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Recording, Sharing, and Using Information

Regarding Youth Alcohol-related Offenses

The judge's ability to tailor dispositions for youthful alcohol-related offenses to the offenders depends on the court's having access to current and complete data about both the offense and the offender. This page addresses the importance of record keeping and the accessibility of information, and it presents approaches designed to improve information sharing.

Coordinated Information Systems

Individual record systems should be compatible and coordinated in a comprehensive system to be most effective in guiding the court's decision making. Such a system would ensure that judges, prosecutors, and other agencies that deal with youth would obtain accurate and comprehensive data to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities. Specifically, this type of system would allow for the sharing of relevant information among all agencies that come into contact with the youth and that have "a need to know" the information. This would include all those individuals or agencies who care for, treat, supervise, or protect the youth, or who have a legal responsibility to investigate or prosecute allegations of alcohol abuse or other criminal conduct. Maintaining the privacy of confidential information requires that any record-keeping system contain safeguards to protect against the release of such information to unauthorized persons (Etten and Petrone 1994). Records needed by the court to handle youth alcohol-related offenses effectively include those listed in the box below.

It is important that adequate records be maintained so that youth being diverted in one jurisdiction will be ineligible for diversion in other jurisdictions. Also, court-ordered license suspensions and revocations should be reported to the State agency charged with the issuance of driver licenses to ensure consistency of records on a statewide basis. States such as Texas, Washington, and Utah have developed comprehensive, centralized record-keeping systems to facilitate information sharing within the justice system, and between the justice system and outside agencies (Curtis 1997; Gavin 1997; Phillips 1997).

Valuable Records For Court Decision-Makers

For the court to impose appropriate sanctions, access to the following types of records is needed:

Driver Records. The development of sophisticated data systems has enabled State driver licensing agencies to establish records systems that keep track of the growing number of drivers, vehicles, and crash records and that have made it possible for courts to be aware of prior offenses that may suggest drinking problems.

  • Juvenile court records.
  • Criminal court records.
  • Traffic court records.

Arrest records and records of police contact. These records, kept by police, reflect an individual's previous arrests and any other episodes involving the individual that resulted in police contact but may not have resulted in an arrest.

National Driver Register (NDR) records. The NDR is a database of all drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended for cause, or who have been convicted of certain serious traffic violations such as DUI. NDR records are available to the court through the State's driver licensing agency. For more information on the NDR, contact NHTSA at (202) 366-4800 or, if you have access to the Internet, go to

Records of prior diversions. These records may be kept by police, prosecutors, or the court.

Records of prior alcohol and other drug abuse treatment history.

School records involving alcohol- or drug-related incidents.

DUI Tracking Systems

A number of States have developed on-line record-keeping and information-sharing systems specifically to track impaired driving offenses. Such systems often are operated by the State's driver licensing agency but may be accessed by a court agency. According to NHTSA, a comprehensive DUI tracking system should provide for two specific functions. First, such a system should track all offenses, from arrest through dismissal or sentence completion. This information should be accessible on a central network, so that updates are available immediately. This function can provide decision-makers with adequate and timely information to guide case processing decisions and dispositions, and allow decision-makers to immediately identify an offender's prior offenses and charges, and the status of sanction compliance. Fines and fees assessed and collected can be managed through the system. Court-ordered and administrative license actions can be posted to the system as they occur, providing up-to-date information about an offender's license status. Because the system contains information specific to individuals, precautions must be taken to protect the privacy of confidential information (NHTSA 1997).

Second, NHTSA recommends that all DUI tracking systems provide statewide statistics on various measures of DUI that will allow legislators, policy-makers, treatment professionals, and others to evaluate the current DUI environment and the effect of countermeasures and laws designed to reduce DUI or provide services for DUI offenders. At a minimum, annual statistical reports should be available that identify arrests, convictions, fines assessed and paid, sanctions, and treatment effectiveness by age, sex, county, or court (NHTSA 1997).

In a survey of States concerning the existence of DUI tracking systems, NHTSA identified some form of DUI tracking in California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Utah (NHTSA 1997).