The Sobriety Court that Patrick Hill will participate in is a program of the 96th District Court in Marquette. It is a voluntary, non-traditional rehabilitation program for people who have two convictions for operating while intoxicated.
"The idea is to assist individuals to avoid re-offending in the future, also to protect the community," said Martha Jennings, the defense attorney member of the Sobriety Court.
There are five phases to the program, each one lasting a minimum of three months. When offenders choose to enter Sobriety Court, they receive little or no jail time upfront, but the maximum penalty can be imposed if they fail the program. The maximum penalty for a second O.W.I. conviction is 365 days in jail.
Participants in Sobriety Court are also sentenced to at least 24 months of probation. Jennings said there are some limitations to who can enter.
"For example, we are not allowed to accept individuals with convictions for violent or assaultive offenses, but generally speaking, an individual who expresses the interest and the willingness to go through the program can be admitted," Jennings said.
It is quite an intensive program, Jennings commented.
"The individual meets with a case manager, participates in substance abuse treatment, can be referred for mental health treatment if that seems indicated in any particular case," she said.
About 35-40 individuals are currently participating in the program. In its eight year history, 89 individuals have graduated from the Sobriety Court program. Only one has been arrested again for drunken driving.