Does a DUI Arrest Equal a Drinking Problem?

Officer giving roadside sobriety test to man
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If someone is arrested for drunk driving, most states assume that the person has a drinking problem and they mandate alcohol evaluation, education, and treatment before restoring driving privileges.

Per Se Laws

All 50 states now have "per se" .08 blood alcohol concentration laws (BAC), which means that if a driver has a BAC of .08 or higher, that fact by itself (per se) is evidence that the driver was driving while intoxicated.

Most states also have laws that require anyone convicted of drunk driving to undergo an evaluation to determine the extent of their alcohol consumption.

In other words, if someone is arrested for drunk driving, that fact by itself is evidence that the driver probably has a drinking problem, according to the laws and policies of almost every state.

Alcohol Evaluation

Before returning driving privileges to someone convicted of driving under the influence, most states require that drivers undergo an evaluation to determine the extent their lives are affected by alcohol consumption and if their drinking behavior is considered alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

In most states, the DUI offender is interviewed by a certified alcohol and drug counselor and given a series of questions to answer about their drinking habits and attitudes. The evaluator then determines if the offender requires additional education or treatment.

Alcohol Education

In many states, convicted drunk drivers are required to attend classes on the dangers of driving while impaired — sometimes called "DUI School" or "drunk driving school" — regardless of the results of their alcohol evaluation. However, if the evaluation determined that the driver has a drinking problem, the length or number of the required education classes can be increased in some states.

Alcohol Treatment Programs

If the alcohol evaluation determines that a drunk driving offender is an alcohol abuser or is alcohol dependent, some states require that the driver completes some form of treatment before driving privileges are restored. If the driver does, in fact, have a drinking problem, most states require that this problem is addressed before the offender can legally return to the highways.

Depending on the driver's evaluation, the required treatment can range from attending a number of support group meetings, outpatient counseling or therapy sessions, or even inpatient detoxification and/or a residential rehabilitation and treatment facility.

State Drunk Driving Laws

Because of the efforts of anti-drunk driving groups over many years, the laws of most states today send the message to DUI offenders that getting behind the wheel while intoxicated may not seem like a drinking problem to them, but it is a public safety problem for society.

Consequently, 45 states now require alcohol evaluation and treatment after the first drunk driving offense, two states require it after the second DUI offense, one state mandates treatment only after the third violation, and two states have no education or treatment requirements.

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.