Michigan DUI and the Required Alcohol Assessment Test – Part 1

This article will deal exclusively with certain aspects of the Alcohol Assessment, which is required, by Michigan Law, in all DUI cases. Sometimes referred to as an Alcohol Evaluation, or a Substance Abuse Evaluation, this kind of test is often administered in many other kinds of Criminal cases, particularly those involving alcohol or drugs. Like many of my longer articles, it will be broken into 2 parts.

A huge part of my practice involves helping people who are facing a DUI charge. Under Michigan Law, before anyone can be sentenced in a DUI case, they must undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment. This means they take a written alcohol evaluation test. This may be one of many different tests, but whichever is given, the test is graded with a numerical score. Generally speaking, the higher a person scores, the more likely they are to develop, or have an alcohol problem. The lower they score, the less likely they are to develop of have an alcohol problem. If you’re thinking “lower is better,” then you you’re right on track.

Test 11.jpgI have been hesitant to publish this article out of a concern, misplaced perhaps, that it would appear I’m helping my Clients “cheat.” Further consideration led me to overcome that concern by realizing that any Client has a right to know exactly what they will be facing in any case, and as a Lawyer, I have an obligation to be as thorough and knowledgeable as possible about all aspects of a DUI, or any other kind of case I handle. Telling someone what they’re going to be asked, and how any particular answer will affect the outcome of their case is better thought of as preparation as opposed to any kind of unfair advantage.

Many years ago, I began to examine and study these Alcohol Evaluation tests. Seeing how the results of any such test was almost always the single most important factor in determining what happened to my Client in a DUI case, I began to see that helping a Client avoid a higher score was a huge factor in producing a successful, or better outcome. This eventually led me to a far more comprehensive study of the whole concept of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. To say this has been a nearly lifelong interest is an understatement.

Early on, as I was more or less beginning my inquiry, lady luck seemed to smile right on me. The sister of a good friend came to work for me about 15 or so years ago. What’s interesting about that is that she was a Drug and Alcohol Counselor who had, with her former husband, owned and operated 3 Drug and Alcohol Treatment Clinics. She needed work at the time my then Law Clerk was going to be sitting for the Bar Exam, and things just worked well from there.

At first, I was a bit shy about discussing my interest in alcohol and drug abuse evaluations in front of her. Part of that probably had to do with the principal reason for my interest: I wanted to help my Clients “beat” the test, or at least score as low as they possibly could.

In time, my then Assistant learned of my interest, and then proceeded to give me the College-Level education in the world of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment. She had me read books, go to “open” meetings, and otherwise made sure I not only understood the general principals of Addiction and Recovery, but the competing schools of thought in the Treatment world.

I learned the 12 Steps of AA, as well as the criticisms of those 12 steps. I learned about in-patient and IOP rehab programs, and how many of them take the wisdom of AA and boil it down into a more concentrated format. I learned the Jellinek Curve, and how “alcoholism” is a term, like “cancer,” which describes everything from increased risk factors for an alcohol problem to outright alcohol dependence, and everything in-between.

In short, I became a bit of an uncertified “expert” in the world of alcohol and drug problems and the recovery process.

This has helped me give a huge advantage to any Client dealing with a DUI, or other Alcohol or Drug case, or any other kind of case (Like a License Restoration) where an Alcohol (or Substance Abuse) Assessment will be administered.

As I noted, part of my reluctance to write about this subject was some notion that I might be admitting to “helping” my Clients a bit too much. Then I thought about all those tests we take before being admitted to High School, College, Law School, Medical School and all kinds of other of Programs. In almost every case, there is a class that can be taken to help the student prepare for such a test. In fact, I’ve never heard of a Student who didn’t take a preparatory class before taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I imagine it’s the same for all these admission tests. No one accuses them of “cheating.” In fact, NOT taking the class places someone at a distinct DISADVANTAGE.

So as I thought about how I explain the ins and outs of Alcohol or Substance Abuse Tests to my Clients, I realized that what I’m doing is really no different than what any of those prep classes do for their students.

In part 2 of this article, we’ll continue our examination of the role of the Alcohol Assessment test, and the impact that knowing what’s going to be asked before it is actually asked can have on a person’s test results.

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