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AA Meetings Common Consequence of D.C. DUI Convictions

by | Jun 25, 2013

Sometimes we hear of individuals who are of the mind that simply pleading guilty to DUI is easier than trying to fight the charge.

Our D.C. DUI lawyers contend this is not true for a myriad of reasons: The impact of a permanent criminal record, the high cost of court fees, the affect a conviction will have on your insurance and the taxation of your time in terms of signing up for substance abuse treatment and prevention courses.

Now, as a recent investigative report by journalism think tank ProPublica has revealed, there may be another reason. In its extensive report, the authors detail the latent dangers of substance abuse programs, particularly Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA.

In an of themselves, these treatment programs aren’t bad, and they have often ushered many people into a happier, healthier life of sobriety. It is because of this reputation that the judicial system has often mandated attendance at such meetings for individuals who are either convicted of DUIs or of any crimes that are seen as remotely connected to substance abuse.

The problem is that because of the anonymous nature of these programs, and the fact that they don’t separate those with serious or violent criminal histories from those who have been convicted of minor DUI offenses or who haven’t been convicted of any crimes at all, innocent people sometimes become sitting ducks for predators.

It’s estimated that each year, the legal system compels at least 150,000 people to join AA. Again, some of these are DUI convicts. But quite often, they are felons whose records might include domestic violence, sexual offenses or who are given the option to attend AA rather than have their prison sentences extended.

In the first place, a forced attendance to these meetings is in direct odds with the basic principals of the organization, which holds that the only requirement for membership is that the person have a desire to stop drinking.

AA organizers have said they can not and will not “discriminate against” those who are compelled to attend the meetings under pressure from the court system.

Internal records from the agency reveal that when leaders were pressured about a scourge of reported sexual abuse of young women by other members, administrators decided there was nothing they could do to weed out potential members. There are approximately 60,000 AA groups nationally, and they are considered autonomous and responsible for their own supervision. Monitoring members, the group said, would undercut its core principal of anonymity.

Some of those allegations arose right here in D.C. A 2007 report by the Washington Post detailed an almost cult-like AA group that encouraged sexual activity between the new, younger female members of the group and the older male members. They were told such action would solidify their sobriety.

This is not to say that all AA groups are troubled. However, it does give one pause when considering treatment options. Those ordered by a judge to enter the program may have no choice. The court can not ensure your safety once you are there.

We are all for people seeking ways to attain and maintain sobriety, if they feel that is what they need to live a happier, healthier life. But we don’t necessarily believe in those treatments being forced.

Cases like this present one more reason – among many others – why D.C. DUI defendants should think twice before simply pleading guilty, or allowing your teen to do so.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.