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Alcoholics Anonymous as a Condition of Drunk Driving Probation: When Does It Amount to Establishment of Religion?

Michael G. Honeymar, Jr.
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 97, No. 2 (Mar., 1997), pp. 437-472
DOI: 10.2307/1123367
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1123367
Page Count: 36
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Alcoholics Anonymous as a Condition of Drunk Driving Probation: When Does It Amount to Establishment of Religion?
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Abstract

For nearly two decades state legislatures have been wrestling with the problem of drunk driving. In an effort to attack this problem at its core, most drunk driving legislation currently in effect contains educational and rehabilitation requirements, and many driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders are sentenced to probation rather than incarceration. As part of their probationary conditions, DWI offenders are often directed to participate in alcohol-related self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Requiring AA as a probationary condition for DWI offenses, however, raises serious constitutional issues under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause because the AA program of recovery is religiously oriented. This Note contends that compulsory AA as a condition of drunk driving probation violates the Establishment Clause. What this Note views as the more complex issue, however, is what exactly amounts to compulsory AA. After surveying the relevant case law, this Note presents a nonexhaustive list of factors courts might examine in the course of addressing this inquiry. A review of AA's approach to rehabilitation, leads the author to conclude that AA qualifies as a religious program for purposes of the Establishment Clause. The author also argues that the applicable case law indicates that an Establishment Clause violation will only be found where the probationer has been denied the freedom to choose between religious and nonreligious support programs. To prevent state authorities charged with formulating DWI probationary conditions from committing future Establishment Clause violations, the author recommends legislative or administrative guidelines similar to California's administrative scheme designed to guarantee state compliance with the Establishment Clause. Such guidelines would both safeguard probationers' constitutional rights and protect state probation authorities from potential liability.

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