Should I Complete Alcohol and Drug Assessment Before My Trial?

Once arrested for a DUI-DWI offense, most police officers assume that you may have an alcohol or drug problem. The same may be true for your employer, or even family or friends. Right or wrong, just being arrested says to the whole world that you may have a problem. Programs to screen you for problems are widely available, and most can be researched on-line.

Your attorney may suggest that you undergo an alcohol and drug assessment, and possible treatment if such action is indicated. The first reason for this suggestion is if you do have an alcohol or drug problem, the sooner you face the problem, the sooner you are on the road to beating the problem. An arrest for a DUI-DWI can be a sign of a drug or alcohol problem. If a problem does exist, promptly addressing the issue is the best answer to not only the “problem,” but is also the solution for not getting into more trouble while your case is pending.

Second, even if you do not have a drug or alcohol problem, the sooner you seek a private, independent assessment, the more likely this prompt action will impress your trial judge, in the event of a conviction or if your DUI-DWI attorney can arrange a favorable negotiated plea in your case. If you are appearing before the judge and have only started treatment two weeks prior to your final court appearance, this “last minute” effort to mitigate your punishment will not carry much weight. Address treatment issues early and show that you have investigated private treatment and aggressively addressed any problem that may be revealed by the assessment.

Furthermore, the results of your voluntary submission to treatment may also be used by your attorney in his or her discussions with the prosecutor. If this evaluation shows you have no drug or alcohol problems, this might give some credence to yet another reason why the charges against you might be lessened. In the alternative, if the counselor suggests some educational sessions that you complete, this can be a negotiating “chit” for your attorney to use to try to get a favorable negotiated plea or a non-DUI-DWI resolution in your case.

Your state may have a mandatory provision that all DUI-DWI convictions require evaluation for alcohol and drug dependency. Your DUI-DWI specialist will know whether such evaluation and treatment is necessary in your case. If you have already completed this condition, the court will see that you have dealt with this possible problem in an assertive fashion and without being court-ordered to do it. Be sure that the counselor you choose is one of the state-approved providers of alcohol and drug rehabilitation, since your court or state law may only recognize state-approved counselors. Also make certain that your pre-trial (or pre-plea) attendance at an approved treatment program will be given full credit by your judge.

All in all, except for the expense of undergoing such an evaluation, and the little bit of time such an evaluation takes, you have little to lose by undergoing this assessment. If you do have a problem, then you can start therapy. If you don’t have a problem, then you will receive a written confirmation from an independent expert that ongoing counseling is unnecessary.