Rehab for DUI Charges
Getting a DUI doesn’t have to be the end of the world — but for many of the victims of drunk drivers, drunk driving means the end of life as they know it. In spite of the serious consequences, many offenders don’t stop driving drunk after their first DUI. A significant percentage of motorists who are convicted of driving while intoxicated are repeat offenders who have already been caught multiple times. The number of repeat offenses suggests that these individuals aren’t getting the right treatment for alcohol abuse in the first place.
Driving under the influence, or DUI, means that you are operating a vehicle while you’re impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. In most cases, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor and falls under state law. Penalties for driving under the influence vary, but in most states, drivers who are convicted of a DUI:
- May have their license suspended or revoked
- May have a commercial license suspended
- May be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, which keeps the car from starting if the driver fails a breathalyzer test
- May have the DUI noted on their driving record
- May be required to pay a large fine
- May be sentenced to time in jail
- May be sentenced to time in prison if the offense involved injury or homicide
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, all 50 states have laws that make it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain limit. At the present time, the standard limit in the US is a BAC of 0.08 for drivers age 21 or older. A DUI may either be determined by the results of a breath test or a blood test or by the behavior of an impaired driver.
Many states have drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs that give first-time drunk drivers a chance to get treatment for substance abuse before they face the full penalties for a DUI. Diversion programs aren’t an option for everyone who’s charged with a DUI, but they can be a lifeline for eligible drivers who need help with a serious alcohol or drug problem.
Even if you’re required to give up your license and pay fines, rehabilitation shouldn’t be seen as part of your punishment; it’s a chance to learn how to stay sober, even when you’re experiencing stress and hardship.
How Many Convictions Does It Take?
In spite of the effort to increase awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, many motorists will commit this offense multiple times. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD):
- Two million people in the US have had three or more DUIs.
- More than 400,000 people have had five or more DUIs.
- Before being arrested for drunk driving for the first time, the average offender has driven drunk at least 80 times.
- Even after having their licenses suspended, up to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue driving.
- Over 59,000 people were killed in accidents involving drunk driving from 2006 to 2010.
- Drunk driving accounted for over 30 percent of fatal car crashes in 2010.
DUI Diversion Programs
DUI diversion attempts to prevent repeat convictions by giving eligible offenders a chance at rehab. If the DUI diversion program is completed successfully, the charge may be dismissed and wiped off your record. Diversion programs can be administered at a state or county level, and the structure and format of DUI diversion will differ from one local government to another. If you aren’t given the option to participate in diversion, ask your attorney, case manager or an addiction specialist about whether you qualify for a program in your community.
In Jefferson County, Kentucky, a DUI Diversion Program has been developed to make first-time offenders aware of the potentially devastating consequences of driving under the influence. In order to take part in this program, an offender must:
- Be a legal US resident age 18 or older, with no prior criminal record
- Have no prior DUI convictions
- Have a blood alcohol content under .15 at the time of arrest
- Have committed no aggravating offenses, like injury to others or vehicular homicide
- Must be in sound physical and mental health
- Must be able to perform tasks like bending, lifting and walking for several hours
- Must enter the program within 45 days after being charged
- Must pay a fee to participate in the program
If an eligible candidate passes the evaluation performed by the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, he must surrender his driver’s license, plead guilty to a DUI First Offense and enter a treatment program.
At the end of three months, the case will be evaluated to see if the defendant has complied with the terms of the agreement. Alcohol and drug treatment must be completed by the end of the three months, along with volunteer work at an approved charitable organization. In addition, the participation in vigils or other community events is required to reinforce the importance of avoiding drunk driving.
The opportunity to participate in DUI diversion usually comes at a price. The defendant may be charged a fee to participate. She may also be charged for court costs and may be required to pay for her own alcohol rehabilitation services. If the defendant is caught driving under the influence, commits another crime or doesn’t complete any of the required steps of the program, the agreement will be revoked and the defendant will be sentenced.
No two DUI diversion programs are exactly alike. To learn about the specifics of the program in your state or county and find out whether you might benefit from this form of intervention, talk with your attorney, a judge or a social worker in charge of your case.
How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Driving?
Alcohol can impair your judgment, which is one reason why so many people who are otherwise intelligent and informed take the risk of driving drunk — not only once, but numerous times. Along with causing you to take dangerous risks, alcohol can:
- Slow your reaction time, so that you can’t apply the brakes or turn the wheel to avoid an accident
- Interfere with your motor coordination, affecting your ability to maneuver a vehicle
- Interfere with depth perception, making it difficult to judge distances
- Interact with prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, so that you may be drowsy and lose coordination after only one or two drinks
- Intensify your emotions, causing you to get angry or upset at other motorists when you’re driving
Recovering From Alcoholism
DUI diversion isn’t just an opportunity to clear your driving record; it’s a chance to take part in a rehabilitation program that can help you lead a rewarding life in sobriety. In order for DUI diversion to be effective, the offender must be evaluated to find the best approach to rehabilitation, notes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Options for drug and alcohol rehab may include:
- Educational programs (sometimes known as “DUI school” or “drunk driving classes”)
- Attendance at self-help support groups in the community, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
- Individual or family counseling at an outpatient treatment facility
- Treatment for alcoholism at an intensive inpatient treatment center
- A step-down program to help you get back into the community after rehabilitation
The NHTA stresses that drug and alcohol rehab for DUI charges shouldn’t replace fines or license suspension. These penalties are necessary to reinforce the severity of the offense and to discourage further offenses.
If you’ve just been arrested for driving under the influence, it may not be the first time you’ve operated a vehicle while you were impaired by alcohol or drugs. However, it may be the first time that’s it’s really hit home that you have a problem. For many people who abuse alcohol, getting arrested for drunk driving wakes them up to the fact that alcohol has taken over their lives. Whether or not you believe you have a problem with substance abuse, drug and alcohol rehab can provide valuable education that may enlighten you about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Rehabilitation isn’t just about “drying out” or being scared away from booze for a few weeks. Rehab is an opportunity to understand why you’ve been taking self-destructive risks and a chance to learn coping skills that may help you stay sober. It’s an opportunity to learn from others who have been in your situation and to take away valuable advice or inspiration that can guide you in the future.
We can give you resources that will help you start the journey toward sobriety. Whether you’ve had a DUI conviction or you’re just scared about the way alcohol is affecting your life, you can get help by reaching out to compassionate friends, counselors or addiction experts in your community.
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