If an alcohol-related disturbance ends in a trip to the courthouse, the judge might try to mandate alcoholics anonymous (AA) meetings. There’s just one problem. There are many arguments that court-ordered AA meetings violate the Establishment Clause and may even be unconstitutional. That’s why anyone accused of alcohol-related crimes should take a moment to understand their rights and court-ordered AA meetings.


AA isn’t therapy; it’s religion. The 12-step process makes multiple references to asking God for forgiveness and having a “spiritual awakening.” Not only that, but the language seems to indicate that this is a specific god, which alienates both non-Abrahamic religions and secularists. In 1996, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals stated AA meetings are “intensely religious events.”

The court cannot force people to attend religious events as part of punishment or parole requirements. They can, however, mandate that a secular activity take its place. That might mean formal rehab, therapy counseling, or an alternative to AA.


The problem with alternatives is that they’re rarely free. Therapy and rehab cost money. AA meetings are free, daily meetings in nearly every American community. That’s where an attorney comes in. An experienced attorney can argue over a proper penalty or even negate the penalty entirely.

They might help their clients find secular AA meetings or fund alternatives. They could also negotiate for shorter terms that can reduce the notorious “90 meetings in 90 days” requirement.

An attorney does their best to protect their client’s rights. Although it is a favorite penalty of many courts, 25 years of legal precedent says no judge can force a defendant or even an imprisoned person to attend AA meetings. Nor can they threaten them with jail time. It’s not just immoral; it’s potentially unconstitutional.
If you are charged with an alcohol-related crime, you might want legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Indian Trial criminal defense attorney from Pinnacle Law to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call 704-625-0691.