Getting treatment can help you turn your life around, avoid jail time and save lives
According to Government statistics, around 1.2 million Americans were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in 2011(1), and in Pennsylvania alone there were more than 11,000 crashes related to alcohol intoxication(2). The legal consequences of DUI for alcohol depend on the results of a blood alcohol concentration test, the section of the law violated and whether it is a first or subsequent DUI offense. While in Pennsylvania it is possible to escape jail with a first offense when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below 0.10%, this is not the case for subsequent offenses, higher BAC and more serious violations(3). For example, as a second offense, even when BAC is between 0.08 and 0.10%, a minimum jail sentence of five days is likely, rising to as long as a six month stay. However, evidence suggests that jail sentences are not the answer for DUI alcohol charges, particularly if those charged do not receive help to overcome their dependency on alcohol during their imprisonment. Alcohol treatment instead of jail therefore offers a viable alternative, as by addressing the root of the problem it reduces re-offending and by keeping sufferers out of prison it offers additional benefits.
Dangers of a DUI: Alcohol
Even driving below the legal blood alcohol concentration limit in Pennsylvania of 0.08% can affect a driver. For instance, at just 0.02% BAC reduced visual function and difficulties performing more than one task can occur, while at 0.05% BAC reduced co-ordination, tracking and the ability to respond in an emergency all occur(4). At the legal BAC limit, speed control, information processing and perception are all impaired, with lane control and braking also affected by 0.10% BAC. Once this 0.10% BAC is exceeded, the legal implications are greater as vehicle control, attention and visual and auditory processing are all significantly impaired, greatly increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Problems with Jail for DUI Alcohol Offenses
Whitehouse figures show that there are around 7 million adults currently in the justice system, which is costly for the economy, particularly as incarceration is not an effective way to reduce reoffending among those with substance use disorders, with many repeating the same offences after a prison term, making it an expensive cycle that doesn’t deal with the underlying problem(5). The social implications of imprisonment shouldn’t be forgotten either, as incarceration can act as a barrier to receiving education, employment and housing, all of which are essential for recovery and successful re-integration into the community, not to mention the toll that jail sentences can have on family life.
A spell in prison can also adversely affect someone’s health. It is estimated that about one-third of people who suffer from alcohol dependency have poor mental health as well(6), but incarceration is linked to worsening mental health owing to the stress associated with imprisonment(7). Alcohol misuse is additionally associated with poor physical health due to the direct effects of alcohol and the self-neglect that can accompany heavy drinking, and there is evidence that physical health deteriorates during a stay in jail(8).
All too often prison sentences focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Even though 70% of inmates have a problem with substance dependency compared to less than 10% of the US population as a whole, figures from a review of substance abuse treatment in jail show that just 20% of prisoners take part in alcohol or drug rehab during their stay(9). The report also highlights that even when treatment for alcohol and drug dependency in jail is available, access to specialist services are limited, so those on offer are typically poor quality and for insufficient duration, and as a result follow-up support is not arranged in the community. Jail based treatment for substance dependency is therefore often ineffective.
Benefits of DUI Alcohol Treatment
Someone with an uncontrolled addiction commits on average 63 criminal offenses each year(10). Compared to a jail sentence research shows that drug and alcohol rehabilitation is much more effective at reducing reoffending, as demonstrated below(11):
- While 75% of those with problem substance misuse who didn’t receive rehabilitation were rearrested, this compared to just 57% of those who received treatment
- Reconviction of imprisoned addicts was 65%, compared to 42% of those who received addiction treatment instead
- A further jail sentence was received by 51% of those imprisoned, while just 30% of those treated went to jail on a subsequent occasion
Alcohol treatment instead of jail is therefore a more cost-effective approach to addressing the issue, but this isn’t the only benefit of alcohol treatment for DUI. As addiction is a chronic health problem, rehab facilities also offer a more appropriate environment for offenders to receive treatment. It is possible to address wider health and social issues during treatment by taking a holistic approach, which is known to offer much better outcomes for addicts, both in terms of beating their habit and making a valuable contribution after treatment.
Accessing DUI Alcohol Treatment
Drug courts help to break the cycle of reoffending for people suffering from alcohol and drug misuse by allowing them to access the treatment they need rather than going to jail, with less than 20% of those who go through drug courts rearrested(12). Besides a judge, they consist of a representative from the local probation service and district attorney, a police officer, a public defender, a case manager and a treatment provider. For a non-violent offense like DUI where someone is facing jail, they are referred by one of the members of the drug court and the details of their charge, criminal record and circumstances are reviewed, though it is the district attorney who makes the final decision(13).
At Steps to Recovery it is possible to access DUI alcohol treatment through your medical insurance. If you are facing a jail sentence of 60 to 90 days, you can take part in inpatient rehabilitation for this period of time, which is credited against the jail term. Steps to Recovery provides documented evidence for your attorney to present at your hearing, which highlights your remorse and your motivation to change your habits, placing you in a stronger position for your treatment to be credited in place of a prison stay.
1. “FBI arrest statistics 1994-2011,” Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, accessed December 15 2014
2. “Pennsylvania crash facts and statistics 2013,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, accessed December 15 2014
3. “DUI law grading and sentencing guide,” Pennsylvania State Government, accessed December 15 2014
4. “Effects of blood alcohol concentration,” CDC, accessed December 15 2014
5. “National Drug Control Strategy 2014,” Office of National Drug Control Policy, accessed December 15 2014
6. “Dual diagnosis – substance abuse and mental illness,” National Alliance on Mental Illness, accessed December 15 2014
7. “Prison environment worsens mental health,” British Medical Journal, 327(2003), accessed December 15 2014
8. “Public health behind bars – health care for jail inmates,” University of North Carolina, accessed December 15 2014
9. “Jail based substance abuse treatment review,” University of New Mexico, accessed December 15 2014
10. “Making the criminal addict – subjectivity and social control in strong arm rehab,” Academia, accessed December 15 2014
11. “A benefit cost analysis of the Kings County District attorney’s office drug treatment alternative to prison program,” Justice Research and Statistics Association, accessed December 15 2014
12. “Treatment or incarceration?” Justice Policy Institute, accessed December 15 2014
13. “Incarceration vs treatment – drug courts help substance abusing offenders,” SAMHSA, accessed December 15 2014