Can a court mandate AA meeting attendance before a DUI conviction?

Asked over 1 year ago - Napa, CA

I was arrested for a DUI (first offender). At my arraignment we plead not guilty and got a continuance to a 2nd hearing 2 months out. The judge mandated two AA meetings a week until then. Is that legal?

Attorney answers (12)

  1. Brian Russell Michaels

    Pro

    Contributor Level 16

    19

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . Personally I don't think it is legal at all. When the Judges in Los Angeles started doing it, it pissed me off to no end. The other attorneys are correct that procedurally the Judges get away with it as a condition of O.R. If you made bail, I do not see how legally the court can get away with this. But it is a cost benefit analysis and while I used to object, it's not worth fighting your probable sentencing Judge on something this minor. Like I tell my DUI clients. AA meetings never killed anyone. Just go. When your case is over, you don't have to go back unless you want to.

  2. Christopher Paul Sohovich

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

    18

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . This should cause some debate on here. I believe they cannot and have an excellent motion on it. However, it happens all the time as a condition of bail. I believe that the ONLY issue for bail is to secure attendance at future court hearings. The mere fact that you have an attorney that can appear pursuant to PC 977 at a DUI hearing secures your appearance.

    Bottom line is, if you don't want to do the AA meetings have your attorney file a bail review motion and contact me (or any other member of CDLA) for a bail motion.

  3. Majid Seyfi

    Contributor Level 10

    15

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I think it's perfectly legal. Safety of the public is an important element of conditional release. Before being granted OR, if your BAC was too high and the judge is concerned that if released, you may continue to drink and drive, he could legally require you to attend AA meetings. Alternatively, he could deny you OR and set bail.

  4. Daniel C Grupenhagen

    Contributor Level 15

    14

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . That should be clarified to "self-help" meetings

    Contributions on AVVO.com in no way create an attorney-client relationship nor are they intended to be relied upon... more
  5. Seth Andrew Weinstein

    Contributor Level 15

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . They can as a condition of an "OR" (Own Recognizance) release. This is the standard at least in Southern California.

    Seth Weinstein, Esq.
    Practicing Criminal Defense in Southern California
    (310) 707-7131
    www.sethweinsteinlaw.com

    This reply should NOT be considered a legal opinion of your case / inquiry. At this time I do not have sufficient... more
  6. Forest Michele Wilkerson

    Contributor Level 8

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . This is irritating, and pretty common. Another issue, in addition to those already raised, is that AA requires that you accept a higher power and thus has a quasi-religious element. It is somewhat similar to the judge requiring you to attend church. The judge may be barred from making this order by the 1st Amendment.

    That said, it hardly seems worth fighting. Especially if this is the judge who may ultimately sentence you, he will look dimly on a fight over AA.

    I do know one judge who went to the trouble of finding a non-religious equivalent to AA in case anybody ever objected to the religious aspect - but he told me nobody ever had.

    Christine C McCall
    Christine C McCall, Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    You are right about the religious issue. Judicial training over the past several years has spotlighted this issue and judges have been provided with lists of non-religious alcohol meeting programs (facetiously called 11-step programs). The courts can and do offer these as substitutes for complying with the orders for attendance when the religious freedom issue is raised.

    Brian Russell Michaels
    Brian Russell Michaels, DUI / DWI Attorney - Los Angeles, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    Interesting issue. Its not religious and god is actually optional from what I have read, but still a novel defense.

    Christine C McCall
    Christine C McCall, Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    Between 1996 and 2007, three federal circuit courts and two state supreme considered the issue of the religious character of AA. Each of the cases involved a person "forced" to participate in AA meetings, either as a condition of parole or probation, or while actually incarcerated. From Griffin v. Coughlin, N Y Court of Appeals: "...doctrinally and as actually practiced in the 12-step methodology, adherence to the A.A. fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization. Followers are urged to accept the existence of God as a Supreme Being, Creator, Father of Light and Spirit of the Universe. In “working” the 12 steps, participants become actively involved in seeking such a God through prayer, confessing wrongs and asking for removal of shortcomings. These expressions and practices constitute, as a matter of law, religious exercise.

    Thus, while it is of course true that the primary objective of A.A. is to enable its adherents to achieve sobriety, its doctrine unmistakably urges that the path to staying sober and to becoming “happily and usefully whole,” is by wholeheartedly embracing traditional theistic belief."

    http://aaagnostica.org/2012/05/27/the-courts-aa-and-religion/

    Brian Russell Michaels
    Brian Russell Michaels, DUI / DWI Attorney - Los Angeles, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    I don't care what the Federal Courts have said. They are wrong. I routinely give out the AA big book to clients with addiction issues and know it well. Read it yourself. It's an interesting intellectual discussion I am happy to have with you privately. I think the question has been fully answered for the purpose here.

