In an effort to attack the problem of drunken driving, most drunk driving legislation currently provides a combination of punishment and treatment. Consequently, offenders charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) are sentenced to probation rather than incarceration. As part of their probationary conditions, DWI/DUI offenders are often directed to participate in a driver education program, commonly referred to as “DUI schools,” which incorporate alcohol rehabilitation and education programs.
Attendance at a rehabilitation and education program may be mandatory or discretionary, depending upon the jurisdiction. In most cases, attendance is statutorily mandated if the offender has prior offenses and is facing license suspension or revocation. In general, if a driver completes the program and satisfies certain, other requirements, he or she will be eligible to apply for reinstatement of his or her operator’s license.
The program requires a participant to attend a certain number of weekly classroom sessions over a period ranging from several months to several years. The classes are conducted by providers identified by the state, and some programs are offered on-line in whole or in part. It should be noted that there is great diversity among the states in administering these programs. In states such as California, the statute anticipates several levels of schools, beginning with a 12-hours school for those convicted of a charge that is less than a DUI, increasing to a 12-week/36 hours program for the first offender, again increasing to an 18-month school for second offenders, and ending with a 30-month special program for multiple offenders. In some states, participants may be referred from a classroom phase to a formal substance abuse evaluation, possibly resulting in attendance at a formal substance abuse treatment program, often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous.
Participation in the educational programs allows the driver to become eligible for a conditional license or a conditional driving privilege. The operator’s license will be tagged with a special marking, clearly indicating the conditional nature of the license. A conditional license authorizes the participant to drive within certain limits, such as driving to and from work or school, transporting a child to and from a child care facility or school in order to maintain employment, and driving to and from the educational program and other places related to the conditional license and probation. The conditional license will be revoked if the participant violates any condition of the program or license. In general, if the driver satisfactorily completes the program and has no further offenses, his or her operator’s license will be restored within one to seven years.