DUI Penalties and AA Attendance
A Court should not require a person to attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings as part of their penalties for a DUI conviction because of the religious element involved in these meetings. However, it is common for AA meetings to be offered in plea negotiations and a defendant can consent to attend AA meetings as a condition of probation in order to avoid additional or greater penalties. So long as the defendant agrees to the terms of probation, the court can then order AA attendance.
Attending AA meetings voluntarily prior to the resolution of the court case can also be an effective way to negotiate a better plea bargain, particularly in cases where the blood alcohol level is high or there are prior DUI convictions on the record. Judges and Prosecutors like to see acceptance of responsibility for any underlying alcohol problem. Afterall, treatment, education and rehabilitation are the most effective tools to prevent the commission of future offenses. Prosecutors can be persuaded that accepting AA attendance instead of more punitive penalties such as jail time is ultimately more likely to protect the public.
Many people arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles do not have a drinking problem, but on the other hand, many alcoholics are prone to come up with a list of reasons as to why treatment is not necessary for them. Many people resist attending AA meetings, even if they do have a problem.
Based on my experience defending DUI charges in Los Angeles and Orange County over the last fourteen years, I know that attending AA meetings voluntarily is often short term inconvenience to avoid greater long term penalties and should at least be considered an option for anyone arrested for a DUI.