Alternatives to Sentencing
Drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs face other kinds of punishment in addition to imprisonment and steep fines. In most states, the individual has to complete some form of alcohol education program. These programs, which often require at least 12 hours of instruction, consist of much more than just sitting through the classes and taking a final test. New policies make it mandatory for offenders to go through an assessment interview with a counselor to decipher what steps must be completed before a license is reinstated.
The assessment interview is meant to determine the offender’s relationship with alcohol. Based on the interview, a counselor has the right to order the offender to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. An offender can be ordered to attend as few as three or four meetings, or, in more serious cases, up to 90 meetings in 90 days. It is also possible that an offender be required to attend a 28-day residential treatment program or detoxification program or undergo other medical treatment.
The use of ignition locks is growing in popularity, and the anti-drinking and driving group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) wants to make them mandatory for all cars. Installing an ignition lock in repeat offenders’ cars is a possibility in many states.
An ignition lock is a machine that is connected to a car’s ignition and checks the driver’s blood alcohol content level. The driver has to blow into the machine to start the car and do so from time to time while the car is running. If alcohol is detected, the car either does not start or turns itself off. If a driver fails the test while the car is in motion, the vehicle’s horn will honk, or the lights will flash to get the attention of law enforcement agents.
In some states, in order to mitigate a prison sentence or fine, an offender can be ordered to take part in a program that puts drunk driving offenders face to face with victims. The victims tell their stories of how a drunk driver changed their lives forever. The program is meant to personalize the consequences and pain that drunk driving can cause so that drivers think twice the next time they are about to get behind the wheel after drinking.
Community service is commonly part of a drunk driving sentence. Common community service assignments include:
- Speaking before groups about the dangers of driving under the influence.
- Helping anti-drunk driving groups in their campaigns.
- Cleaning up litter on highways.
- Volunteering at charities.
Normally, the hours spent doing community service are meant to benefit victims’ rights groups and anti-drunk driving groups.