FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno County Superior Court program is aiming to cut down on drunk driving while giving offenders the tools to overcome addiction.
After a year-long journey, three people graduated from Fresno County's DUI court Thursday, including Victor Ma.
"To finish and graduate from this program means a lot to me. I came a long way, it was a long milestone for me," Ma said.
The DUI Court program started last January to address a large number of drunk driving in the county and the addictions behind it.
Hilary Chittick is the presiding judge.
Chittick said about 300 people a year are charged with a third offense of drunk driving.
"The data is very clear that repeat drunk drivers are hugely responsible for traffic collisions that involve injuries or death," Chittick said.
The programs' mission is to provide those third-time offenders with an alternative to long-term jail time.
It's a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment program that teaches participants to make healthier and safer choices while maintaining a clean and sober life.
Ma says he learned how to cope with a loss that became his trigger for abusing alcohol.
"In 2015, I lost my brother. He was my best friend and we were always around each other working on cars," Ma said. "When I lost him, I went through a spiral, I went down and I was consistently drinking, going to bars, going to clubs. I had no care of what was going on."
Those who successfully complete the program have fines vacated, their sentences reduced to informal probation and are no longer subjected to alcohol monitoring.
It's a chance to leave with not only a certificate but also peace of mind and a brighter future.
"I do feel lucky that I am able to do this, accomplish this," Ma said. "Now, I can just move forward without any of that pressure on my back or that burden and just live my day like everyone else."
For more information, click here for the Fresno County DUI Court flyer.
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