GILLETTE, Wyo. – Campbell County’s DWI Treatment Court has a new name with a broader purpose.
During their meeting on March 7, the Campbell County Commissioners approved a measure to rename the county DWI Court to Misdemeanor Court, a change that will allow local judges to sentence a wider variety of offenders to the program for treatment outside of impaired drivers.
Adult Treatment Courts Coordinator Chad Beeman said the changes will allow them to bring first or second-time drug offenders and carries the potential to bring in those charged with elevated offenses like driving impaired with a child passenger or endangering children with drugs.
“We felt it would better serve the community and give the courts a better sentencing option for some of the participants,” Beeman said on March 7.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Phillips, who is also chairman of the Adult Treatment Courts Board, said the community like so many others is struggling with addiction and that struggle is stretching beyond alcohol abuse.
Up to this point, the DWI Court has primarily focused on the alcohol side of the equation and has seen success, Phillips said.
But both Circuit Court and District Court are seeing upticks in the severity of drug use and possession cases, particularly those involving methamphetamine and fentanyl.
“So looking at that and looking at the trends, we felt we needed to take a look at it and we think- with the existing structure that we have with Mr. Beeman and his folks- that we can do this,” Phillips said, adding that they could easily transition from DWI Court to Misdemeanor Court and serve a broader array of needs here in the community.
Campbell County Attorney Nathan Henkes said his office believes in the program and that it provides great services, especially with recent cuts to the Wyoming Department of Corrections and the Probation and Parole Office.
“There are limited remedies available in the court sometimes on a first offense methamphetamine [charge] where, unfortunately, within a two-month period we have two more offenses,” Henkes said. “If we can reach that early on, we can provide a stop-gap measure.”
Commissioner Del Shelstad said he felt renaming the DWI Court to Misdemeanor Court is the path of least resistance and the best thing for the community when it comes to catching misdemeanor drug offenders and getting them on the straight and narrow before they become felony offenders.