Sentencing, Sanctions, and Preventative Measures


Judges have the responsibility to effectively sanction an offender for their crimes. These resources provide information on the effectiveness and reduced recidivism rates of jail time as compared to alternative sentencing practices in DWI cases.

Treatment or Punishment: Sentencing Options in DWI Cases, NCSC (June 2016). This article analyzes the role of the legal system in the reduction of DWI offenses and compares sentencing options designed to rehabilitate with sentences designed to punish offenders for serious driving offenses.

When Should Judges Use Alcohol Monitoring as a Sentencing Option in DWI Cases? 44 Court Review 3 (2008). This article takes an initial step toward evaluating the effectiveness of alcohol monitoring as a sentencing option in DWI cases with the goal of eventually determining which types of offenders, if any, would benefit most from alcohol monitoring.

A Guide to Sentencing DWI OffendersNHTSA (2006).  This sentencing guide is designed to assist judges and prosecutors in reducing recidivism among people convicted of driving while impaired (DWI).

Arizona DUI Summit: Background Paper on the Effectiveness of Sanctions in DUI Cases: Executive Summary, NCSC (2006). This Executive Summary distills a background paper reviewing the effectiveness of sanctions in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases, prepared for the summit by the National Center for State Courts.

An Examination of Recidivism of Offenders Receiving Services from the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action ProgramNCSC (2004). This report provides an assessment of the success of 24 Alcohol Safety Action Program District Offices in reducing the incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

NCSC Library
(Available from the NCSC Library by contacting

Screening, Assessment and Treatment of DWI Offenders: A Guide for Justice Professionals and Policy 

Makers. Ottawa, Ont.: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2008. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5620 D7 S27 2008).

Strategies for Addressing the DWI Offender: 10 Promising Sentencing Practices. Washington, D.C.:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2004. (Available in the NCSC library: KF2231 U55 2004).

Wallace, David J. Prior Convictions in Impaired Driving Prosecutions. Alexandria, VA: American
Prosecutors Research Institute, 2004. (Available in the NCSC library: KF8925 T7 W35 2004).

Cavaiola, Alan A. Assessment and Treatment of the DWI Offender. New York: Haworth Press, 2002.
(Available in the NCSC library: HE5620 D7 C375 2002).

Strategies for Success: Combating Juvenile DUI. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1999. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5630 D72 S77 1999).

San Juan County DWI Program: Twenty-Eight Day Incarceration, Treatment, and Aftercare Program for
First Time DWI Offenders. Farmington, NM: 1996. (Available in the NCSC library: KFN3897.8 Z9 S26 1996).

Strategies for Dealing with the Persistent Drinking Driver. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council
Transportation Research Board, Committee on Alcohol, Other Drugs and Transportation, 1995. (Available in the NCSC library: TA1001.5 T68 no. 437 1995).

Hagen, Roger E. Suspension and Revocation Effects on the DUI Offender. Sacramento, CA: Department of Motor Vehicles, 1980. (Available in the NCSC library: KFC477 H3 1987).

Smith, J. Treatment for the Impaired Driver. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1987. (Available in the NCSC library: K4037 S65 1987).

Swenson, Paul R. An Analysis of Drinker Diagnosis, Referral and Rehabilitation Activity: Final Report:
Section Two: Analytic Study VI. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977. (Available in the NCSC library: KFA2697.8 S8 1977).

A Guide to Sentencing DWI Offenders. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005. (Available in the NCSC library: KF2231 N38 2005).

Simpson, Herb M. DWI System Improvements for Dealing with Hard Core Drinking Drivers: Enforcement

Ottawa, Ont.: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2001. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5620 D7 S57 2001).

Sentencing and Dispositions of Youth DUI and Other Alcohol Offenses: A Guide for Judges and
Prosecutors. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administrator, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1999. (Available in the NCSC library: KF9820 S46 1999).

Ross, H. Laurence. The New Philadelphia Story: The Effects of Severe Penalties for Drunk Driving.
Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1989. (Available in the NCSC library: KF2231 R6 1989).

The Drunk Driver and Jail. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration, American Correctional Association, 1987. (Available in the NCSC library: KF2231 D78 1987).

