Spring 2020
                                                         Resource Roundup

We want to hear from you! How are you handling the impact of COVID-19? Are you implementing innovative procedures to run your courtroom? DWI Court judges, how are you communicating and supervising your clients? Please email hollyd@yourhonor.com your practices and we will compile and share the information in the next DWI Newsletter.

Free Certification training on the Impaired Driving Assessment Tool

The American Probation and Parole Association is pleased to offer free certification training via Webinar on the Impaired Driving Assessment (IDA). The IDA is a differential screening instrument that consists of 45 items across two components designed to estimate the risk for future impaired driving, provide preliminary guidelines for service needs, estimate the level of responsivity to supervision and services, and identify the degree to which traffic safety has been jeopardized among individuals convicted of a DWI offense.  This 4 hour live Webinar provides all of the information needed to effectively use this tool to assess risk and needs of the impaired driving population. This training is geared towards DWI and Hybrid Drug Court teams, probation departments and treatment providers looking to use a validated assessment tool to work more effectively with this challenging population. For more information on scheduling a Webinar, contact Mark Stodola at Probationfellow@csg.org.

The Justice Management Institute's COVID-19 Checklist for Criminal Justice Partners can be found here.

NADCP's COVID-19 Resources for Treatment Courts can be found here.

SAMHSA's training and technical assistance related to COVID-19 can be found here.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance released a revised grant solicitation for the fiscal year 2020 Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program and Veterans Treatment Court Program. All treatment court models remain eligible to apply including: adult drug courts, co-occurring courts, DWI courts, tribal healing to wellness courts, and veterans treatment courts. The new deadline to apply is June 1, 2020.

Regional Conference DWI Sessions now available via webinar
May 14: Adapting to Uncertainty: Leveraging Technology and Nontraditional Approaches to Supervise Impaired Drivers
May 21:Impaired Driving Case Law Update and Back to Basics: Impaired Driving Edition

DWI Summits
Due to COVID-19 the DWI Summits have been moved online!
June 4 & June 25
Topics: Occupational Licenses, Pre-trial Issues, Sentencing Alternatives

Impaired Driving Symposium
August 3-4, 2020
Corpus Christi

Log in to your profile at www.yourhonor.com to see more details and to register.
If you have questions about either of these programs, please contact hollyd@yourhonor.com.

Hidalgo County Youthful Offender Specialty Court Program
by Faustino Lopez, Deputy Director, Hidalgo County CSCD


In 2016 the Hidalgo County Community Supervision and Corrections Department discovered that the revocation rate of youthful offenders ages 18-25-year-olds was disproportionately overrepresented. The Hidalgo County community supervision and Corrections department, in collaboration with George Mason University, developed an Emerging Adult Strategy to reduce the likelihood of revocation of emerging adults through the use of best practice standards, age-appropriate case management strategies including swift, certain, and fair incentive and sanction structures.

The Youthful Offender Specialty Court Program provides intensive supervision while adhering to best practice standards to promote positive behaviors by addressing key emerging adult developmental issues during supervision. The program structure and design ensure that all participants begin treatment services within the first month of program placement. The Youthful Offender Court Program targets explicitly 18-25-year-old probationers scoring medium to high-risk/ high needs in the Texas Risk Assessment System (TRAS). Additionally, clinical assessments are used to determine treatment intensity for those individuals needing substance abuse treatment.

The Youthful Offender Court's goal is to provide offenders with the necessary treatment, resources, and tools to address criminogenic needs as well as key emerging adult developmental issues during supervision. The Youthful Offender program aims to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and reduce the likelihood of revocation and imprisonment of emerging adult offenders by addressing key emerging adult developmental issues during supervision.

The program length will require 6 to 18 months of participation based on the level and intensity of needs and treatment services identified in the Texas Risk Assessment System (TRAS), Risk Need Responsivity tool, and the clinical assessment. The participants will enter the program via a court order issued by the Judiciary in Hidalgo County after eligibility requirements are met. The program is divided into four phases. Participants assessed as needing substance abuse treatment will begin the Youthful Offender program in Phase I. Participants scoring moderate or high in domains requiring cognitive-behavioral interventions will start the Youthful Offender Program in Phase II.

In Phase I, participants enroll and participate in an Intensive Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment. Participants are required to submit to random urinalysis and drug testing. Participants will appear before the Youthful Offender Court twice per month and weekly contact with the probation officer. The Youthful Offender officer communicates monthly with a treatment provider and documents all contacts made via face to face, by telephone, email, or other written correspondence while participants are receiving services.

