In California every DUI sentence includes mandatory DUI education classes (often called “DUI School”). These classes are meant to discourage you from driving under the influence again. It’s arguable how effective they are at actually reducing DUI rates, but they are mandatory.
There are three kinds of classes you may be ordered to take: DUI traffic school, an alcohol treatment program, and/or a deterrent program. DUI traffic school is required and the others may or may not be ordered by the judge.
DUI traffic school is a classroom style course designed to teach you about the risks, dangers, and realities of drunk driving. It can be very short or it can last years. The length depends mainly on whether you have previous DUIs. The five different courses are:
- 12 hour class. This class is mainly for “wet reckless” If you were convicted of an actual DUI charge, the 12 hour course is not an option.
- 3 month program. This is the standard class for most first time DUI’s.
- 9 month program. This class is for first time DUI’s involving a very high blood alcohol level. It’s also used for repeat “wet reckless” offenses.
- 18 month program. This is standard for most second time DUI’s.
- 30 month program. This is standard for most third time DUI’s. It’s also used for second time DUI’s involving a very high blood alcohol level. (This class is not available statewide, but is used across Los Angeles county.)
Aside from attending and completing the classes, you are not allowed to drink or use drugs. You must remain dry until the entire program is complete. If you don’t, you’ll face penalties for violating probation.
You can find a list of DUI school providers here.
Alcohol treatment programs are designed for people who have an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease, and can be treated. The goal of the program is that you will never drink again.
This presents a difficult area legally, because the judge has no way to know whether you are addicted to alcohol or not. He can only guess based on your actions. Judges mainly use this option only if you have repeat DUI offenses.
Usually the judge will order you to attend meetings with Alcoholics Anonymous. The judge chooses how many you have to attend. You can go once a week, or if you want to finish faster, you can go twice a week. You can also choose to go more than twice a week, but these extra meetings won’t count toward your total.
You can search for California AA groups here. If you request it, you may also be able to complete alcohol treatment with a non-AA program or by checking into a rehabilitation program.
Deterrent programs are designed to scare you into never driving drunk again. They are supposed to make you think about the consequences of your ways. They can be ordered for first-time DUI offenses, especially of younger defendants. They’re also used widely for repeat offenders.
California’s main deterrent program is run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a nonprofit. The program is called the Victim Impact Panel (VIP). It’s a one day program lasting two and a half hours. During the program, you will hear from speakers whose lives have been personally affected by drunk driving. This usually means people who lost a loved one to an accident. You may also hear from police officers and others.
In Los Angeles, you may instead be ordered into the Hospital and Morgue program (HAM). It is run by the county coroner’s office. In HAM, you will do an in-person visit to the morgue, and a second visit to a local hospital ER. The goal is to show you firsthand the costs of drunk driving. It is not a pleasant experience. Each visit lasts four hours.
You can find your nearest MADD Victim Impact Panel here and HAM offices here.
Paying for DUI Education Programs
The mandatory DUI traffic school is expensive, and you have to pay the cost out of pocket. Costs vary widely, but are roughly:
- $250+ for the 12 hour program.
- $800+ for the 3-month program.
- $1,800+ for the 9-month program.
- $2,000+ for the 18-month program.
- $3,000 or more for the 30-month program.
If you can’t afford the program, you may qualify for a reduced price. It will depend on your income level and you have to show documentation. It will still not be free, but you may get a discount. You could even pay as little as $5/month.
The other programs may also have fees, but they are much lower. Ask the specific provider you go to what, if any, fees you must pay.
Completing Your DUI Program
No matter what the DUI program, you must obtain documented proof that you enrolled, attended, and completed it. You have to submit these documents to the court on time or you will face additional penalties.
Dealing with DUI education is not fun. Even a 3-month program or longer is time consuming and expensive. The best thing you can do is talk to a DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Your DUI lawyer may be able to reduce the charge and minimize the time (and cost) you spend on DUI classes. They might even be able to win your case for you.
We can help you find a DUI lawyer who has the right experience for your case. Simply provide us with some basic details and we’ll match you with a top Los Angeles DUI lawyer—and a 100% FREE consultation. Don’t delay. Fill out the form to the right and get your free consultation today.