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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Alcohol education programs are alternatives in DUI cases

In Washington and across the United States, mandatory alcohol education and treatment programs are used in some deferred prosecution agreements for people accused of driving under the influence. These programs are used to substitute for some harsher penalties, especially for first-time offenders.

Completing alcohol education and therapy can lead to restoration of driving privileges and often can be used to deal with DUI charges without creating a criminal record. Without use of these programs, people convicted of DUI offenses will often face license suspensions, fines and sometimes jail time.

In some states, alcohol education may be combined with more traditional convictions and penalties as well, or may be used to offset or reduce other aspects of sentencing. These programs may also be mandatory before driving privileges are reinstated. There are a few considerations taken into account in order to determine eligibility for this kind of alternative sentencing. Prior charges, blood alcohol content, previous education programs and whether there were injuries or damages caused are some of them.

Most alcohol education and treatment programs used for DUI offenders are called Level II programs, with a significant number of hours of both alcohol education and therapy via a state-approved program. Many of these programs require around 36 hours of attendance for first offenders. However, these periods of time are often negotiated in plea bargains.

A criminal defense lawyer can help people charged with DUI to avoid a criminal record or conviction through alcohol education or other deferred prosecution programs. These programs can be very important not only for understanding more about the defendant's relationship with alcohol, but to protect education and career prospects as well. Criminal defense lawyers can work to handle a DUI case before trial in order to achieve a favorable outcome.

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