In Phase II (Behavioral Adjustment), participants focus on cognitive restructuring and critical social skills, which support the cognitive restructuring process via Decision points curriculum and use of cognitive journals. Participants continue to appear before the Judge a minimum of twice per month upon entering this phase. The frequency of court appearances may decrease as the participant progresses. Contact with probation officer continues twice per month during this phase, and home visits are conducted as deemed necessary.

In Phase III, participants focus on developing positive peer and employment relations within their network to begin establishing a support system to have in place upon completion of the Youthful Offender Court Program. They continue to submit to random urinalysis and drug testing and attend Youthful Offender Court a minimum of once per month. They also have monthly contact with the probation officer.

In Phase IV (Transitional Phase), participants prepare to transition from the program and reintegration into the community. Program participants submit a written plan to the Judge before being released from the program. Participants may continue with cognitive journals if needed and continue to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.  Completion of phase IV marks the end of the program, and the Judge considers the possibility of early termination if applicable and meets criteria. 

The Hidalgo County Community Supervision Department supports the use of specialty courts in Texas. It has also been successful in implementing evidence-based supervision strategies, including being a research partner during the past eight years with ACE! (Advancing Correctional Excellence) Using Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR; BJA Grant 2009-DG-BX-K026) and SOARING2 (Skills for Offender Assessment and Responsivity in New Goals, 2010-DG-BX-K077). Hidalgo County CSCD uses the Texas Risk Assessment System tool (TRAS), undergoes ongoing training and coaching of staff in Core Correctional Practices through SOARING2 eLearning modules, and uses the RNR Simulation Tool for matching client needs to services. Additionally, the agency assesses the fidelity of evidence-based practice supervision implementation through program and gap assessments using the RNR Simulation Tool. It uses the SOARING2 observation forms to observe and measure the effective use of skills of their probation officers.

In 2017, the Hidalgo County CSCD and George Mason University developed the Hidalgo County Emerging Adult Strategy. The Hidalgo County Emerging Adult Strategy was designed to lower the high revocation rate of 18-25-year-old probationers in Hidalgo County. This strategy was developed after it was discovered that in the fiscal year 2016, 18-25-year-old probationers made up 47% of all revocation cases in Hidalgo County.  The program began to admit eligible participants into the program in April of 2017, and by the end of the fiscal year 2017, 44% of 18-25-year-old probationers were revoked. By the end of the fiscal year 2018, only 40% of 18-25-year-old probationers had been revoked.

Additionally, by the end of FY2019, we again noticed another drop in the revocation rate of 18-25-year-old probationers in Hidalgo County. The revocation of 18-25-year-old probationers in FY2019 was 36%. When compared to the baseline year of FY2016, the revocation rate for this age group has dropped from 47% in FY2016 to 36% in FY2019.

In summary, Hidalgo County noticed a significant reduction in the number of 18-25-year-old probationers revoked in Hidalgo County within the three years of operation. We contend that the Youthful Offender Specialty Court has demonstrated success in accomplishing its goals, but also has allowed the Hidalgo County CSCD an opportunity to expand access and services to an increased number of 18-25-year-old probationers in Hidalgo County. The Youthful Offender Program was mentioned in a Policy Perspective article published by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in December 2019.

For questions about this program please contact Faustino Lopez.

On Friday, May 8th at 1pm EST, Responsibility.org and the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance are hosting an interactive webinar on the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS), a groundbreaking tool that can improve criminal justice system decision-making and facilitate individualized supervision and treatment of impaired drivers. Register here and join other criminal justice practitioners in learning why CARS has become widely accepted as a preferred screening and assessment tool for use among the impaired driving population.

In recent years, research has shown that many impaired drivers have significant mental health issues in addition to substance abuse problems. Historically, the mental health component has been overlooked in DUI programming and opportunities to intervene with these offenders have been missed. CARS was developed to fill this gap and provide practitioners with the information needed to make the most appropriate decisions when handling DUI cases. CARS is one of only a few tools that is validated for the DUI population and has the ability to provide a comprehensive picture of the issues tied to offending. In addition to providing an overview of the benefits of CARS, the webinar will focus on the enhancements contained in CARS-5 and how to set-up the new software. The most significant upgrades include transition from DSM-IV to DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) criteria and the Spanish translation of both of the screeners.

