Facts About DUI Treatment For First-Time Offenders


Driving under the influence (DUI) is considered a crime. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most frequently committed crimes in the United States. About a third of the substance-related arrests are attributed to DUI arrests. In 2014 alone, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for DUI involving drugs or alcohol.

Many first-time DUI offenders don’t fully understand the repercussions that come with a DUI conviction. Most first-time DUI offenders often assume the law is lenient to them. While DUI is classified as a misdemeanor, its short and long-term consequences remain serious. And yes, it involves more than just taking DUI school online.

DUI Treatment Needed for First-Timers

First-time DUI offenders can avoid repeating the same offense by getting professional treatment. However, an assessment needs to be done before determining treatment. This evaluation can help determine the history of substance abuse, the offender’s background, and the circumstances of the offense.

Assessment Factors

Assessment is done to determine the intensity and the frequency of the drug or alcohol abuse. Other factors that will be taken into account include physical health, living situations, employment, coexisting mental health conditions, relationship issues, criminal history, and finances.


Court-mandated treatment for DUI can vary in terms of length, frequency, and levels of care and will be based on the assessment. For instance, some offenders might only need a brief course of treatment that will last a session or two.

On the other hand, other DUI offenders might require multi-faceted programs that last a few weeks to several months. Some first-time DUI offenders might also require long-term inpatient rehabilitation and aftercare.

Drug courts typically utilize a team of mental health and substance abuse professionals to help offenders recover from their substance abuse issues and become productive, functioning, and healthy members of society.

Treatment Options for DUI Offenders

Various levels of substance abuse treatment can include:

  • Mandatory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
  • Sober living homes
  • Group meetings with a therapist
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Aftercare programs
  • Outpatient substance abuse treatment
  • Dual diagnosis treatment (when mental illness coexists with substance abuse)
  • Intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment

What Happens After DUI/DUI Treatment?

Substance abuse treatments are highly effective, especially programs that are at least 90 days or longer. After inpatient treatment has been completed, offenders need to follow specific protocols. What the protocols are will depend on the particular charges and the state where the offender lives.

For example, DUI offenders in Pennsylvania need to install a device in their car to prevent its operation if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. After the treatment, additional recommendations by the treatment center or the court can include attending AA/NA meetings, continual medication monitoring, and individual therapy.

DUI Rehab vs. Jail

In some instances, DUI offenders may be allowed to attend alcohol rehabilitation treatment rather than serving time. Several variables can determine your eligibility, including age, criminal history, the state you live in, and the specific charges. The following variables can make court-appointed rehab more likely:

  • The first-time DUI offender is under 25 years of age
  • They have never been in substance abuse treatment
  • They have reported alcohol as the primary substance of abuse
  • The first-time DUI offender can receive treatment in an outpatient or ambulatory setting

Final thoughts

It is important to note that the variables listed above are generalizations. That said, it might be possible for you to attend alcohol treatment even if you don’t meet any of the characteristics above. Nowadays, many treatment centers are located across the country and use evidence-based treatment strategies to help offenders accomplish their recovery goals.

Lauren Kunis is the Content Marketing Strategist for Stonewall Institute, an outpatient alcohol and drug treatment center in Phoenix, Arizona that offers online DUI classes, DUI screenings, and a holistic, individualized approach to addiction recovery. She loves reading books, traveling, and going on hiking adventures with her dog, Max.

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