Is Jail Really the Best Option for DUI Crimes? (Guest Post)

new-bitmap-image_1Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any substance (marijuana, illegal drugs, over-the-counter medications, inhalants, etc.) that can impede a person’s ability to drive is unlawful in all fifty states of the U.S., including the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico. The specific laws and penalties for DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated), however, vary from state to state.

For instance, in the state of Kentucky, DUI is regarded as a serious criminal offense. While driving with a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of at least 0.08% is illegal in the U.S. and already require sanctions, Kentucky imposes enhanced penalties for drunken driving offenders with a BAC of 0.15 or higher.

What is the Cost of DUI?

Impaired driving is a serious issue as records show that one person dies every 50 minutes (almost 29 people a day) in the United States because of a motor vehicle accident that involves a drunk driver. In Kentucky, more than 2,000 people were been killed in crashes involving a drunk driver from 2003 to 2012, and despite coverage in the news and anti-drunk driving campaign, a survey showed that 1.5 percent of adults have reported driving even after consuming too much alcohol in the past thirty days. This figure is near the national percentage of 1.9 percent.

What is the Best Strategy for Reducing DUI?

Given the cost of DUI crimes described above, it is clear that there is a need to find the best intervention strategy that will effectively reduce the occurrence of DUI. The most common motor vehicle safety strategies used to achieve this end include drunk driving laws, sobriety checkpoints, and ignition interlocks, among others.

While these strategies may contribute positively to lessen DUI offenses, evidence suggests that DUI reoffending rate remains high. Despite a large number of people arrested for DUI and the strict penalties being imposed, studies show that up to 33% of DUI offenders regress or fall back to the same pattern. Evidently, jail time and steep fines do not directly translate to a reduction in re-arrest.

Instead of just focusing on the administration of external controls like jail sentences, DUI prevention strategies should consider addressing substance or alcohol dependence among DUI drivers by helping them receive suitable addiction treatment services. Note that in Kentucky, DUI penalties include participation in alcohol or substance abuse program or treatment even in the first offense.

study on reducing DUI reoffending rates support the need to include a prevention education program with substance abuse treatment as the same revealed the following favorable results:

▪ DUI offenders who were subjected to and completed a program that included a counseling treatment technique known as Motivational Interviewing (MI) had significantly lower rates of re-arrest (from 9.9 percent down to 7.4 percent).

▪  DUI offenders who were subjected to and completed a Motivation Enhancement (ME) Program plus substance abuse treatment also had significantly lower rates of re-arrest (from 14.7 percent down to 12.1 percent).

▪   DUI offenders regardless of gender, age, and previous DUI arrest experienced lower rates of re-arrest when they were subjected to and completed a Motivation Enhancement Program.

Given these results, it is evident that the value of alcohol or substance abuse treatment in addressing the serious problem of DUI crimes, should not be ignored when crafting laws and policies on the issue.


Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of addiction and mental health. After battling with addiction himself, Dale has decided to write about these topics to help reduce the stigma associated with both. Dale is also an avid sports fan, both watching and playing.

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