For those interested in learning more about CARS-5 in advance of the webinar, please access this overview document for more information about the enhancements. Training materials, resources, and the tool itself can be accessed online: www.carstrainingcenter.org

CARS Background: For more than a decade, Responsibility.org has collaborated with the Division on Addiction to make CARS freely accessible to any practitioner or entity involved the supervision or rehabilitation of impaired drivers. Unlike generic assessment instruments, CARS is validated specifically among impaired drivers and is one of only a few instruments that practitioners now have at their disposal that provides an accurate estimate of risk and insight into both criminogenic and treatment needs. 

CARS is both a risk and needs assessment and is available in three formats - full assessment, interviewer-administered screener, and self-administered screener. Both the screener and assessment cover multiple domains including DUI offending (for identifying risk of recidivism), alcohol use disorder, drug use disorder, and major mental health disorders (e.g., depression, mania/bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.). CARS is a particularly valuable instrument because it provides in-depth information about each of the key pieces needed to inform supervision and treatment plans (e.g., risk, substance use disorders, mental health disorders, and trauma).  

Unlike traditional assessments which are frequently used in paper-and-pencil formats, CARS is available on free, open source software. The automated nature of the instrument makes it extremely easy to use and facilitates integration into existing case management platforms. CARS generates immediate personalized diagnostic reports that contain information about a client’s mental health profile, a summary of risk factors, and targeted referrals to treatment services within their geographic area that match their individual needs. By including a referral database, CARS identifies service provider options within the community that offenders can access for treatment and interventions that match their individual needs. 

For more information about CARS, please contact Erin Holmes: erin.holmes@responsibility.org or (202) 445-0334.


The 86th Legislature passed HB 2955 transferring oversight of Texas Specialty Courts to the Office of Court Administration (OCA) from the governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD). OCA will provide technical assistance to specialty courts, monitor compliance of the specialty courts with programmatic best practices, and coordinate and provide information to CJD. The transition took effect 9/1/2019. 

If you have any immediate questions please contact Anissa Johnson, Office of Court Administration at Anissa.Johnson@txcourts.gov.

2020 Spotlight on Success Awards   

The 7th annual Spotlight on Success Awards, presented at the 2020 DWI Court Team Advanced Conference, recognized the efforts of an outstanding DWI Court team member and an exemplary DWI Court program. The Victoria County DWI Court was honored with the Spotlight on Success Outstanding Team award and KeaYon Adams, Specialty Courts Supervisor, Harris County CSCD, was honored with the Spotlight on Success Outstanding Team Member award.

Judge Dan Gilliam & Mr. KeaYon Adams (pictured holding awards from left to right) and members of the Victoria County DWI Court team

The Texas Center Traffic Safety Grant Program would like to extend a very special thank you to Judge Laura Barker and the entire Williamson County DWI/Drug Court Team for allowing the attendees of the Basic Training to observe staffing and court review.

In the News


Victoria County DWI Court receives award  
(Victoria Advocate, 5/02/2020)

The Texas Center for the Judiciary has presented the Victoria County DWI Court with its “Spotlight on Success award” for being the 2020 Outstanding DWI Court for the State of Texas.

Bexar County judge conducts court hearings from home  
(KSAT ABC 12 San Antonio, 3/31/2020)
SAN ANTONIO – As he prepared to begin a hearing in a Specialty Court case, County Court at Law No. 11 Judge Tommy Stolhandske went on the record Tuesday morning with a statement that could well dictate how some misdemeanor cases are handled In the future.

Number of THC positive drivers in fatal crashes has doubled in Wash. state
(KEPR-TV News, 01/31/2020)
According to research by AAA between 2008 and 2012, an estimated eight percent of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC. That rate now is more than double since weed became legal in Washington.


Weed impairs driving skills long after the high is gone
(CNN, 01/15/2020)
Running red lights. Driving at high speeds. Crossing center lines into the opposite lanes. Getting into accidents -- even hitting pedestrians. A new study found these were some of the dangerous driving behaviors of regular, heavy users of recreational weed who began using before the age of 16. Here's the catch: users drove this badly even when they were no longer high.

The Texas Transportation Institute’s latest Drug Impaired Driving Newsletter can be found here.

Contact Us
If you have suggestions for items to be included in this Newsletter or wish to be removed from the Newsletter mailing list, please contact: 

Judge Laura A. Weiser
Judicial Resource Liaison

Holly Doran
TxDOT Program Director

The DWI Listserv is open to all judges handling DWI cases. If you would like to be added to the Listserv please send an email to hollyd@yourhonor.com. We are continuously adding to the Texas Judges’ DWI Resource Website with news articles and upcoming educational opportunities.  We hope you find the  information in this Newsletter interesting and helpful. Please contact the Traffic Safety Program with any questions or comments.