Alcohol and Drug Screening in DUI cases
Nearly every state has some form of court ordered alcohol or substance abuse counseling that is required for DUI offenders. The rules for screening and counseling vary from state to state. The majority of states require first time and/or repeat offenders to enroll in some kind of substance abuse treatment program. Such programs are usually part of probation or parole conditions. To determine what level of counseling is appropriate for individual offenders, some state statutes also impose a mandatory substance abuse screening, a process oftendone prior to sentencing. In Alaska dui cases, for example, any person convicted of a felony DUI must be evaluated and screened pursuant to an alcohol safety action program before the court can impose a sentence. In Arizona DUI cases, the screening typically comes after sentencing. In Washington State DUI cases, an alcohol evaluation is usually necessary before any kind of plea bargain is reached. Check the laws of your state and consult with a local DUI lawyer to find out what alcohol or drug screening requirements might be necessary in your DUI case.
The purpose of these screening and counseling laws is simple – without some sort of rehabilitative help, those suffering from addictions are more likely to be repeat offenders. And without first screening each person individually, the right amount of treatment cannot be given. Without screening or counseling, imposing monetary or even jail sentences are not always enough to deter future misconduct. Instead, alcohol abuse counseling programs to rehabilitate may be the better option. That’s not to say you will not have to serve time in jail or pay fines. Some combination of abuse treatment, house arrest, and minimum mandatory jail time and fines will still be imposed.
It is not uncommon for a defense attorney to advise clients to attend AA meetings or other alcohol abuse counseling while their cases are still pending. In North Carolina, obtaining DWI screening prior to court is a mitigating factor that could result in portions of your sentenced being reduced. Such assessment screenings can be completed online. They are often in the form of a short question and answer survey, and take about 15 minutes to complete. These surveys can produced skewed results however, and many critics doubt their effectiveness to correctly classify offenders.
The fees for alcohol screening and substance abuse programs vary. Defendants are usually required to pay any costs in addition to any court fines imposed. For example, in New Mexico, a first time DUI conviction requires the defendant to pay a $100 fee for alcohol/substance abuse screening, in addition to the other mandatory fines. Some states allow the court fines to be reduced or offset by the cost of substance abuse counseling.
Counseling is important, and as part of your sentence or probation you are required to complete all sessions. Failure to adhere to the court ordered requirements may result in increased penalties and probation violations. Additionally, many state driving agencies will not re-issue a driving license or permit until the counseling conditions have been properly fulfilled.
If you are suffering from an alcohol or substance abuse problem, it is highly recommended that you seek help. For help with your questions and concerns regarding any of these programs, contact an experienced attorney in your area for information.