Casale, Anthony C. Jail Crowding Post Workshop: Design of a DUI Intervention Program, Palm Beach
County, Florida. Sacramento, CA: EMT Group, 1987. (Available in the NCSC library: KFF297.8 C37 1987).

Court Referral Program for DWI Offenders. Montgomery, AL: Administrative Office of the Courts, 1979.
(Available in the NCSC library: KFA297.8 Z9 C6 1979).

Preventative Measures

Preventive measures are precautionary efforts taken to reduce and/or eliminate causes of traffic accidents, traffic offenses, and traffic injuries.  Some examples of preventive measures include avoiding alcohol before driving, using seat belts and child restraints, following speed limits, and impaired driving campaigns.

Screening for Risk and Needs Using the Impaired Driving AssessmentNHTSA (May 2014). Under a cooperative agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) prepared this report on their development of a screening tool, Impaired Driving Assessment (IDA) to identify a DWI offender’s risk of engaging in future conduct of impaired driving, and to help determine the most effective community supervision that will reduce such risk.

Intensive DWI Supervision in Urban Areas – Feasibility StudyNHTSA (November 2013). To date, 24/7 sobriety programs have been used in rural States and communities; however, the program model is being considered for implementation in additional locales. The purpose of this project was to conduct a feasibility study to gather data on whether the 24/7 program model can be applied in urban locales, and if so, what changes might be necessary.

Preventing First-Time DWI Offenses (First-Time DWI Offenders in California, New York, and Florida)NHTSA (2009). This report details a study that determined if there were common prior offenses among first-time DWI offenders, and to identify strategies that are used to address the identified offenses to determine if there are potential opportunities to expand those efforts to prevent impaired driving.

An Impact Evaluation of Underage Drinking Prevention ProjectsNHTSA (2003). This report presents the results of an impact evaluation of four community-based underage drinking prevention projects stimulated by technical assistance coordinated by the National Association of Governor’s Highway Safety Representatives (now called the Governors Highway Safety Association) with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The four programs which were studied were located in: Chesterfield County, Virginia; Omaha, Nebraska; Salt Lake County, Utah; and Travis County, Texas. The impact evaluation focused on the effect of the programs on proxy measures of alcohol-related crashes among youth.

NCSC Library Resources
(Available from the NCSC Library by contacting

Simpson, Herb M. DWI System Improvements for Dealing with Hard Core Drinking Drivers: Enforcement
Ottawa, Ont.: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2001. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5620 D7 S57 2001).

Strategies for Success: Combating Juvenile DUI. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and 
Delinquency Prevention, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1999. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5630 D72 S77 1999).

Beyond the Bench [videorecording]: You Can Help Reduce Juvenile DUI and Alcohol Violations
Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Justice, 1996. (Available in the NCSC library: HE5620 D7 B48 1996).

Strategies for Dealing with the Persistent Drinking Driver. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council 
Transportation Research Board, Committee on Alcohol, Other Drugs and Transportation, 1995. (Available in the NCSC library: TA1001.5 T68 no. 437 1995).

Ross, H. Laurence. The New Philadelphia Story: The Effects of Severe Penalties for Drunk Driving
Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1989. (Available in the NCSC library: KF2231 R6 1989).

Ignition Interlocks, Transdermal Monitoring Systems, and Other Administrative Sanctions

Alcohol ignition interlocks are a proven tool to effectively monitor impaired driving offenders and reduce recidivism. Today, almost all U.S. jurisdictions have implemented an alcohol interlock law targeting repeat and even high-BAC first-time offenders. More recently, at least 12 jurisdictions have moved to also include some or all first-time offenders in alcohol interlock legislation and several others are considering such laws. The reports below are recent studies that describe effective interlock programs and provide empirical evidence to support that interlock devices can be a valuable tool for the criminal justice system. Additionally, there are a number of studies that evaluate the effectiveness of administrative license suspensions and other vehicle actions to reduce impaired driving.  These studies are located below as well.

