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Does California DUI School Really Work?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 12, 2009 | 0 Comments

California's System of Mandatory DUI School: Does it Really Work?

Most people know the routine that follows a California DUI conviction: probation, fines, a temporary drivers license suspension, and—of course—the infamous California DUI school.

Indeed, California has developed an elaborate series of alcohol education programs for DUI offenders. These range from a 12-hour class for those convicted of a lesser “wet reckless” offense, to a 30-month alcohol program for 3rd offense DUI offenders. Los Angeles County's 30-month DUI school can entail up to 400 hours of community service, group counseling and education sessions. (Refer to our article, "What are the penalties for a first-time DUI in California?")

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs licenses private entities to provide this drunk driving programming. Nearly 500 exist throughout the state. One overarching policy goal is at work: dissuading those convicted of DUI from continuing to drink and drive.

Very little data exists to measure the effectiveness of California DUI schools. Probably, as with any type of rehabilitation program, success varies depending on the individual—and in particular whether the student sees herself as having an alcohol problem that needs addressing.

One distinguishing feature of California's DUI education is that all of the classes are live events. Students actually attend classes and interact with each other and live instructors. Some states, such as Nevada, only require “online” DUI school. Although advocacy groups there—such as Las Vegas-based Stop DUI —are pushing for legislation that would require Nevada DUI offenders to meet live with DUI victims and their families.

Intuitively, one would imagine that live DUI programming changes more behavior than online videos and self-study. But again, few reliable studies can verify this. And if some adults resent the alcohol classes as a nuisance imposed on them—rather than a welcome opportunity to receive help and guidance—then the purpose could backfire.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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