The following article published in the April 2009 DWI Journal: Law & Science. This is only the first few paragraphs. The article was written by Patrick T. Barone. To obtain the entire article, you must subscribe to the Journal.
It is lawful to drink and drive, but unlawful to drink to the point of impairment or intoxication. This is an interesting dichotomy. We are all charged to know the law, and it is often said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. How then can typical, responsible drivers know when their behavior has moved from the lawful to the unlawful? The short answer is that they can’t and they don’t.
Drunk driving is one of the few crimes that a person can commit while specifically intending not to violate the law. But drivers that unintentionally commit the crime are only one of several different offender categories. Some drivers simply have very little control over their decision making. This second offender category include drivers with alcohol or substance abuse problems.
One might expect that different offender types would be treated differently by the criminal justice system, but too often they are not. Judges often pride themselves on how fair they are, i.e., treating everyone the same. This is true despite their constitutional obligation to “individualize” the offender’s sentence. Because of this, you must work hard to make sure the court sees that your client is different, such as by making sure your client becomes receives substance abuse treatment.
But it is also important not to make the same mistake that a judge may make. Unlike the judge, perhaps we all know that simply being charged with a single instance of drunk driving does not necessarily mean that your client is an alcoholic. On the other hand, it may be true that the person with “only one” arrest is an alcoholic. Consequently, this question is worth exploring, even for the first-time offender.