DUI Court might save lives in Yakima County - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

DUI Court might save lives in Yakima County

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YAKIMA, Wash.-  Yakima County is seventh in population in Washington State, but ranks fourth in the number of deaths related to impaired driving. 

Almost half the drivers charged with impaired driving over the past four years have been repeat offenders.

"We look a DUI's as a symptom of alcoholism," says Jim Barth of Barth & Associates a treatment center in Yakima.

That's why Yakima County is waiting on funds from the Traffic Safety Commission so that they can install a DUI Court. 

"All we can do is throw them in jail for a year, granted that keeps them off the road for a year, but when they get out the individual still has the same problem.  Our hope is this will be money well spent so the average citizen doesn't get hit by some drunk driver," says Yakima County District Court Judge Kevin Roy.

Participants would plea guilty and serve their mandatory minimum jail time, but would then be enrolled in a treatment program. 

This would mean frequent urine tests, wearing an alcohol detection bracelet, and more time in front of the judge.  But hopefully would end the cycle of arrests and public endangerment. 

"Methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, get all the attention, but really the one drug that's caused the most problems forever is alcohol," says Barth.

If approved the program would start sometime in October.