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Are Alcoholics Protected by the ADA in DUI Cases?

Are Alcoholics Protected by the ADA in DUI Cases?

Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog

I've argued in past posts that the criminal justice system's punitive approach to the drunk driving problem has proven ineffective (see "MADDness"). Pushed to come up with a better approach, I later suggested that the primary danger is not the social drinker but the recidivist/alcoholic -- and that throwing him in jail accomplishes nothing (see "Time for a Change"). The punitive model does not work with the alcoholic; the rehabilitative model is the only one that makes sense.

I was reading an email today from a very sharp DUI attorney (and friend and fellow Berkeley alum) in Arizona, Jeffrey Siirtola. Jeff suggested that requiring DUI suspects with physical infirmities to perform field sobriety tests was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Similarly, punishing a person with impaired lung capacity for being unable to breath hard enough to provide a breath sample. Makes sense.

Later, I asked myself: What about alcoholics? Isn't alcoholism a disease or condition -- and aren't they being discriminated against by being thrown in jail because of their condition? No, I argued back, they are being thrown in jail because of their condition and choosing to drive a vehicle. But wait a minute, isn't that a Catch-22? We outlaw DUI because mental and physical facilities are impaired, so wouldn't the decision to drive be impaired by the alcohol to which the alcoholic is addicted?

Now, before you decide I've finally lost it, consider....

1. Alcoholism is a recognized disease.

2. The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to alcoholics: "...alcoholics are individuals with disabilities, subject to the protections of the statute." (28 CFR Part 35, Sec. 35.13, Department of Justice, Offices of the Attorney General)

3. The provisions of the ADA apply to "any State or local government; any department, agency, special purpose district, or other

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