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"Alcoholism program requirements" in Washington State for deferred prosecution.

Yakima, WA |

I am currently seeking a deferred prosecution for a DUI, however, one of the requirement from the state and the treatment facility is that I attend 2-3 "self-help recovery support group, as determined by the assessing agency, for the duration of the treatment program" (RCW 10.05.150 #3). Well, I'm a strict atheist, and I've found both treatment and AA meetings to be extremely uncomfortable from the constant references to a higher power, God, and prayers. The places claim not to be religious, but just one glance at one of the required books and it becomes clear they have a Christian tone. My question is, does this violate the First Amendment? If so, how can I go about having this issue resolved? I feel like I'm being forced by the courts into believing in a God.

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Attorney answers 3


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal has held that AA is a religious organization and requiring a person to attend AA would violate the person's religious rights.

WA statutes do not specifically require a defendant to attend AA. WA does require the defendant to attend treatment programs.

There likely are programs that do not have religious components. You just have to look around and ask the court to approve your treatment under those programs.

It is unlikely that the court is ordering you to attend AA to expose you to religion. It is just that AA is widely established and easy to attend for most defendants. I am sure there are plenty of atheist drunks just as there are plenty of religious drunks. You just have to do the research to find the places where you can obtain treatment.



The only problem is living in Yakima, WA, which is extremely conservative, I have yet to find a place that is not AA. I know other places exist, but I just don't think there is one in Yakima county...


If you don't believe you don't believe. Go through the program and do all that you can to understand your problem, because if you are seeking a DP you have a problem with substance abuse. You need to dig deep and understand where your inner fortitude will come? Why do you want to quit? Will it be for others, family, friends, etc? Will it be for yourself alone? This is your program and I encourage you to really try and stop drinking. It will improve your life and the life of those around you. Your belief or lack of it shouldn't stop you from taking advantage of the programs available to you through a DP, to improve your life and save you from jail. Good Luck



If you're an attorney and saying, "I don't understand how you can't believe in God," I wish you luck with your career. And you really didn't answer my question.

Patrick Owen Earl

Patrick Owen Earl


I am first a husband and father. What I do for a living is way down on the list of importance to me. What I was saying is that I hope you are able to understand your issues and dependence on alcohol to get through the DP program and never have a problem with substance abuse again. You will have to turn to something or someone and I wish you well. As for you question about the 1st amendment, you will have to answer this for yourself as you start the program understand how to quit. I haven't heard of any challenge to these type of programs so if you want to challenge them then you will have to find an attorney or agency to help you. I don't know of anyone that would take on such a case.


Posted I'm assuming that's why it says "self-help" not "AA." Please actually cite your sources, and backup what you are saying. I get that you are an attorney, but clearly what you say can be wrong. Too, I am in treatment and do attend AA, that's why I am saying that they make me feel uncomfortable from the constant God talk. Thank you, have a good Christmas.


A first amendment violation would be difficult to prove unless the religious dogma is overt. Generally they refer to Higher Power rather than "god." I know some people who think of "society" or even "the court" as the Higher Power The Higher Power doesn't need to be a religious entity.

Treatment agencies generally work with people of all faiths, and I am certain that all of them have worked with clients who do not have any faith in any religion. They may actually be fairly accommodating of atheists. Look around and try to find a good treatment agency that is at least accepting of your rational point of view.

Lastly, I assume that you have carefully thought this through, but if you do not have an attorney I would strongly recommend at least consulting with a criminal defense attorney before going through with the deferred prosecution. I am certain that there are attorneys in your area who would provide a free consultation regarding your case. If you want to do treatment, fine, but you can do that on your own without the onerous burden that a deferred prosecution can present.

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