NEW ORLEANS -- DWI Diversion programs offer drivers caught intoxicated behind the wheel a second chance, but they don’t work for everyone.
Last June, Olivia Matte was arrested for driving while intoxicated on the Causeway Bridge. According to the police report, Matte’s eyes are bloodshot and glassy and alcohol can be smelled, something mentioned several times by officers during the traffic stop caught on dash cam.
The report also states that about an hour after Matte was pulled over, she had a blood alcohol content of .186, more than twice the legal limit.
Now, Matteis accused of killing James Blackmond during a fatal DWI crash on the Causeway Bridge in March.
Matte was arrested after her first DWI, but the incident was cleared after she successfully finished the Jefferson Parish Diversion Program. The DA’s office wouldn’t comment about the program, but according to their website it’s a “voluntary alternative to a fire-time offender facing criminal prosecution for misdemeanors or non-violent felony crimes.”
The program has a zero-tolerance of alcohol, drugs or anything that could affect the safety of others. Authorities test for those substances through hair and urine tests while someone is enrolled in the program.
Dean Sunseri, a licensed professional counselor, evaluates DWI offenders and recommends a course of action to the court. He says the program works, but only if the person is open to being helped.
"I absolutely believe in (DWI diversion programs) 100 percent because I've been around when they didn't have them and when they do have them,” Sunseri said. “Does it work for everybody? Not necessarily, I don't think that's the fault of the treatment given, there has to be a level of receptivity, a level of motivation."
The diversion program includes many parts, like alcohol and drug abuse classes, therapeutic group sessions, outpatient and inpatient treatment and 12-step meetings.
Sunseri says the programs give the right level of care and education, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the person will apply what is learned.