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Court-Mandated A.A. - The Debate

Dateline: 05/05/99

Recently a U.S. Federal Court ruled that court mandated attendance in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings was unconstitutional because of the "deeply religious nature" of A.A. Meetings, as a result of a lawsuit brought by an atheist who had been court-ordered into the program.

Drunk Driving

The Dangers
The penalties and the consequences of driving while intoxicated.

The effect of this ruling could be the prohibition against judges, probation officers and drunk driving school counselors ordering violators into Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in an effort to rehabilitate chronic offenders and problem drinkers.

Although the process differs from state to state, generally offenders are not automatically sent into Alcoholics Anonymous just because they are charged with a drunk-driving offense. In many areas, a counselor interviews the offender, gives them an evaluation test, and only if it is determined the person may have a chronic drinking problem, will the counselor recommend or mandate AA attendance.

The court ruling sparked a debate within the recovery community concerning just how effective court-mandated attendance was in the first place and whether or not it effected the 12-step groups to which these offenders were sent.

Visitors to the bulletin board here at the About.com Alcoholism site entered into a vigorous debate on the pros and cons of mandated attendance. Here are some of the highlights of their comments:

The Pros

The Seed Planted
I have never considered it a waste of time. If only one person gets it, it is not a mistake.

Searching for Recovery
I have never seen a meeting disrupted by the "courties" and personally know several who became long term AA members.

Open Meetings
Our district has made a meeting list of all open meetings in the area and have made that list available to the police, courts, and libraries.

Carrying the Message
If nothing else, they now know where to go if they ever do get serious about recovery.

What's the Goal?
Keep in mind that the court's goal is not to help people go straight -- only to convince them not to drink and drive.

Tell Somebody
If we can save one life by somebody telling somebody to go to AA, then it is worth it. If we stop one drunken driver from killing somebody it is worth it.

The Cons

Not an Arm of the Law
Helping someone in authority to force someone to attend AA seems to be against the traditions of our voluntary organisation.

Damaging to AA
If we believe in attraction not promotion how can we then say its OK for our government to force attendance?

Attraction Not Promotion
So if the courts want people to get well send them to everyone and let them find the program that works for them.

Impose Fines, Not AA
You don't have to be an alcoholic to endanger people's lives by operating a vehicle under the influence.

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