Port Angeles To Be Home To State's First DUI Court

June 4, 2004

By Bryan Johnson
Komo 4 News

PORT ANGELES, WA- Washington State's first DUI court should be up and running by Aug. 12.

It will happen in Port Angeles.

That may seem like an unusual location, but scenic Highway 101 is becoming a traffic nightmare with 16 traffic fatalities in the first 5 months of the year.

Highway 101 is dangerous and alcohol makes it worse. Just ask the troopers who right the tickets.

"In 2003 there were 323 DUI arrests," said Trooper Mike DuFour. That's 100 more than in 2002, but patrol officers say that could be the result of more so-called emphasis patrols.

There's another problem in the courts. District Court Judge Rick Porter told KOMO 4 News: "Earlier today (Thursday), I sentenced someone for his seventh DUI conviction."

Troopers and Judge Porter are tired of the carnage. The Judge put his feelings this way: "You can protect the community when you lock them up, if you are willing to make enough jails to do that. In this financial climate that is not an option."

In the library of the Clallam County Court, there's a book with the title "Slaying the Dragon". Above an old west picture on the cover are the words "medical not penal treatment reforms the drunkard."

Judge Porter thought about drug court. There, users can stay out of jail if they get treatment. One man tells the court he hasn't used for "365".

Drug Court Judge Ken Williams says: "Ready." The crowd in his courtroom sings: "Happy Birthday." The man is 52 -- it's the first time since he was 17 he's gone a year without drugs. Some told KOMO 4 News they know where they'd be without drug court.

In Tricia Sampson's words: "Either out there still using, dead, or in prison."

Judge Porter thought if it works for drug users, it will work for drunk drivers.

The program won't be easy. They will be sentenced to one year in jail. Then if they agree to the program, they'll stay out of jail, but face two years of mandatory sobriety with drug counselors, drug programs and peers all working to keep them sober. Porter's warning: "If they drink they go to jail."

Clallam County wants to make sure they don't cheat. So, they will use hi-tech devices like ankle bracelets. When a person drinks, he or she sweats alcohol. The bracelet will measure it and transmit the data to monitors. One drink equals jail.

The program won't be cheap, but Judge Porter says: "The price you are going to pay if you don't do this...is people are going to die."

Not only that, he says keeping a person in jail costs $56 a day and this program won't cost that much.

The DUI court is scheduled to begin Aug. 12. There is both state and federal funding.



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