The Mandatory DUI Alcohol Program
Who Must Enroll in an Alcohol Program
If you are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or reckless driving with alcohol in your system (Wet Reckless), then both the court and the DMV will require you to complete a mandatory alcohol program licensed pursuant to §11836 of the Health and Safety Code.
Length of Program
The length of the alcohol program will depend on which offense you have been convicted of, what your blood-alcohol level was, and whether you have any prior convictions for DUI or wet reckless. Conviction of a first-offense wet reckless will require completion of a 6-week program.
Conviction of a first-offense DUI will require completion of a three, six or nine month program. And conviction of a DUI with one or more prior convictions within the past 10 years will require completion of an 18-month program.
Cost of Program
The alcohol programs are administered by private contractors and you must bear the cost of the program. The typical costs for each program are listed below.
When to Enroll
You will be required to enroll in a program within three weeks of being sentenced in a court for DUI or Wet Reckless. However, in Orange County, the DMV usually issues a suspension order long before your case ever goes to court. If your license is suspended because you lost the DMV hearing or failed to request a DMV hearing and your case still hasn’t gone to court, then you may want to enroll in a program early on a “volunteer” basis so that the DMV will issue you a restricted license. A restricted license allows you to drive to the alcohol program, to school, and any work-related driving. It’s important to talk to your DUI lawyer to correctly time your enrollment in the alcohol program.
Proof of Enrollment and Completion
Once the court orders you to enroll in a program the judge will order you to show “proof of enrollment” in the program within three weeks. Usually, the alcohol program will send the court and the DMV a “certificate of enrollment” once you enroll in the program. Likewise, the court will also order you to show “proof of completion” of the program by a certain date. Again, the alcohol program will sent the court and the DMV a “certificate of completion” once you successfully finish the program.
Enrollment in and completion of an alcohol program is a term of probation. This means that if you are dropped from the program for things like unauthorized absence, showing up under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or disruptive behavior, the program will notify the court and the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.
Each program allows a specific number of “excused absences”. (See each program below) This means you can get prior permission from the program to miss a class. However, all excused absences must be made up. If you exceed the specified number of excused absences for your program, you will be dropped from the program and the court will be notified.
Reinstatement Without a Restricted License
If you are dropped from a program for whatever reason, your DUI lawyer can request that you be reinstated. Although a judge will usually allow you to be reinstated, once you have been dropped from the program the DMV, by law, must take away your restricted license and suspend your driving privileges for the remainder of the program. So it is important that you follow all program rules carefully and not get dropped for any reason.
Wet Reckless Program (6 weeks)
If you are convicted of a first-offense Wet Reckless, (California Vehicle Code §23103), then you will be ordered to attend the 6-week program known as SB1176. This program consists of one class per week. The class lasts for two hours. You will be allowed up to three excused absences but no more than two consecutive absences. If you are convicted of a Wet Reckless and have a prior Wet Reckless within 10 years, then you will be ordered to complete the nine-month program discussed below. The typical cost of this program is around $250.00.
If you are convicted of a first-offense DUI with no priors within 10-years, then you will be ordered to attend a three, six or nine-month program. The judge has some discretion on which program to require.
If your blood-alcohol was below a 0.15% and you were not involved in an accident, the judge will probably order you to complete the three-month program. This program, known as AB541, is a 30-hour program. You will attend one class per week which usually lasts around two hours. You will attend between 12 and 15 classes. Most programs allow for five excused absences.
The program consists of an education component and a counseling component. The educational component consists of lectures and videos about DUI consequences, DUI laws, addiction, and changes in lifestyle, The counseling component consists of group and individual counseling. The average cost for the three-month program is around $500.00.
For a blood-alcohol higher than a 0.15% but lower than a 0.20%, most Orange County judges will order completion of the six-month program, also known as AB762. The judge has discretion to order this program for other reasons as well. For example; if there was an accident, if you were uncooperative with the police, or for any other factor in aggravation. The typical cost for this program is around $800.00 and you will be allowed 7 excused absences.
If your blood-alcohol was a 0.20% or higher the judge must order you to complete the nine-month program. Also, if you are convicted of a Wet Reckless and you have a prior Wet Reckless within 10 years, you will be ordered to complete this program.
The nine-month program, also known as SB38, is 60 hours in length. The average cost of the program is between $1,100.00 and $1,400.00. You will be allowed 7 excused absences.
One or More Prior DUI (18-month Program)
This program, also called SB-38 or the “multiple offender program”, has a 12-hour educational component, a 52-hour group counseling component, bi-weekly interviews for the first year, and a transition into self-help meetings. (Such as Alcohol Anonymous) The program costs around $1,600.00 and allows for up to 10 excused absences.
Orange County does not have this program. However, if you are convicted of DUI in Los Angeles County and you have two or more priors within the last 10 years, then you will be ordered to complete this program.
Out of State Residents
If you live in another state an Orange County judge will usually allow you to complete a comparable alcohol program in your own state. However, although completion of a similar program in your home state will satisfy the Orange County court requirement, it will not satisfy the DMV requirement. This is important because under the Interstate Compact your driver’s license in your home state will be affected be the DMV suspension in California.