Evaluation of State Ignition Interlock Programs:Interlock Use Analyses From 28 States, 2006–2011CDC & NHTSA (May 2015). In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NHTSA began collaborating on a project to evaluate ignition interlock programs in selected States. The purpose of the evaluation was to provide information and best practices to states for ignition interlock programs. The project was managed by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association and conducted by the Preusser Research Group. Research was conducted to determine the following: how states can increase interlock use among DWI offenders who are required or eligible to install one, which changes in ignition interlock programs led to increases in ignition interlock use, key features of ignition interlock programs, and which key program features were related to higher ignition interlock use rates.

Ignition Interlock: An Investigation Into Rural Arizona Judges' PerceptionsNHTSA NCSC (May 2014). This study sought to answer several questions regarding 2007 Arizona legislation requiring ignition interlock for all offenders convicted of Driving-Under-the-Influence (DUI), including first time DUI offenders. At the time the law was passed, Arizona was only one of two States (New Mexico being the other) to require ignition interlock for first time offenders. Of particular focus in the study were the implications of the legislation for rural areas. The project staff obtained information from judges in rural Arizona jurisdictions that routinely hear DUI cases to obtain their impressions of the legislation. There is also a Traffic Tech Summary of the report available here.

Ignition Interlock Institutes: Promoting the Use of Interlocks and Improvements to Interlock ProgramsNHTSA & MADD (July 2013). This report summarizes the information exchanged, the conclusions drawn, and action items agreed upon during the Ignition Interlock institutes.

Evaluation of the New Mexico Ignition Interlock ProgramNHTSA (2010). This is a very detailed study of the use of interlock devices in the state of New Mexico.

Administrative License Suspensions and other Vehicle Actions

Best Practice Guide for Reducing Suspended DriversAAMVA (2013).  This report describes the plethora of non driving reasons that people have suspended driver’s licenses.  It uses facts and statistics to make a well reasoned argument that using DL suspension as an enforcement tool for non driver behavior is counterproductive to roadway safety.   The reason is that it reduces the time that criminal justice system can utilize on driving related suspensions to make the roadways safer.

Evaluation of Minnesota’s Vehicle Plate Impoundment Law for Impaired DriversNHTSA (2011). Beginning in 1998, Minnesota implemented license plate impoundment for first-offense drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .20 or higher. DWI recidivism and Driving While Suspended violations were compared for first offenders with BACs of .17-.19 (no plate impoundment) and first offenders with BACs of .20-.22 (very similar BACs but with plate impoundment). The results indicated substantial reductions in DWI recidivism and Driving While Suspended violations for those drivers whose vehicle license plates were impounded. Effects were strongest among younger drivers (ages 21-34) during the period of plate impoundment (up to one year).

Transdermal Monitoring Systems

These types of technologies measure alcohol levels that are excreted through the skin. Earlier efforts focused on liquid sweat. Later methods measure alcohol vapor levels above the skin known as "insensible perspiration." This technology is not meant to replace BAC testing as its accuracy is not of the level of BAC testing. Transdermal measuring does indicate if there has been a drinking episode.

Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring: Case StudiesNHTSA (2012).  This study surveys the use of transdermal alcohol monitoring as used in a wide variety of programs nationally.

Comparing the Detection of Transdermal and Breath Alcohol Concentrations During Periods of Alcohol Consumption Ranging From Moderate Drinking to Binge DrinkingExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology (2012). This research compares transdermal alcohol concentration and breath alcohol concentration readings during the consumption of alcohol ranging from moderate drinking to binge drinking in 22 adult regular drinkers in order to investigate the sensitivity and specificity of the transdermal alcohol concentration monitors.

Continuous Objective Monitoring of Alcohol Use: Twenty-First Century Measurement Using Transdermal SensorsAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2012). This article describes the development and evaluation of currently available transdermal alcohol sensors, present the strengths and limitations of the technology, and gives examples of recent research using the sensors.

Summary of Evidentiary & Probation Violation HearingsAlcohol Monitoring Systems (2012). Since 2003, AMS has been working with courts and ancillary agencies to provide comprehensive SCRAMx testimony, which has included the creation of nearly 2,000 formal court reports used to detail the monitoring results of offenders who denied a SCRAMx violation (either alcohol consumption, equipment tampering, or a combination).

