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Why DUI offenders need treatment instead of incarceration

Alcohol use on America's roadways has been a problem for as long as automobiles have existed, and public policymakers have long struggled with the best ways to respond to drivers who operate vehicles while they are intoxicated. Better detection and education has helped the public be more vigilant about their own driving practices and drinking habits and has brought the issue a long way. Another approach that law enforcement and the legislature often adopt is increased criminal penalties. For a long time, these penalties were viewed as a strong deterrent to drinking and driving, but research has called that into question in recent years.

Addiction and drunk driving

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 70 percent of those who are arrested for driving under the influence have a drinking problem and could benefit from treatment. The research behind this is so strong that most states have required alcohol assessment and treatment as part of the criminal penalties and consequences for DUI, and often the use of these programs with probation is quite effective. Even when drivers wind up incarcerated for brief periods, these programs are often part of their continuing probation afterward.

Treatment instead of incarceration

Research going back as far as 2004 and even earlier shows that treatment is far more effective than incarceration for a variety of drugs. In a study dating back almost a decade and a half, the Justice Policy Institute discusses how the change to treatment for Maryland marijuana offenders made a difference in repeat offenses. It then expands on how these lessons could be used in the wider criminal justice community when dealing with a variety of addiction-related issues.

This research points to the idea that treatment still might be the most effective option even for multiple offenders, at least some of the time. Understanding this and having the court understand this can make a difference for many people who are arrested for DUI because it can mean the difference between penalties that simply lower one's quality of life and penalties that are designed to help change the problematic habits so that repeat behavior is less likely.

If you are arrested

The best way to make sure you have appropriate treatment options that are not complicated or undermined by excessive penalties is to work with an experienced drunk driving attorney. Your attorney can help you craft a defense if you are wrongly accused, but the right attorney will also be able to help you make a deal that puts you in touch with appropriate treatment if you need it.

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