mission of the South Central Judicial District Drug Court is to manage an immediately responsive alternative sentencing program for chemically dependent offenders.
The program seeks to reduce recidivism by holding offenders responsible for their behavior, stopping the abuse of alcohol and drugs and introducing an individual to a continuum of services. We seek to rehabilitate offenders and increase effective utilization of law enforcement, treatment, and judicial resource.
A drug court program manual and participant handbook have been developed and copies are included with this petition. They are being refined on a continuing basis.
The South Central Judicial District Drug Court held its first court session on January 5, 2001. The program is a pilot program because it is the first of its type in North Dakota and it is available only in a limited geographical area and only to a limited number of participants. It is necessary to limit the area served because resources are available only in the Bismarck-Mandan area. The program is using existing resources from the Department of Corrections (probation officer and coordinator); West Central Human Services (treatment coordinator and other treatment personnel), and South Central Judicial District (judges and clerical assistance). Because of the limited resources available, the program will probably only be available to 25 - 30 participants at any time during the next biennium.
At the present time, there are 10 participants in the drug court program. Participants are being added on a weekly basis. The participants are selected with input from law enforcement officers, prosecutors and defense counsel. When an application is made, it is considered by the drug court team made up of judges, the probation officer, the treatment coordinator and drug court coordinator. A program goal is to have participants sentenced and involved in the program within 10 - 14 days of arrest. At this time, the goal has not been met, and persons have been accepted much later after arrest.
If accepted as a drug court participant, a defendant pleads guilty and is sentenced, receiving either a deferred or suspended sentence with conditions of probation including a requirement for successful completion of the drug court program.
The drug court program takes at least a year to complete and includes three phases, each of which require at least four months for completion. A detailed list of requirements for each phase is included in the participant handbook. The requirements for completing of the phases are included in the participant handbook. During Phase I, participants attend drug court each week. They are under intensive supervision by their probation officer and must provide at least two randomly administered alcohol/drug tests each week. They are involved in a licensed chemical dependency treatment program and attend two AA or NA meetings each week. They must meet financial obligations and maintain approved 40-hour per week employment or educational training.
During Phase II, participants attend drug court once every two weeks. They provide one drug/alcohol test each week. They continue with probation supervision and treatment and are required to continue with employment and meet other goals to keep them sober and productive in the community. During Phase III, participants attend drug court once every three weeks. They provide one or two drug/alcohol tests each month. They continue in sobriety and productive lifestyles. Extended periods of sobriety are required for completion of each phase.
When a participant completes the program, a graduation ceremony will be held. During the time people are involved in the program, they are rewarded for successes and there are consequences for set-backs. The participants are applauded for their successes such as periods of sobriety, finding a job, successes in treatment, etc. There are also consequences. Several have been sentenced to short periods of incarceration when they relapse or violate conditions of probation.
A unique feature of the South Central Judicial District Drug Court has been involvement of speakers from the community who address the participants at the beginning of sessions. The group of participants has developed into a support group and positive relationships are being built.
If a participant is terminated from the program, the participant will be sentenced on the underlying charge.
At this time, we do not believe additional rules or procedural rules are necessary. We request the Supreme Court approve the South Central Judicial District Drug Court for the purposes of Section 39-08-01 of the North Dakota Century Code. The provisions of that section which refer to drug court are effective only through July 31, 2003, and the program will necessarily be reviewed at that time.
Dated April 19, 2001.
Bruce B. Haskell
Benny A. Graff
Presiding District Judge