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In many states, one of the steps following a drunk driving arrest (DUI, DWI or OWI) or another alcohol-related arrest is an alcohol assessment, also sometimes called an alcohol evaluation. Alcohol assessments are required for DUI, DWI and OWI cases because state governments are concerned drunk driving indicates general alcohol misuse. Depending on the conclusions of your alcohol assessment, you might be required to complete an alcohol treatment program.
Each state has its own process for alcohol assessments. Many involve talking with a health care professional or completing a written “quiz,” or both, to determine if, in the eyes of the state, you have an alcohol or a substance abuse problem. If the assessment determines that your alcohol use is a problem, your assessment provider may recommend an alcohol treatment program.
The timeline depends on your state’s laws and your lawyer’s advice. The assessment may be required by legal authorities following your arrest or conviction, or your legal team may recommend it prior to legal proceedings. If you’re not sure if you need an alcohol assessment before your court date, you should seek legal assistance.
In some states, you must complete the assessment before sentencing because the results help the judge determine what penalties to impose. The extent of your alcohol abuse, as determined by the assessment, can result in increased or reduced penalties and requirements. Assessments and treatment programs help with participating in diversionary programs or receiving a deferred sentence. In some states, the assessment is required within a particular window following sentencing as a condition of probation.
Again, the exact details of an alcohol assessment vary by state, but they’ll always involve answering questions about your alcohol use and history, and may also touch on drug use. A typical example of a written assessment is the World Health Organization’s ASSIST assessment, but states have their own individual tests, too.
In Michigan, for instance, an alcohol assessment involves speaking in-person with a counselor to screen for an assessment, then answering a series of questions. In Wisconsin, the assessment consists of a one-on-one interview with a counselor. Regardless of where you live, you’ll likely do some Q&A with a counselor and may also complete written or multiple choice questions. Some states require you to take a drug test.
Alcohol assessment locations vary based on your state’s regulations and the facilities available in your state, county or city. Typical locations are county health and human services department offices, health clinics and treatment centers. You can expect the assessment to take 30 to 60 minutes, but the length will vary based on how in-depth your discussion gets.
Depending on whether your assessment involves a drug test or not, you may get results right away. The assessment provider may be able to “score” your results in a matter of a few minutes. In most states, the DMV or court receives a copy of your assessment results.
Once your assessment results have been passed on to the DMV or court system, an administrative authority determines next steps, including evaluating whether the assessment and treatment plan (if any) are appropriate and if the assessor recommends you for a driver’s license.
If your alcohol assessment indicates that your drunk driving incident was an isolated case of one mistake, you may not be required to enter a treatment program. If your assessment does indicate your arrest is part of a pattern of alcohol misuse, you’ll likely have to enter a treatment program.
If your alcohol assessment includes a recommendation for a treatment program, state laws determine when, how and for how long you’ll participate in this program. If you need to find a treatment program, DUI.org can help you.
Treatment programs vary by state, the nature of your arrest and the severity of your alcohol misuse (as indicated in your assessment). A program could be in-patient or out-patient and might include Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, drug and alcohol testing, a risk reduction plan, a safe driving plan and group treatment.
For example, California’s treatment plans vary by how many drunk driving offenses you have, your BAC at the time of arrest and if your drunk driving arrest also included a reckless driving charge. California treatment programs range from three months to 30 months and can include as little as 12 hours of counseling or as much as 78 hours.
Depending on your sentence, a judge may review your case again after completion of a treatment program or completion may be a term of your probation or the reinstatement of your driving privileges. If your driving privileges are reinstated, you’ll need to prepare to get back on the road with SR-22 insurance and by meeting ignition interlock device requirements. We’re here to provide the resources you need.
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