Many DUI / DWI defendants are sentenced to jail, but incarceration offers no benefit to drunk driving defendants who have problems with alcohol. Because substance abuse is such a widespread problem, the court system is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way it regards individuals with alcohol and drug problems.
Judges and prosecutors now realize that it is ineffective to merely lock away alcoholics without treating underlying addiction issues. Because of this changing approach, treatment in an established and state licensed drug and alcohol rehabilitation program has become an accepted alternative sentencing option.
The length of treatment varies, but the average time is 30 days. Most rehabilitation facilities are privately owned, and can be either co-ed or gender-specific. Because of a shortage of rehab beds, many facilities have a waiting list.
Treatment may include behavior modification and/or medication. Three commonly used behavioral treatments for alcohol abuse and alcoholism (motivation enhancement therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 12-step therapy) can significantly reduce drinking in the year following treatment. Medication such as naltrexone (ReVia), an anti-craving medication, has been shown to be effective, especially when combined with behavior therapy.
Alcohol and drug rehabilitation can replace alcohol education programs that are part of many DUI defendants’ sentences. Rehabilitation is typically set as a condition of probation if the offender is willing and has been accepted into a program. Time spent in rehabilitation is credited toward the completion of a jail sentence in what is known as good time custody credits. Once the program is completed, certification is submitted to the court. If rehabilitation is not successfully completed, the offender violates probation, and likely will go to jail.
For individuals with multiple DUIs on their records or unresolved issues with alcohol, rehabilitation can be a valuable alternative to incarceration. An attorney experienced in defending drunk driving cases can review each case to determine whether rehabilitation or another form of alternate sentencing is a viable option.