WAUSAU — A 45-year-old Wausau woman who tried to force her way into another woman’s vehicle and threatened to punch a police officer after driving drunk can avoid prison time if she successfully completes OWI treatment court.

Beth Shaw. Photo: Marathon County Sheriff’s Department

Beth Shaw stands convicted of her fifth drunken driving offense, charges stemming from a December crash on Hwy. K near 32nd Avenue in the village of Maine. According to court documents, a witness said Shaw first veered into the eastern ditch of the road then swerved back onto the highway, crossed both lanes of traffic and wound up in the west side ditch. Another witness said Shaw tried to force her way into another vehicle, according to the police report. After the woman inside the vehicle locked the doors, Shaw began kicking the vehicle and screaming at the woman, police said.

Shaw refused field sobriety tests and was taken to a local hospital for a blood draw. There, police say, she became combative and threatened to punch one of the police officers.

Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Strasser stayed a six-year prison term, time Shaw will only be forced to serve if she fails to comply with OWI court rules. She was also ordered to pay $2,454 in fines and fees and will spend one year in the Marathon County Jail with Huber release for work, treatment and community service.

In Marathon County, the OWI court launched in January 2011 to serve offenders convicted of fourth, fifth, and sixth offense OWI charges who would otherwise face prison sentences. The program is sentenced as a condition of probation instead of going to prison and mimics the National Drug Court Model.

There, offenders receive intense counseling, supervision and support from a team of professionals within the criminal justice system, focusing on rewarding positive behavior and providing immediate consequences for not following program rules, according to Marathon County officials.

Diversion programs such as the Marathon County OWI Court can save money and produce better results than traditional sentences, according to the National Center for DUI Courts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, repeat offenders who graduate from such programs are 65 percent less likely to be arrested for a new alcohol-related offense.