The 5 Reasons To Enroll in a Traffic Alcohol Program After a First DUI Offense in Washington, DC
I invariably advise every client arrested for suspicion of DUI to consider enrolling in a Traffic Alcohol Program (TAP). In response, people exhibit skepticism and I regularly hear, “Doesn’t that make me look guilty?” and, whereas I understand the thinking behind the question, my answer is more often than not, “No.”
My objective with each client who engages our law firm is to beat the case – whether it be through a dismissal, a not guilty verdict, a reduced charge – and/or a positive resolution. Of course, the reality is that, some cases present more challenging facts and/or circumstances than others. For example, cases involving motor vehicle accidents and/or high breath alcohol scores – the legal limit in Washington, DC and nationally is .08. For the 5 reasons listed below, I strongly advise most clients to pursue a traffic alcohol program (also called and known as Alcohol Education Program) to position themselves favorably.
#1 – Completion of Traffic Alcohol Program
Every DUI arrest, in Washington, DC or Maryland, typically involves a DMV or MVA attendant potential consequence where the Motor Vehicle Administration threatens to suspend your driving privileges based simply on the fact of the arrest and observations of the arresting officer. In short, one could in theory be found not guilty of the DUI charges and still face suspension at the DMV or MVA. Proof of a completed – a certificate or letter – traffic alcohol program (TAP) greatly reduces that possibility and/or allows for other options short of outright suspension. A typical program consists of a series of sessions which seek to educate drivers about the risks of driving dangerously, including drunk and impaired driving. Usually these are conducted one night per week for about twelve (12) weeks. However, a number of other programs are also available which run during the day or on weekends allowing for schedules of working and professional individuals.
#2 – Enrolling in a Traffic Alcohol Program
Judges, if they have to sentence a defendant or make a discretionary decision between imposing a particular sentence of Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) or simply probation, oftentimes “commend” clients for taking “proactive steps” to address what, almost all, judges view as a “problem”* (or a potential one). I have had judges continue sentencing to have a client either be evaluated to determine the need for treatment or to enroll in and complete a traffic alcohol program or classes. A probation before judgment (PBJ) resolution in Maryland avoids the automatic 12 points which suspends your driving privileges and it is not a conviction on your record.
#3 – Traffic Alcohol Programs Lead to Better Plea Offers
Prosecutors also weigh this factor when they make plea offers or allow for a favorable disposition of a case. I was recently in court in Maryland for a third DUI trial call. The police officer had appeared for every previous trial call. At the last hearing, the judge had continued the case for the prosecutor to provide the radio run – police communication – made at the time of the traffic stop. In the interim, the prosecutor had provided some things related to the call, but not the actual radio run. Recognizing this, and in an attempt to salvage the case, she quickly offered a Reckless Driving plea in return for a dismissal of the greater DUI charge. We quickly accepted the offer. It helped tremendously that the client had enrolled in and completed a traffic alcohol program.
#4 – Revisiting DC Traffic Laws and Lesson
The educational, and by extension important public safety, benefit is also another reason for taking a traffic alcohol program. All too often it has been years or decades since the average first DUI offender has completed a driving exam or road safety test with respect to the general rules of the roads and highways. Alcohol-related fatalities resulting from drunk-driving accidents have become a major issue nationally and in the general Washington, DC metro area where there have been some high-profile fatalities over the last several years (Noah’s Law has resulted in Maryland and DC doubled their jail penalties for second DUI convictions and high breath scores). I tell clients to think of it as a traffic safety program but in this instance the emphasis is alcohol education. In addition to preventing a raise in your insurance premiums, in some states taking driver improvement classes can be a cause in a reduction in payment.
#5 – Saving Lots of Money with your Insurance Provider
Everyone loves saving money (or avoid paying more of it). Therefore, if you can save on insurance premiums that would also be another reason for taking advantage of a traffic alcohol program. Insurance companies like to find reasons (read excuses) for raising your rates after an accident or a DUI arrest and having proof of a certificate of completion goes a long way to negate their rationale. This particularly so as they all love to convey “accident forgiveness” type incentives for signing up with or choosing their individual companies. Taking advantage of an alcohol education program would be similar to the rationale employed with accident forgiveness and viewed as scoring points in exchange for a lower rate.
Resources, Helpful Links, & Suggestions
I often suggest Ryan Rehabilitation, D.A. Wynne and Counseling Plus, Inc. amongst others in the DMV area. I will also, usually on a case-by-case basis, recommend a Victim Impact Panel as administered by www.MADD.org.
I disagree, by and large, with this overly general approach especially because I find that, in my twenty plus years of experience defending DUI allegations, most first time DUI arrests are a result of errors in judgment and/or mistake. That is to say, the average individual can find him or herself facing a DUI charge because they had a little more to drink than normal or thought and felt they could make it home safely and without incident.
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