Evaluating Transdermal Alcohol Measuring DevicesNHTSA (November 2011). This report is an evaluation study of two types of transdermal devices that detect alcohol at the skin surface representing two types of electrochemical sensing technology: the AMS SCRAM™ ankle device and the Giner WrisTAS™ wrist device. The report summarizes comments from research subjects, offenders, and vendors who manage transdermal detection programs.

Contingency Management for Alcohol Use Reduction: A pilot study using a transdermal alcohol sensorDrug and Alcohol Dependence (2011). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of CM for reduction in alcohol use, using a transdermal alcohol sensor to provide a continuous measure of alcohol use. Results support the efficacy of CM for alcohol use reductions and the feasibility of using transdermal monitoring of alcohol use for clinical purposes.

Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor: SCRAMAlcohol Monitoring Systems (2012). This slideshow provides information on how the SCRAM bracelet works and its overall success rate in a variety of studies.

Alcohol Biomarkers in Applied Settings: Recent advances and future research opportunitiesAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2010). While there have been several advances in the past decade in the identification, development, and application of alcohol biomarkers, more research is needed to validate biomarkers, especially the ones in humans.

Limitations in Transdermal Alcohol MonitoringLaw & Science (August 2009). One concern with transdermal alcohol monitoring is the impact of human variability of skin diffusion properties. In order to create a TAC plot so that the amplitude of the TAC plot resembles the amplitude of the BAC plot, AMS chooses to multiply the TAC values by an average of 1.4, the average reduction of TAC from the BAC after diffusion through the skin. However, this correction factor varies among individuals and can lead to inaccurate readings.

Population Modeling and Bayesian Estimation for the Deconvolution of Blood Alcohol Concentration from Transdermal Alcohol Biosensor DataUniversity of Southern California (2009). This study develops statistical methods to estimate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from trans-dermal alcohol concentration (TAC) measurements supplied by a transdermal alcohol sensor (TAS). A study was conducted on 17 healthy volunteers and the results are recorded.

Field and Laboratory Alcohol Detection with 2 Types of Transdermal DevicesAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2009). Two types of transdermal electrochemical sensors that detect alcohol at the skin surface were evaluated: the AMS SCRAMTM device and a Giner WrisTASTM device. Each device had peculiarities that reduced performance, but both types are able to detect alcohol at the skin surface. With product improvements, transdermal sensing may become a valuable way to monitor the alcohol consumption of those who should be abstaining.

Quantitative Determination of Caffeine and Alcohol in Energy Drinks and the Potential to Produce Positive Transdermal Alcohol Concentrations in Human SubjectsJournal of Analytical Toxicology (2009). The purpose of this study was to determine whether non-alcoholic energy drinks could result in positive "alcohol alerts" based on transdermal alcohol concentration (TAC) using a commercially available electrochemical monitoring device. Based on these results, it appears that energy drink consumption is an unlikely explanation for elevated TACs that might be identified as potential drinking episodes or "alcohol alerts" using this device.

State of South Dakota v. Neal J LemlerSupreme Court of the State of South Dakota (September 2009). The court ruled that the mythology utilized in Lemler's alcohol monitoring bracelet met the Daubert standard for admissibility of scientific evidence.

State of Indiana v. Jennifer L. MoggCourt of Appeals of Indiana (December 2009). Mogg appealed the revocation of her probation because she believed the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of her alcohol consumption generated by the SCRAM system. The appellate court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining the SCRAM readings were sufficiently reliable to be admissible as evidence in this case.

Reducing Impaired-Driving Recidivism Using Advanced Vehicle-Based Alcohol Detection Systems: A Report to CongressNHTSA (December 2007). Several alcohol detection technologies were reviewed in the report: Breath sample analysis, tissue spectroscopy, transdermal perspiration measurement, eye movements, detecting alcohol vapor in the vehicle, driver and driving performance measurement. The report offers suggestions for potential next steps including increasing the use of breath alcohol ignition interlocks among DWI offenders and continuing research and development on tissue spectroscopy and other transparent and non-invasive methods of measuring alcohol in drivers.