HOLLIDAYSBURG - Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron said Tuesday there is a need to expand his DUI court because there are so many repeat drunken drivers who could benefit from the program.
If the county gets the $250,000, two-year grant it is seeking through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Milliron said the DUI court will be able to help many more people.
He said the county should know in about two weeks if it will receive the grant.
Charmayne Raia, the forensic coordinator for the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program, said the county is seeking federal stimulus money through the commission to hire another probation officer and two part-time testing technicians.
Frequent testing of DUI court recipients is a key to the success of the program, Raia said.
The grant money would be used to train the new employees, purchase supplies and provide long-term and short-term treatment, Raia said.
She said grant approval is not a certainty, pointing out that only 20 to 30 grants will be awarded statewide. It's a very competitive process, she said.
The alternative to DUI court for a multiple offender is a 90-day jail term for a two-time offender and a year behind bars at a state correctional institution for a three-time offender.
The program, Milliron said, has worked. No graduate from DUI court, which has been under way for five years, has been rearrested on DUI charges. Milliron said he has noticed that some defense attorneys are trying to stall the cases of their DUI clients in hopes that they will be admitted to the specialty court.
Two months ago, Milliron announced that, for the most part, new admissions to DUI court were being suspended because the county's probation staff was overwhelmed with work.
Milliron said the original program was designed for 50 participants at a time, but that caseload has proved to be too much. The ideal caseload, Milliron said, is 40. The number in the program as of Tuesday was in the high 40s.
An example of why the expansion of DUI court is needed occurred Tuesday morning when a possible participant failed to show up for court for a bail violation hearing. Milliron issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
The suspect, Todd N. Dosh, 43, of Hedge Street, Hollidaysburg, has been arrested six times for driving under the influence, including three in the last 10 years, according to Blair County Assistant District Attorney Julia Wilt. The court, for the purpose of sentencing DUI suspects, only goes back 10 years.
Dosh entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence late last year, but sentencing was delayed so he could apply for the DUI court.
A condition of his bail was that he not use alcohol, yet on Jan. 30, a Blair County probation officer allegedly saw Dosh drinking at Holiday Bowl.
Milliron said he believes Dosh and many other three-time DUI offenders could be helped by his program.
Milliron said he intended to enroll some new offenders in DUI court even if the state grant is not approved.
He said, for instance, some slots may be opened upon the graduation of program participants, noting there are about a dozen individuals in the last phase of DUI court.
He said there is a backlog of individuals waiting to get into DUI court.