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V. Compliance

Even when offenders are ultimately convicted, there are few mechanisms to ensure the sanction imposed will actually be fulfilled (Robertson and Simpson, 2002). Offenders may or not report back to the judge, the prosecutor, or any other agent of the court as deemed appropriate. An offender who is not compliant with the court’s sentence is a persistent public health hazard and is more likely to be rearrested for DWI than offenders who are compliant (Transportation Research Board, 1995). Therefore, compliance enforcement and monitoring are essential components of certain, consistent, and coordinated sentencing.

How Common is Noncompliance?

It has been estimated that one-half to three-quarters of convicted DWI offenders may drive at least occasionally while their licenses are suspended (Mayhew and Simpson, 1991). Thirteen percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in California during 1991-1992 were driving with suspended or revoked licenses at the time (Peck et al., 1994). Noncompliance with other terms of the sentence, such as treatment, is problematic as well.

Sanctioning Options for Noncompliance

Driving while a license is suspended, revoked, or otherwise invalid because of a DWI-related conviction should be treated as a serious offense (Goldsmith, 1992). Immediate action is necessary to ensure that offenders do not learn or perceive that the legal system is ineffective. More stringent means of incapacitation (such as imprisonment, home confinement with electronic monitoring, vehicle impoundment or immobilization, or removal of license plates) may be required to keep the offender off the road (Transportation Research Board, 1995). Availability of specific enforcement options may depend on local law. DWI courts focus much of their attention on monitoring and ensuring compliance. Other forms of active interaction between probation departments and judges emphasize compliance and have been shown to reduce recidivism (Jones and Lacey, 1998).


Reporting to the court is an essential component of compliance monitoring. Offenders may fail to comply with treatment or fail to appear for court-ordered evaluation. Mandatory, immediate reporting of noncompliance enables the court to respond quickly by instituting other sanctions as noted above (Popkin et al., 1988). Therefore, the court must assign responsibility for such reporting to an appropriate person or agency, within the limits of statutory guidelines.

The progress of the offender’s treatment also should be reported to the court. Repeat offenders allowed to regain their driving privileges without evidence that they have effectively managed their drinking problem have a much higher probability of being involved in a serious crash than the average driver does (Nichols, 1990).

The Journal of Offender Monitoring promises to have more information and scientific articles on this subject (Conway, 2003).