This article about the alcohol bias in Michigan DUI cases is not intended to be a “Cliff Notes” or a summary of the larger, 8-part article examining how it functions in the court system. If anything, I hope that what the reader finds here will motivate him or her to read all 8 installments of the larger piece. The alcohol bias, at its most basic, is the pre-supposition, within the court system, that essentially results in everyone going through a DUI being treated as if they either have, or are at risk, to develop a drinking problem.
The bias operates beneath the consciousness of everyone working in the courts, although it really is a controlling factor in how DUI cases are processed. The implication of the alcohol bias is the idea that most DUI drivers are, to some extent, risky drinkers, and should be treated as such. This notion is strongly supported by studies consistently showing that DUI drivers, as a group, have a statistically higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. As true as that may be, the other implication, too often overlooked, is that plenty of people showing up for a 1st offense DUI case DON’T have a drinking problem.
Rather than taking a chance of missing someone who either has an actual drinking problem, or who is otherwise at risk for one to develop later, the courts believe that “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” As a result, just about every court, in every DUI case, requires at least some level of alcohol education, if not counseling and/or treatment for every 1st-time offender. The real-world effect of the bias is that anyone going through a DUI is, at a minimum, going to have to do some drinking prevention type “stuff.”