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Guide to DUI School: Court-Ordered Alcohol Treatment Programs

Judges sometimes order DUI/DWI offenders to attend prevention programs geared toward alcohol education or therapy. This is often a condition of a suspended sentence or condition of probation. The goal is to teach offenders about alcohol dependency and the consequences of DUI.

These programs, known as DUI schools, drunk-driving education, or alcohol education programs (AEP), often replace, reduce, or eliminate harsher penalties in drunk-driving cases. Harsher penalties can include:

DUI offenders who successfully complete the terms of their DUI classes or therapy program may have their driving privileges restored. Conversely, offenders who fail to comply with the terms of their program aren't eligible for license reinstatement and may be returned to the courts for further action.

This article discusses state alcohol education, assessment, and treatment laws. It also addresses DUI school eligibility and covers types of programs as well as their duration.

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 outcome of an offender's program is considered in final sentencing.

States with mandatory alcohol education laws require the completion of an alcohol education program before reinstating a convicted offender's driving privileges. Mandatory alcohol assessment and treatment laws also require convicted DUI offenders to:

  • Undergo an assessment of alcohol abuse problems
  • Participate in required treatment programs

Of the states requiring mandatory DUI prevention programs, 60% require alcohol education and treatment. To determine requirements for DUI offenders in your state, see this breakdown of state DUI/DWI laws.

DUI School Eligibility

Eligibility for alcohol education and treatment programs isn't automatic unless it's mandatory. Factors a judge may consider when deciding whether to allow alcohol education include:

  • Whether you have any prior DUI charges and are a repeat offender
  • Your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest
  • Whether someone was seriously injured or killed during the accident
  • Whether you have previously participated in a similar program

The judge may not order alcohol education as part of a DUI sentence. Even so, some states require you to attend alcohol education courses or therapy to reinstate your driver's license after a DUI. In these states, you must complete alcohol education or therapy in a state-approved behavioral health program. You'll also need to provide proof of attendance to your state's DMV office.

Types of Alcohol Education and Therapy Programs

There are different levels of alcohol education and alcohol treatment programs. Depending on the state, they have varying degrees of length of treatment and criteria. Most states allow minors under 21 and first-time DUI offenders to undergo Level I alcohol education courses. These courses usually consist of 12 hours of education about the effects of alcohol.

Other states may require adult drivers convicted of alcohol-related charges to participate in Level II courses. These courses usually include education and therapy in a state-approved program. The length of the therapy increases depending on the severity of the violation and whether you've had multiple DUIs.

In general, you're likely to be ordered to undergo Level I alcohol education. Exceptions to that general rule arise if your blood-alcohol level (BAC) at the time of your arrest was below or very near .10 and there were no aggravating factors.

Duration of Alcohol Education Programs

Like other aspects of DUI/DWI cases, the duration of an alcohol education program depends on several factors. These factors include:

  • The number of prior DUI convictions you've had within a particular period
  • Whether this is a first-time drunk-driving offense

For instance, a standard first-offender alcohol education program might require attendance at a three-hour session for 12 weeks. This amounts to approximately 36 hours of coursework. Getting a restricted driver's license may be possible to allow for driving to and from the program.

However, the standard program for second offenders may be divided into several phases. This program usually begins with mandatory attendance at weekly sessions and gradually changes to sessions every other week.

Finally, there is often up to a 30-month program for multiple offenders. Alcohol education classes are mandatory in some states. However, negotiation and plea bargaining sometimes reduce or eliminate the duration requirement.

Specific Alcohol Education and Treatment Programs

One of the most well-known alcohol education and treatment programs is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There are AA chapters in every state of the country and in many cities. In these classes, there is usually a discussion on the harmful effects of alcohol and the consequences of drunk driving. There is often an open discussion about someone's specific situation. There is also a discussion to help identify symptoms of, and treatments for, alcohol abuse.

Besides Alcoholics Anonymous, other schools and treatment programs exist to help DUI offenders and prevent drunk driving. One example is 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. M.A.D.D. aims to make DUI laws tougher. Check with the National Highway Safety Commission's website for locations of alcohol education and treatment programs near you.

Don't Go It Alone: Hire an Attorney for Your Driving Under the Influence Case

Suppose you've been charged with a DUI offense. In that case, a DUI attorney can help negotiate for DUI school or substance abuse treatment by a provider instead of jail time or other less-desirable sanctions. An attorney can help you whether this is your first offense or second offense, and whether you've been charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

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