Why You May Need a Substance Abuse Assessment

We advise most of our clients to undergo Substance Abuse Assessment as one of the first things that they do after they hire us.  There are multiple reasons that we do this.  The first is so that you can apply to get a Limited Driving Privilege. A Pretrial Limited Driving Privilege allows you to go to work, take care of your household, and go to any alcohol education classes that you may attend.  This privilege is important, because it allows you mobility, and lets you drive legally.  If you chose to drive without a Privilege, and are caught, you could be charged with a Driving While License Revoked (Impaired).  This is a terrible charge to get, so you should be sure not to drive without a Driving Privilege.

Substance Abuse AssessmentThe second reason that we want you to get a Substance Abuse Assessment is to help build the mitigators in your case.  While we try to fight your charges, in the event you were to be found guilty, we would want to be ready to show the judge that you are taking the charges seriously.  Judges typically like to see that a person has taken and Assessment, because it shows that you are taking steps to resolve any potential alcohol problem.  Taking a Substance Abuse Assessment before going before the judge for sentencing shows that you acknowledge that you could have a problem and have stepped forward to address it.

The third reason we advise you to undergo assessment is that you have to get one done before you can get your license back if you are convicted.  The judge will often say that the defendant is ordered to complete an alcohol assessment if he has not already, before he or she will get her license back.  You would already have that aspect of the sentence completed by the time that you are in front of the judge.

Finally, it may be a good idea for some of our clients to find out if they have a problem with alcohol.  Sometimes, a charge of DWI is enough to let a person know that they have a problem.  An assessment can help you realize if you have a problem that needs to be addressed by some treatment. So what is an assessment like?  Typically, you go and answer questions about your drinking habits and history.  You will not have to undergo any alcohol testing while you are there.  You should answer the questions honestly, so that your assessment is helpful.  An assessment usually lasts around 45 minutes.  The person administering the substance abuse assessment will determine what level of treatment you need.

Levels of Substance Abuse Treatment

There are several different levels of treatment that can be recommended.  The lowest level is a class that you must take.  On the other hand, you could be asked to submit to inpatient treatment for a period of time.  We typically advise you to submit to the treatment as well.  This is for three primary reasons.  The first is that the alcohol treatment helps you show the judge that you are serious about taking care of any drinking problem.  When a judge sees that you have spent 20 hours getting alcohol abuse treatment, or spent days in inpatient treatment, or that you have complied with whatever the recommended level of treatment is, he or she can really see that you have taken it seriously and have acknowledged an alcohol problem.

The second way that it can be helpful is that it may actually help people who really do have trouble with alcohol.  While the classes and/or treatment may be considered a waste of time by some, we have had some clients that have benefited from the treatment.  If you are willing to put in some effort, you may improve your life.  Of course, for many of their clients, they are only social drinkers, or light drinkers, so it may not have the same benefit for everyone.

The last reason that we advise people to follow through with treatment is so that they can get their license.  The Division of Motor Vehicles will require you to get the Substance Abuse Assessment’s suggested level of treatment before they will license you.  Since the Substance Abuses Assessments are only valid for 6 months, we encourage you to go ahead and complete the suggested level of treatment.  We will, of course, fight your case all the way through trial.  However, we want to be prepared for both a not guilty or dismissal, and for a result of guilty. Like it or not, if you are charged with DWI, you will probably have to undergo a Substance Abuse Assessment.

Even if we think that you have a strong case that is likely to prevail, we will still probably recommend that you undergo an assessment.  The fee is $100, and there are a number of providers that can give you an assessment and the classes.  Some may be more convenient for you than others.  We may be able to help you find an assessment center.  Upon completion of the assessment, you can choose when to do the treatment.  However, you have to be aware, the assessment is only good for 6 months.  If you don’t get the treatment within 6 months, you will have to do another assessment, because its recommendation can no longer be used.

So to recap: Substance Abuse Assessments are required for you to get a Pretrial Limited Driving Privilege, they are helpful in building mitigating factors in your case, and are required by the Division of Motor Vehicles to get your license back after a conviction.  They can also be helpful to you if you want to determine if you have a drinking problem.  For all of these reasons, we recommend them for all of our clients.  Further, we recommend that they complete the level of education or treatment that the assessment provider recommends.  Putting this effort forward pays dividends for our clients, and helps many people get more positive outcomes in their cases.