SATOP/Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders’ Program

Non-lawyers sometimes ask how I can defend a drunk driver.  I tell them that first, they shouldn’t assume my client was impaired just because they were issued a ticket.  Unfortunately, more often than not, police officers often have very little training in field sobriety testing and the tests often assume things such as the size of a person’s lung capacity, their body temperature, etc. that can effect the test results.

But second, everyone in our legal system deserves a lawyer and a fair shake at defending their claim.

I agree, drunk driving is a serious problem and I counsel all clients on alternative methods to avoid driving impaired. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.1  The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.2

How big is the drunk driving problem in America??

According to the Center for Disease Control:

  • In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.1
  • Of the 1,210 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2010, 211 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.1
  • Of the 211 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2010, over half (131) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.1
  • In 2010, over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.3 That’s one percent of the 112 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.4
  • Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.5

Thankfully, defense attorneys are involved in helping clients seek effective measures that can help prevent future injuries and deaths from alcohol-impaired driving.  SATOP is one of them.  SATOP or the “Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program” serves more than 30,000 DWI offenders annually who are referred as a result of an administrative suspension or revocation of their driver licenses, court order, condition of probation, or plea bargain (statutes). SATOP is, by law, a required element in driver license reinstatement by the Department of Revenue.  The Department of Mental Health, Division of Behavioral Health (formerly the Divisions of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Comprehensive Psychiatric Services) certifies agencies to provide services to individuals who have had an alcohol- or drug-related traffic offense.

All SATOP consumers enter the system via an Offender Management Unit. Consumers receive an assessment screening where a review of their driver record, breath alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of their arrest, computer-interpreted assessment, and an interview with a Qualified Substance Abuse Professional is conducted. Based upon the information gathered during the assessment screening, a referral is made to one of several types of SATOP service levels.

So in other words, the Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders’ Program, is Missouri’s education and intervention program for drinking drivers. It was established by the Missouri legislature in 1993 as an expansion of an earlier program which consisted of a simple 10-hour education program for drinking drivers.  SATOP is administered by the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and includes substantial interagency effort by the Missouri Department of Revenue.

The Costs of SATOP

The costs of the program are borne by DWI offenders and include a $126 assessment screening fee and a $249 supplemental fee, which is deposited into the Mental Health Earnings Fund. This fund is used by the Department of Mental Health to purchase intervention services for persistent and repeat DWI offenders. A network of nearly 60 agencies with about 200 sites provides various levels and types of services locally. The Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse provides training for staff and sets minimum standards for program operations. Only the agencies certified by the division as meeting the standards may participate in the system.  DWI offenders are required to complete this program for reinstatement of their driving privileges. Loss of driving privileges may have resulted from administrative revocation procedures by the Department of Revenue or from an alcohol-related
driving conviction in court.

Major components of SATOP

Offender Management Unit (OMU)

All DWI offenders are required by law to undergo an individualized assessment screening. This is the primary service of the OMU and is available at nearly 200 locations. The assessment screening consists of a Department of Revenue driving record review, a standardized computer-based questionnaire, and an individualized interview with a qualified substance abuse professional.

Offender Education Program (OEP).

A 10-hour education course designed primarily for lower risk, first-time offenders in understanding the choices they made that led to their intoxication and arrest. Education is the key to helping first-time offenders take responsibility for their actions.

Adolescent Diversion Education Program (ADEP)

A 10-hour education program designed for individuals under the age of 21 who have been arrested or cited for alcohol/other drug-related offenses, such as Minor in Possession, Abuse and Lose, or Zero-Tolerance. The mission of ADEP is to reduce alcohol and other drug-related deaths and injuries by educating young offenders about the risks and consequences of alcohol and other drug use and abuse.

Weekend Intervention Program (WIP)

A level of service designed primarily for repeat offenders or “high risk” first-time offenders using intensive education and counseling intervention methods throughout a marathon weekend (48 continuous hours) of structured activities. Activities are designed to encourage offenders to confront their harmful behavior and take responsibility for their lives.

Clinical Intervention Program (CIP) & Youth Clinical Intervention Program (YCIP)

A level of outpatient treatment service consisting of intensive outpatient counseling based on the needs of the persistent or “high risk” offender. Each offender participates in 50 total hours of treatment activity consisting of 10 hours of individual counseling, 20 hours of group counseling, and 20 hours of group education at a certified treatment facility. Ten hours of the required 50 hours must specifically address DWI/DUI issues. The Youth Clinical Intervention Program (YCIP) is a 25-hour program available for minors who are identified as “high risk.”
Additional Information

For more information about the SATOP program and service levels, visit their website at , or call 573-522-4020.


  1. Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2010: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2012 [cited 2012 Sep 28]. Available at URL: External Web Site Icon
  2. Blincoe L, Seay A, Zaloshnja E, Miller T, Romano E, Luchter S, et al. The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. Washington (DC): Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2002.
  3. Department of Justice (US), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Crime in the United States 2010: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington (DC): FBI; 2011 [cited Sept 29 2012]. Available at URL:
  4. Bergen G.  Shults RA.  Rudd RA.  (October 4, 2011).  Vital Signs:  Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults –United States, 2010.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  60:39:1351.
  5. Jones RK, Shinar D, Walsh JM. State of knowledge of drug-impaired driving. Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2003. Report DOT HS 809 642.