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On Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez announced the start of the Misdemeanor DWI Court Program at Hidalgo County's Court-at-Law #8 set to begin early next month. The program will handle cases involving less serious alcohol offenders through an intensive, judicially monitored program of drug treatment and rehabilitation services.
"People need to realize that they have a lot to lose if they get behind the wheel while intoxicated,” said DA Ricardo Rodriguez. "It is more than just an offense; it can affect their pocket, family and employment."
The program will launch on Monday, Mar. 2, 2015 with its first 12 offenders by having them make a weeking DWI court appearance with the entire DWI Court team. The team includes, Clinical Director Dr. Marta Kang, County Court-at-Law #8 Judge Jaime "Jay" Palacios, Public Defender Sofia Kamal, Executive Director Arnold Patrick, License Chemical Dependency Counselor Miguel Garza, Adult Probation Officers Faustino Lopez and Juan Lino Garza, Assistant Criminal District Attorney Kino Flores Jr., and Misdemeanor DWI Court Coordinator Rhonda L. Cruz.
Offenders must complete a year long program that is divided into three phases. Phase I, II and III each include a rigorous schedule of individual and group sessions, weekly meetings, DWI Court appearances, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the attendance of a Mothers Against Drunk Driving VIP Class. Upon successful completion, offenders will have their criminal charges dismissed.
"The program offers them an opportunity to realize and understand their problems," said Judge Jaime "Jay" Palacios. "We will be using our resources to rehabilitate them so they may become productive members of the community."
To participate in the program, a case is identified by the DWI Court Team and the offender must undergo a criminal background check and an assessment process. The results of the assessment will determine whether the offender has a substance abuse or alcohol problem and be the deciding factor if the offender will receive inpatient or outpatient treatment.
According to DA Rodriguez, the program's goal is to provide early and effective intervention on the DWI cases selected and to break the cycle of alcohol addiction and criminality in the community. The program will also introduce offenders to a recovery process designed to result in a total abstinence from drugs and alcoholism, he added.
Pictured:First Row L to R: Faustino Lopez, Adult Probation Officer, Rhonda L. Cruz, Misdemeanor DWI Court Coordinator, Sofia Kamal, Public Defender, Dr. Marta Kang, Clinical Director, Juan Lino Garza, Adult Probation Officer, Miguel Garza, License Chemical Dependency Counselor.Second Row L to R: Kino Flores Jr., Assistant District Attorney, District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez, County Court-at-Law #8 Judge Jaime "Jay" Palacios, Arnold Patrick, Executive Director.