DUI School and Alcohol Treatment
Mandatory alcohol education, assessment and treatment laws require attendance at DUI prevention programs geared toward alcohol education or therapy. Sometimes, as part of a suspended sentencing arrangement or condition of probation, a judge may order DUI/DWI offenders to attend such programs to teach them about alcohol dependency and the consequences of DUI.
Known sometimes as "DUI School," "Drunk-Driving Education" or "AEP," alcohol education programs can often replace, reduce, or eliminate harsher penalties in drunk-driving cases, such as court fines, license suspension, and jail time.
DUI offenders who successfully complete the terms of their alcohol education or therapy program sometimes may have their driving privileges restored. Conversely, offenders who fail to comply with the terms of their program are not eligible for license reinstatement and may be returned to the courts for further action.
State Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Laws
Alcohol assessments are conducted before trial but after sentencing. Both state DUI criminal courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can order a DUI offender to attend alcohol education classes or treatment programs, the results of which are taken into consideration in final sentencing.
States with mandatory alcohol education laws require convicted offenders to complete an alcohol education program before their driving privileges can be reinstated. Likewise, mandatory alcohol assessment/treatment laws require convicted DUI offenders to undergo an assessment of alcohol abuse problems and participate in required treatment programs.
Of the states that require mandatory DUI prevention programs, 60 percent of those states require both alcohol education and treatment.
To find out if your state requires alcohol education and/or treatment for DUI offenders, see this breakdown of state DUI/DWI laws.
DUI School Eligibility
Eligibility of alcohol education and treatment programs is not automatic, unless it is mandatory. Factors a judge may consider when deciding whether to allow alcohol education include:
- Whether you have any prior DUI charges (for example, as a first-time, repeat or multiple offender)
- Your blood alcohol content when you were arrested
- Whether someone was seriously injured (or killed) during the accident
- Whether you have previously participated in a similar program
Even if the judge does not order alcohol education as part of a DUI sentence, some states require you to attend alcohol education courses or therapy in order to get your driver's license reinstated after a DUI. In these states, you'll need to complete alcohol education or therapy in a state-approved behavioral health program and provide proof of attendance to the state's DMV office.
Types of Alcohol Education and Therapy Programs
There are different levels of alcohol education and treatment programs with varying degrees for length of treatment and criteria, depending on the state. Most states, for example, allow minors under the age of 21 and DUI first-offenders to undergo "Level I" alcohol education courses -- typically consisting of 12 hours (or two days) of education about the effects of alcohol.
Conversely, some states may require adult drivers convicted of alcohol-related charges to participate in "Level II" alcohol education courses -- which typically include education but also therapy in a state-approved program. The length of the therapy increases depending on the severity of the violation and whether the offender has had multiple DUIs.
Generally, Level I alcohol education is not likely unless the blood-alcohol level (BAC) is below or very near .10 and there were no aggravating factors, regardless of a state's guidelines.
Like other aspects of DUI/DWI cases, the duration of an alcohol education program depends on a number of factors, such as the number of prior DUI convictions a driver has within a certain time period or whether it is a first-time drunk-driving offense.
For instance, the standard first-offender alcohol education program might require attendance at a three-hour session for 12 weeks, or approximately 36 hours of course work. It may be possible to get a restricted driver's license to allow for driving to and from the program.
The standard program for second-offenders, however, may be divided into several phases, and typically begins with mandatory attendance at weekly sessions, gradually changing to every other week.
Finally, there is often up to a 30-month program for multiple offenders.
While alcohol education classes are mandatory in some states, the duration requirement can sometimes be reduced or eliminated through skilled negotiation and plea bargaining.
Specific Alcohol Education and Treatment Programs
One of the most well-known alcohol education and treatment program in the country is Alcoholics Anonymous, frequently referred to as "A.A." There are A.A. chapters in every state of the country and in many local cities. In these classes, there is generally an open discussion centered upon the harmful effects of alcohol and consequences of drunk driving. Typically, there is open and frank discussion about a person's particular situation, as well as a discussion to help identify symptoms of (and treatments for) alcohol abuse.
Besides Alcoholics Anonymous, there are other schools and treatment programs designed to help DUI offenders to stop drunk driving, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.). M.A.D.D. often partners with organizations to share personal stories of friends or family members who were victims of drunk driving and works to make DUI laws tougher. Check with your state's National Highway Safety Commission's website for information and locations of alcohol education and treatment programs in your area.
Don't Go it Alone: Hire an Attorney for Your DUI Case
Lawyers can be expensive, but they often save their clients money and always work to provide the best possible outcome, whether it's reduced charges or a more favorable sentence. If you've been charged with driving under the influence, a DUI attorney can help negotiate for DUI school or alcohol treatment in lieu of jail time or other less-desirable sanctions.