Bellone: "Suffolk County will help those struggling with addiction get the treatment they need and make our roads safer."
Suffolk County, NY - February 4, 2019 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced the first Drug, Alcohol and Reintegration traffic court in New York State to help residents recovering from addiction retain or regain their driving privileges. The innovative program is designed to reeducate participants on safe driving practices and track the rehabilitation and recovery of defendants. In addition, it aims to increase road safety, remove a barrier to employment, and assists drivers in retaining or regaining their license.
“Driving an automobile is a privilege, not a right,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Suffolk County will help those struggling with addiction get the treatment they need and make our roads safer.”
Statistics have shown that defendants with substance abuse, mental health and reintegration issues have a higher chance of violations, non-appearances and suspensions on their licenses. In traffic court, these issues often result in defendants not receiving plea offers, leading to increased fines and penalties, as well as significant penalties levied by the State Department of Motor Vehicles. People suffering from substance abuse issues also have a significantly higher chance of having judgments and steep outstanding fines against them upon completion of treatment, making license retention incredibly difficult.
The DAR traffic court helps address the needs of persons recovering from drug or alcohol addictions, mental illness, or those reintegrating into society from incarceration or a treatment program by providing special consideration that will best support their recovery or reintegration. Individuals participating in the program additionally will be required to take a safe driving education and protection course to reinforce safe driving habits and increase road safety in order to have their license restored.
DAR Traffic Court is held on the first Friday of every month at 2:00 P.M. in the Suffolk County Traffic Parking and Violations Agency located at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Judge Patricia Filiberto, the former presiding judge of the Suffolk County Drug Treatment Court, will be presiding over the court, which seeks to help defendants avoid and/or lift license suspensions and revocations and reeducate them on driver safety habits. The program may include, but is not limited to, the following:
Defendants will be given a more comprehensive conference centering on recovery and if appropriate, reintegration back into society.Prosecutors will perform an overall evaluation of the defendant and their driving and/or criminal history if any, along with therapeutic, rehabilitation and a comprehensive recovery plan.
Assessment of consequences/penalties will be based upon an overall evaluation of the danger posed to the public, the defendants themselves, the defendants’ ability to pay fines, participation in diversion programs and possible alternatives to fines.
The primary purpose of the program is to reeducate, track rehabilitation and recovery of defendants, with the goal of regaining or retaining their driver’s license to become productive members of society and to continue/regain employment by gaining and retaining the ability to drive.
There are no additional costs to the public to implement this program. However, there is a benefit to the public. Maintaining employment and attending treatment programs is a critical part of the recovery process. The DAR program concentrates on the long term recovery of defendants where they will not be returned to the road until their driving course is complete and the court receives verifiable results from a health professional certifying the person is in recovery, attending all required treatment, including a 12 step program, and on the way to being a responsible driver. In many circumstances, driving again will not be achieved in one or two visits to traffic court, but requires several updates on their recovery/reintegration status. Defendants restored privilege to drive will be linked to continued cooperation with the Traffic Court and treatment.
Last year, County Executive Bellone and the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency announced the first-in-the-nation Suffolk County Youth Traffic Court to help drivers ages 18 and under avoid license suspensions. Youth Traffic Court provides safe driving education, protections from unsafe driving habits commonly associated with new drivers, and drastically reduces the likelihood that a young drivers becomes a repeat offender. The program has been overwhelmingly successful and less than 1% of the participants have returned with new violations after completing the Youth Traffic Court program to date.