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

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

Posted

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.

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8 comments

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Posted

Any attorney who thinks that AA meetings are legal as a condition of bail should research Proposition 4 and Proposition 8.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

Why is it presumed that the AA attendance is a condition of bail? Couldn't the court have conditioned the requested continuance on the agreement of the requesting party to attend the meetings? Judges believe that a discretionary act on the part of the court at the request of a party can be conditional.

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Posted

So you're suggesting the judge said you have to plead or else to get a continuance I'm going to require you to do AA? That hardly seems legal either.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

On what ground would it be unlawful? Courts condition their assent to parties' requests for discretionary accommodations all the time.

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Posted

"At my arraignment we plead not guilty and got a continuance to a 2nd hearing 2 months out." What part of a 2nd hearing after an arraignment leads you to believe the continuance is discretionary? A readiness conference is the logical next hearing, followed by a trail date. Do you believe the prosecution was prepared to proceed to trial at arraignment? An out of custody defendant has to be brought to trial within 45 days of arraignment without a time waiver, that's statutory, not discretionary. There is nothing discretionary about another hearing after an arraignment, the HAS to be one! Granted I've only been doing this for 6.5 years as a deputy DA and a defense attorney but I have NEVER heard a judge say you can get a continuance if you go to AA meetings. What I've heard them say hundreds, if not thousands of times, is as a condition of your release you must attend AA meetings.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

Don't shoot the messenger. This issue has been addressed at Judicial College over the past three years, and by multiple County counsel's offices. You can, of course, argue to the court that you are "requesting" for form's sake only, and that the court is required to give you a continuance.

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Posted

I certainly don't mean to come across as shooting the messenger and if I do I apologize. I cannot fathom how a hearing following arraignment can be considered discretionary? Nor do I buy that just because they teach something in the Judicial College that it is right. Most Judges don't understand the interplay between Prop 4 and 8 until it is explained to them.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

I think the discretionary accommodation by the court is not in the required hearing, as you have argued here, but in allowing the defense request for additional time for the hearing, beyond what the statute calls for. If you aren't making a request of the court that the court has any power to say "no" to, as to any element or component, then the AA as religion issue is sound (see the case cited and quoted below to another responder). If your request asks for any grace or accommodation -- as in a time extension, as the asker here originally described -- then I think the court is right that it can exact conditions for granting that accommodation.

Posted

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

Seth Weinstein, Esq.

This reply should NOT be considered a legal opinion of your case / inquiry. At this time I do not have sufficient factual/legal documentation to give a complete answer to your question and there may be more to the issues you raised then I have set out in my brief reply.

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Posted

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.

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1 comment

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Christopher Paul Sohovich

Posted

I do not want to argue in this forum because we are all here to help. Please email me and I will send you the bail motion which contains the relevant law on bail.

Posted

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.

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Posted

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 as a course of action without having first consulted directly with an attorney, where the specific facts and circumstances of your case can be fully discussed.

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Posted

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. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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Posted

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.

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6 comments

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

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

Posted

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

Posted

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

Posted

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

Posted

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

Posted

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.

Posted

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 she should consult with an attorney before taking a course of action based upon information contained in this website. The information on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

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2 comments

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

See the Griffin v Coughlin cite and quote in this thread. There are other equally definitive cases reaching the same result.

David Matthew Piper

David Matthew Piper

Posted

Well, I am on my phone (so forgive the typos) and cannot look up the Griffin case right now. What I can say is that when I argued this very issue a few months ago, all the cases that a California judge would consider persuasive involved parole or probation, and not OR pending trial.

Posted

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 first. Good luck:)

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Posted

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 of information in jurisdictions outside California. No two legal situations are alike, and it is impossible to provide accurate legal advice without knowing all the facts of a particular situation. Thus, the information provided in this column should NOT be regarded as individual legal advice, and readers should NOT act upon this information without seeking the opinion of an attorney in their home state. This does NOT constitute an attorney-client relationship and does NOT constitute legal advice. The information provided is for educational and/or informational purposes only.

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Posted

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

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Posted

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.

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