    Christine C McCall
    Christine C McCall, Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    Thanks, but no need for a private debate. As I see it, my views and yours don't matter -- on this issue or any of hundreds of others where I might make law differently. What matters for our clients is what the courts say. IMHO.

    Brian Russell Michaels
    Brian Russell Michaels, DUI / DWI Attorney - Los Angeles, CA
    Posted over 1 year ago.

    Well you are using this question to engage in a public debate to make your point which well exceeded the scope of the question. I think its lovely that some Federal Courts hold this opinion. They clearly have not stopped Judges in our state, as evidenced by this question from ordering AA meetings, your citations notwithstanding. I would hate for anyone reading this site to think that having to attend a couple AA meetings is punishment. It saves lives including the lives of many of our clients. The courts I practice in are not persuaded by your citations. And neither am I.

  7. David Matthew Piper

    Contributor Level 15

    12

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . For what it is worth: I believe mandatory AA attendance violates the Constitution. There is the First Amendment argument that AA is, fundamentally, a religious organization and that compelled attendance violates the seperation of church and state. There are several federal appeals courts that say this is the case when it comes to parole or probation. I, however, am not aware of any that say this is true when it comes to release pending trial. Although, the logic is sound and the application should be the same.

    There is also a 14th Amendment argument in that it is mandatory medical treatment under penalty of jail. Even though AA has never been scientifically validated and has a success rate of approximately 5%, it is still government mandated treatment. Much like forced medication, sterilization or any other government forced medical care.

    The practical issue most clients face is that the Court may very well force you to pay bail or sit I'm jail while you argue why you should not be forced to attend this dubious program. Accordingly, most clients feel that a few hours a week in a religious camp is better than the entire week I'm jail. As such, only my clients who have strong religious beliefs/objections ever risk fighting this.

    Reliance on any information in this website is at the sole risk of the user and the user understands that he or... more
  8. Christine C McCall

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    11

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Unless the court was required by statute to extend the date, the court can condition its approval of the requested continuance on the moving party's agreement to attend the meetings (or any other action not prohibited by law).

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice.... more
  9. Zev Goldstein

    Pro

    Contributor Level 14

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I think a better question should be asked.
    Will this judge take into account when considering a plea agreement that the 2 months in a program shows that you are serious about the DUI, and are making sure it will not happen again.

    Yes, the strict question of whether the Judge is correct in mandating the attendance is interpretable, (I see at lest 4 options here on avvo so, and I am sure there are more), however I think you should talk to your attorney, (if you have one) about the possible benefits of attending these programs, or perhaps another one which does not use the unsavory G word.

    Perhaps counseling and drug classes?

    Godd luck!

    This is not legal advice. If order to give you legal advice i would need to see the Tickets and talk to the court... more
  10. Robert Lee Hamilton

    Contributor Level 6

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Absolutely NOT - AA is a religion (the 12-steps are to a higher power) and requiring you to attend is a violation of your First Amendment Right to be free of State sponsored religion. Furthermore, you have only been accused of a crime - not convicted. Any term and condition of your release is only to ensure your return to court for further proceedings. It's purpose is not to punish or reform you pursuant to a crime for which you have not (yet) been convicted.

    Robert Lee Hamilton is licensed to practice law in the state of California. He cannot speak to the applicability... more
  11. Ross Benjamin Green

    Contributor Level 7

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It is legal to require some type of counseling. But, to force AA is not due to its religious implications.

  12. Gael Gisvold Mueller

    Contributor Level 1

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . At Central Coast courts this can be a normal requirement. We are trying to educate our judges that AA is not for everyone and is religious based. We have managed to get some judges to EITHER make the defendant subject to testing OR AA. Many opt for AA for the obvious reason. Is it legal? In my opinion, no. That comes from the religious aspect of the group and the fact that AA does nothing to keep a person sober. Therefore it does not meet the standard for public safety.

Related Topics

DUI: An overview

The definition, charges, and penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) vary by state and depend on a number of factors.

DUI and DWI defenses

After you are arrested for DUI, getting the charges against you dropped or reduced will require you to develop a defense.

Randy Collins

California DUI Under Age 21

Definition California DUI Under Age 21, as the name suggests, is when a minor drinks and drives under the influence of alcohol. More specifically, Californias Zero Tolerance laws define... more

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.

 

Ask now

27,672 answers this week

3,133 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

27,672 answers this week

3,133 attorneys answering