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Judge Dispenses Own DWI Justice


— July 2, 2006

Nine drunken driving convictions are enough for Tim Clark. As he emerged from a court hearing recently, Clark adjusted his tie and smiled. He has been sober for three years and is feeling good.

“It’s because of what this judge is doing,” the Ham Lake man said.

The judge is James Dehn. In an Isanti County courtroom in Cambridge [MN], he has developed a way to reach the state’s most dangerous drunken drivers — and cut their repeat offenses in half. His methods are becoming more common in Minnesota and are gaining interest nationwide.

“It’s about treating them like human beings,” Dehn said.

He dispenses justice on the installment plan. Instead of giving drunken drivers a traditional jail sentence, he spreads that sentence out over years, jailing them in July and December. Before each jail term, drivers must appear in court. If they can convince Dehn they’ve been sober, employed and otherwise reformed, he can allow them to skip the month in jail — until the next time. That extra vigilance — and understanding the unique psychology of the crime — is the key to Dehn’s success.

Details here from the Pioneer Press.


Nine drunken driving convictions are enough for Tim Clark. As he emerged from a court hearing recently, Clark adjusted his tie and smiled. He has been sober for three years and is feeling good.

“It’s because of what this judge is doing,” the Ham Lake man said.

The judge is James Dehn. In an Isanti County courtroom in Cambridge [MN], he has developed a way to reach the state’s most dangerous drunken drivers — and cut their repeat offenses in half. His methods are becoming more common in Minnesota and are gaining interest nationwide.

“It’s about treating them like human beings,” Dehn said.

He dispenses justice on the installment plan. Instead of giving drunken drivers a traditional jail sentence, he spreads that sentence out over years, jailing them in July and December. Before each jail term, drivers must appear in court. If they can convince Dehn they’ve been sober, employed and otherwise reformed, he can allow them to skip the month in jail — until the next time. That extra vigilance — and understanding the unique psychology of the crime — is the key to Dehn’s success.

Details here from the Pioneer Press.

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