New State Laws Use Mandatory Treatment to Curb Drunk Driving

February 7, 2013

1174747_by_a_beer.jpgCar accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report that some states are now requiring treatment plans for applicable citizens to reduce DWI repeat-offenses. First offenders in New Hampshire are now required to submit to a substance abuse screening within 14 days of the conviction.

The laws took effect in New Hampshire on January 1st of 2013. The substance abuse evaluations must be conducted by a state-approved Impaired Driver Care Management Program. If the initial evaluation determines that there is any likelihood that the individual has a substance use disorder, a full evaluation is required within 30 days of the initial conviction. The individual will then be required to stringently follow the treatment plan prescribed to them, in addition to completing an impaired driver education program.

The individual is only able to receive their license back after all necessary requirements have been met, after a minimum of 90 days suspension. New Hampshire courts are now allowed to suspend first-offenders' licenses for any amount of time up to two years. Of course, the rules for repeat offenders are much stricter, including longer jail sentences and revoking the licenses of those who do not follow treatment plans.

The rule changes are intended to get those with any indication of a substance abuse problem into treatment as soon as possible to prevent additional convictions and crashes. The theory is that the sooner someone with a dependency issue is put into treatment, the higher the likelihood that it will be successful. There are currently five state-approved evaluation programs (a sixth is pending) with offices in 12 communities throughout the state. Some are arguing that citizens in more rural areas do not have adequate access to the programs. Legislators maintain that there will be a rapid increase of treatment providers as the new regulations become rooted.

DWI offenders will be responsible for all costs associated with the evaluations and consequent treatments, so there will be no strain on state or local resources. An initial screening will cost $75, with an additional $70 client fee. If a full evaluation is warranted, it will cost $200, and the required impaired driving education course will cost $300. Massachusetts is currently practicing a similar evaluation plan, mixing negative consequences with positive incentives to keep DWI offenders from repeating the crime.

The laws are intended to prevent death and injury from drunk drivers, such as the minor who struck and killed a 6-year-old boy in Texas last week on the 24th. A 17-year-old teenager was drunk behind the wheel of his family's pickup truck when he lost control of the vehicle, jumped the curb of a local street and struck a first-grade boy waiting for an ice cream truck. The accident occurred in late afternoon, and the minor was reportedly reaching for his cell phone when he lost control of the vehicle.

Young men, such as the Texas teenager, are at the highest risk of being involved in an alcohol-related crash. According to the CDC, more than one of every three drivers (34%) involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes are between the ages of 21 and 24. Additionally, drivers involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes were four times more likely to have a prior DWI conviction than not. The CDC does specifically mention requiring mandatory substance abuse evaluations and treatments as an effective measure to prevent impaired driver deaths and injuries.

Treatment enforcement in states like Massachusetts and Wisconsin do seem to be curtailing drunken driving convictions. Many claim that helping people get treatment for their substance abuse makes more sense than extending jail sentences and increasing fines. Jail time gets the driver off the road, but helping that person get sober would help better the rest of their lives, in addition to ensuring they never drink and drive again.

Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins hope these new laws will lead to fewer DWI convictions and alcohol-related crashes and deaths. If you or someone you love was killed or injured by a drunk driver, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation.