South Dakota’s judicial system is entering a new, and for many, hopeful phase: DUI court. Recently, in Mitchell, South Dakota, there was reason to celebrate not only the implementation of the court, but to cheer the first graduate from James Valley Drug and DUI Court.
Joel Amick got his fourth DUI in July of 2013. He knew he was facing serious prison time, but this time, instead of just accepting his sentence, he got to make a choice: jail or DUI court. For Amick, prison was actually the easy way out.
“In prison you just sit there and waste your life away and I didn’t want any part of that,” said Amick.
On the other hand, DUI court is seriously hard work. There are drug and alcohol tests several times a week (Amick underwent 1,180 breath tests and passed 95 urine analysis tests), visits to the court once a week, and many classes to take. In addition, Amick knew he would have to check in with a probation officer daily and that he would have to do the hard work it takes to not only do the work the Court requires but to get and stay sober.
“It holds you accountable for your actions and that was the best thing for me. That’s exactly what I needed,” Amick stated. “I appreciate the DUI court team and all they’ve done for me, for their support, for challenging me and holding me accountable.”
For the past 591 days (18 months), Amick has done the work. He’s put in the hours, stayed sober and has now graduated from the court. He was overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who came out to see him graduate along with special guest Governor Dennis Daugaard. The Governor was the keynote speaker at the graduation and had many good things to say about Amick.
“He’s passed hundreds of drug and alcohol checks and now he’s going on his own in the community, and we’re celebrating his sobriety,” stated Governor Daugaard
Governor Daugaard pushed hard for establishing the Public Safety Improvement Act. This Act funded drug and DUI courts statewide, and without it Joel Amick wouldn’t be celebrating his graduation and sobriety.
Now, as Amick graduates, he knows that this isn’t the end of his journey; he knows he will have to stick to his program and stay sober. But beyond his personal recovery, Amick wants to help others, to pass along the knowledge he’s gained.
“My heart is to help others for the same problems that I kind of had, so I just want to be there. Being a voice, being an example, and maybe speak some truth into their lives and watch them change as well.”
We wish Mr. Amick the best as he graduates and moves on with his new, sober life. We can’t wait to see him continue to do great things.
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