Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court’s New HOPE to Tackle Impaired Driving, Addiction

Nine years ago, Judge John Kolesar brought hope to the Sandusky County courts with the implementation of a specialized docket. Now, he has a new HOPE – honesty, openness, participation, and engagement – as part of a re-branding for his two specialty courts.

The acronym pertains to Judge Kolesar’s operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) court – started in 2010 – and drug court, which began in 2014.

"We decided that rather than allowing people to proceed down that road kind of unimpeded, we would give them an option to get treatment,” Judge Kolesar said.

With the development of the programs and a coordinator added to the staff to handle the specialized dockets, the court implemented HOPE as a better way to connect with those taking the probationary route. To symbolize their efforts, the court created a new logo, which features a person branching out and growing like a tree. The branding will also be used as part of an increased effort in community outreach and awareness.

“We’re still learning every day how to do our jobs better, and I think our participants are interested in us doing more,” Judge Kolesar said.

As the only jurist in the county with a specialized docket, he recognized the reccurring issue of drunk driving during his decade as a prosecutor in Seneca and Sandusky counties. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million people were arrested for impaired driving in 2016. It’s a staggering sum, but pales in comparison to a CDC study reporting 111 million self-reported episodes of impaired driving among U.S. adults in 2014.

“You don’t want people coming back and re-offending, and I also felt that it was part of the judicial role to give people the tools so they don’t end up getting more serious offenses,” Judge Kolesar said.

During his time on the bench, Judge Kolesar noticed a change in what was distorting drivers’ fine motor skills. Mainly an alcohol issue for decades, driving under the influence quickly developed into more and greater concerns – locally, across Ohio, and throughout the country.

In 2016, a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed that 44 percent of drivers in fatal OVI crashes had drugs in their system compared to 39 percent with alcohol.

"I don’t think anyone starts using drugs thinking they’re going to be addicted, but they have a reason for going down that road,” Judge Kolesar said.

As part of the treatment process, the court emphasizes engagement, especially in the last phase of the program. It’s a pact that goes beyond the court staff and the participant, and sprouts with others on the path to recovery.

“It’s very rewarding to see people turn their lives around, stop using, be engaged, and actually help other people,” Judge Kolesar said.