JEFFERSONVILLE — Just months into her first year on the bench, Clark County Judge Lisa Glickfield is working to tackle an issue she’s already seen far too often in her courtroom — cases involving operating while intoxicated charges.
Glickfield, who was seated in January as Clark County Circuit Court No. 3 judge, has begun plans to implement a problem-solving court focusing on OWIs targeted toward people who either have multiple separate offenses or who were found to have a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher at the time they were stopped.
The court is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022 and would be the second in the state, following a program in Allen County. Clark County will be seeking a grant to fund its operations.
Information provided by the Clark County courts shows that between 2018 and 2020, there were roughly 8,000 cases that came through Circuit 3, with more than 3,000 of them involving charged counts of operating while intoxicated. Only around half of these were unique cases, which means many defendants were facing multiple charges.
Around 400 were felonies, which shows they were second offenses. And although an OWI charge can mean something like marijuana or another controlled substance in the system, Glickfield said the majority she’s seen are alcohol-related and come both from this area and other states.
“The thing that has been astonishing to me is the number of people we just had in court back within a month on another one,” Glickfield said of the OWI cases. “Or we get into it and I [see that] this individual has three pending OWIs in this court and they go back to 2017, 2018, so there’s been no intervention.
“All we’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on a problem when we just put somebody in jail without any further interventions.”
Once implemented, the court will join three others in Clark County — Family Recovery Court, in operation since 2011 and overseen by Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael, the Clark County branch of the Southern Indiana Veterans Treatment Court, and CCATS — the Clark County Addiction Treatment Support program.
In a statement to the News and Tribune, Carmichael said she welcomes the new addition.
“Problem-solving courts work!” she said. “Clark County has seen the benefit of these courts and is excited to see another one coming. Justice is about rehabilitation and providing people with the tools needed to succeed. Judge Glickfield and her team will offer folks suffering with alcohol addiction needed treatment and accountability while keeping our community safe.”
A seed for the program stems from Glickfield’s background as a criminal defense attorney. In 2012, she litigated a case in which an intoxicated driver was the only survivor of a crash that killed four others.
“That really hit me hard,” she said. “Ever since then, it’s always stuck in the back of my mind [that] if I ever get the opportunity to do something to not only help the community but help those with the substance abuse problems, that I would do it.
“If we had programs like this, we may have been able to prevent that.”
While the specifics of the new court are not finalized, it will follow the model of other problem-solving courts in Clark County and the state and include accountability and resources for treatment. Many times these can also include a reduced punishment or dismissed charges for completion of the program.
The OWI court will include regular drug and alcohol screening and could incorporate things such as interlock devices on a participants’ car, which means they have to blow into a breathalyzer to start it, or a wearable alcohol sensor.
Glickfield, who also spent several years as a public defender working in veterans court in Floyd County, said she hopes to be able to have 15 to 20 participants in the new program at a time, which would ensure each has access to the resources needed to begin their way to recovery.
“I think it’s really important for us to realize that we have to target this population specifically and try to get them the help, the rehabilitation and recovery [needed],” Glickfield said.
“To me it’s kind of a no-brainer — you protect the community in doing that, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”