Harris County Sheriff’s deputies have joined the team that administers the highly successful county DWI SOBER court program, which is aimed at increasing public safety by providing enforcement, treatment, supervision and support for alcohol abusers charged with drunken driving, Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced today.
Patrol deputies conduct random, surprise home inspections of defendants selected by judges to participate in the SOBER Court — a comprehensive abstinence program designed to rehabilitate participants who risk continuing to succumb to addiction. The goal is to make the streets safer and save law enforcement resources by reducing recidivism. The inspections started Monday, Sept. 4. Using cash from assets seized from criminals, the Sheriff’s Office is funding voluntary overtime pay to up to 14 deputies who have joined the team.
“I will do anything in my power to get Harris County, Texas off the top of the list of DWI-related traffic fatalities in the country,” said Sheriff Adrian Garcia. “We don’t want you before these judges being tried for involuntary manslaughter,” said Sheriff Garcia addressing the graduates. “If you think my deputies or any of these judges are playing, try us. We’ll hold jail space for those of you not listening. We’re going to be extremely serious about your success.”
County Criminal Court-at-Law Judge Robin Brown, who is among the three judges involved in the program, said, “For a few years now, Harris County misdemeanor courts have blazed a trail in the handling of certain DWI cases where this rigorous program for defendants makes better sense for the public than previous inflexible approaches. The program has ‘graduated’ many defendants who gain the tools to live a sober life and become productive members of the community, therefore, no longer cycling endlessly through the jail and the rest of the criminal justice system.”
Brown added, “Having sheriff’s deputies involved in the program, to make sure defendants are complying fully with the conditions of supervision, live in an alcohol free environment, are compliant with vehicle ignition interlock restrictions and the like, will strengthen the effectiveness and the accountability of our efforts.”
Working live days a week, the deputy teams will perform breath tests on the defendants, look for signs of non-compliance with the program (such as possession of alcohol, firearms or illegal drugs) and check equipment defendants have been ordered to use, such as mechanisms that prevent vehicles from starting unless the driver provides a breath sample clear of alcohol.
SOBER stands for Savings Ourselves By Education and Recovery.